Departmental Honors 

All COL majors pursue the award of Departmental Honors. The award of Departmental Honors or Departmental High Honors is determined by the COL faculty on the basis of: 1) overall performance in COL courses; 2) performance on the Junior Comprehensive Exams; 3) evaluation of the senior project.

Senior projects frequently take the form of a Senior Thesis (two semesters) or a Senior Essay (one semester). Although we do accept and welcome multiple forms of projects (see below: “The Honors Thesis/Essay”), all senior projects contain a written component. These projects are written under the guidance of a tutor/advisor and offer each student the chance to conduct original and intensive research on a topic of their own choice.  

Procedures for Initiating the Honors Thesis/Essay

To ensure that a senior project is submitted for Honors, a student must register their project with the Honors Program at Wesleyan through the office of the University Registrar.  Questions about the procedure are to be addressed to the Registrar’s Office or the Chair of the Honors Committee.  Students writing a Senior Thesis must enroll in the appropriate tutorials (COL 409 in the fall semester of the senior year, COL 410 in the spring). Students writing a Senior Essay must enroll in a one-semester tutorial (COL 403) and will have to complete an additional COL seminar credit in order to achieve their required 11 major credits for graduation. An essay project can be completed in either the fall or the spring semester of a student’s senior year, and may be submitted for honors consideration in the spring semester as part of the process described here.  

The Honors Thesis/Essay

Honors projects in the COL take many forms, from research papers to the writing of fiction, poetry and translations, and from musical performance to directing, acting, choreography or other dance projects, or projects in the visual or plastic arts. Students are required to find and ask a professor to serve as a tutor/advisor for their project, ideally in the spring semester of their junior year.  After consulting a tutor, preliminary research for the project can often be pursued in the summer before a student’s senior year with the goal of further defining the scope of the research and identifying a strategy, reading list, and schedule for completion.  In their senior year, students pursue either a one-semester tutorial with their essay tutor for a senior essay or a two-semester tutorial with their thesis tutor for a senior thesis.  The suggested length for a senior thesis is 65–100 pages. The suggested length for a senior essay is 30–40 pages.  Performances and exhibits should be accompanied by approximately 20 pages of writing.

Honors theses and essays are accepted only in the spring semester, even in the case of students who otherwise complete their work in December.  Such students are responsible for knowing and adhering to the registrar’s April deadlines and for ensuring (if they are thesis writers) that they have satisfied the requirements of two tutorials.

Double Majors

In the case of students with double majors who present a thesis or essay to be considered by both departments, the two departments in question will make independent recommendations for Honors.

Evaluation of the Honors Thesis/Essay

senior thesis will require two faculty readers, one of whom must be in the COL, and the other outside of the COL. Student thesis writers may discuss their preferences for readers with their tutor, but it is the tutor who will contact the proposed readers and make the arrangements. Eligibility for Departmental High Honors requires the completion of a senior thesis.

senior essay or other one-semester project will be evaluated at the same time as honors theses. Senior essay writers are eligible for Departmental Honors.

For senior theses, the grading scale is High Honors, Honors, or Creditable.  For senior essays, it is Honors or Creditable.

University Honors

In addition to Departmental Honors, Wesleyan also confers an award of University Honors selectively to members of each year’s graduating class. University Honors is awarded to less than one percent of a graduating class each year and is the highest academic award that Wesleyan bestows. Candidates for University Honors may be nominated by COL faculty if they have received Departmental High Honors for their thesis and satisfied other criteria.  If a student has written a single thesis for consideration by two departments, both departments must have arrived at a recommendation of High Honors before the student can be nominated for University Honors.  For more on the selection of University Honors at Wesleyan, see here.