The College Honors Program

Chemistry professor and students in the lab gazing at test tube.

Designed for motivated students with superior academic records, the College Honors Program offers opportunities for individualized study, special general education classes, and other unique intellectual and social activities.

Honor Program Benefits

  • Eligible for merit-based academic scholarships
  • May elect to reside in “quiet suites” set aside for honors students (must meet the College's deadline for guaranteed housing; enrollment deposit postmarked by May 1)
  • May participate in the honors program regardless of major and may withdraw at any time without penalty

Message from the Director

Why take honors? It's a question I have been asked many times by students and parents alike. My first response is to assure you that General Education Honors at Rhode Island College is based on quality, not quantity. The amount of work required in honors classes is comparable to the requirements for non-honors general education classes. What differs is the opportunity to participate with other bright and motivated students in small classes taught by some of the finest professors at the College. In addition, honors classes provide an opportunity to discuss and analyze subject matter in more depth and with more individualized attention.

My second response to the question is the obvious one. Participation in the College Honors Program has practical rewards. It can help when it comes time to compete for a job or for a place in the graduate school of your choice. We have an enviable record of placing honors students in some of the best graduate programs in the country. That is particularly true of students who choose to do senior honors projects in their majors. Many students and parents have come to the conclusion that it makes both academic and economic sense to participate in an honors curriculum at a less expensive undergraduate college and thus to save money for graduate school.

Ultimately, however, I think the most important reason to consider joining the honors program is the desire to extend yourself intellectually, imaginatively, and personally. We can help you do that in a supportive yet challenging academic atmosphere in which you will interact with committed full-time faculty and, equally important, with other students who share your academic abilities and interests.

I hope you will consider joining us.

Rebecca Sparks
Director, College Honors Program
Associate Professor of Mathematics​​​

How To Apply

No formal application to General Education Honors is necessary for students applying as freshmen, although they should indicate their interest by checking the appropriate box on the Rhode Island College application form. Continuing students and those interested in the Junior Year Honors Colloquium and Seminar should contact the director of honors.

Students interested in Departmental Honors should apply to the honors committees in their respective departments no later than the beginning of the semester before the senior year.

Students in Education who will be student teaching in the eighth semester should apply in the fifth semester and do their departmental honors projects in semesters six and seven.

You are cordially invited to visit us. Meet the Director of Honors; talk with Admissions staff; tour the campus; attend an honors class; and meet with current honors students.

Program Information

Program Overview

The College Honors Program has three main parts: 

I. General Education Honors Courses

All Rhode Island College students are required to complete the General Education Program, a sequence of courses in writing, literature, history, the social and behavioral sciences, the natural sciences, mathematics, and the arts. Most general education courses are taken during the first two years.

Students in the General Education Honors Program must take at least five of their required General Education courses in specially designed honors classes, including the “core” First Year Writing, First Year Seminar, and Connections Courses. Other Honors courses will be selected from the Area Distribution courses.  It is highly recommended for freshman (required for honors scholarship recipients) to also register for the Honors 150* course, “The Honors Experience.”  To emphasize active class participation and close student-teacher interaction, the Honors classes are kept small, usually twelve to fifteen students, and are conducted in a discussion rather than a lecture format.  Honors sections often employ innovative teaching techniques. 

In addition to completing at least five Honors General Education* courses, students must maintain an overall grade point average of 3.0 (reviewed every semester) in order to graduate with General Education Honors.  Failure to maintain a 3.0 GPA may result in immediate loss of honors scholarship. 

II. Junior Year Honors Colloquium Course

The Junior Year Honors Colloquium (Honors 351*) helps to prepare students to undertake departmental honors projects. It is a two-credit class, is graded credit/no credit, and may be taken twice. The class is open to continuing and transfer students who have achieved a 3.0 GPA. It is also open both to students who have and to those who have not participated in General Education Honors.

III. Senior Project (Departmental Honors Project)

Departmental Honors programs offer students the opportunity to do an independent research, critical, or creative project on a topic of the student's choice and directed by a professor of the student's choice. These projects are normally done in the senior year, although they may be begun earlier, and normally carry at least 6 credits of independent study over two semesters.

Honors students have conducted laboratory experiments. They have written critical and research papers in literature and the social sciences. They have composed and performed musical works, and produced videos, and they have researched and devised pedagogy for elementary and secondary education.

*Honors 150 and Honors 351 do not count toward the five general education honors classes.

Required Courses by Year

Freshman Year

  • First Year Seminar (Honors) - typically Fall
  • First Year Writing (Honors) - if you earned AP or EEP credit, you will need to select an additional Honors course from the Area Distribution Requirements. Most in Fall, some in Spring
  • The Honors Experience (HON 150*)
  • At least one Honors course in the Area Distribution Requirements

Sophomore Year

  • At least one Honors course in the Area Distribution Requirements to finish your total of at least 5 General Education Honors courses. Typically Fall.
  • Honors Connections Course (After 45 credits completed, usually Spring of Sophomore year)

Junior Year

  • Junior Honors Colloquium (HON 351*)
  • Finish Area Distribution Requirements ** if not already done so

Senior Year 

  • Independent Study for Senior Honors Project

*Honors 150 and Honors 351 do not count toward the five general education honors classes.

**Exceptions must be approved. Failure to meet annual benchmarks may result in loss of scholarship.

Class Schedules and Descriptions

Students in General Education Honors take at least five of their required General Education courses, normally including Honors 100 (First Year Seminar), First Year Writing 100H, and the Junior Year Connections course, in specially designed honors sections. To emphasize active class participation and close student-teacher interaction, sections are kept small, usually twelve to fifteen students, and are conducted in a discussion rather than a lecture format. Honors sections often employ innovative teaching techniques.

Scholarships and Awards

Each year the College awards a number of merit-based academic scholarships to incoming freshmen and, in certain cases, to students already enrolled in General Education Honors. Most of those scholarships are renewable for a maximum of eight semesters, from the date of a student's enrollment at the College, provided the student maintains a 3.0 grade point average, remains a full-time student, and makes satisfactory progress toward fulfilling General Education Honors.

In addition, the John Nazarian Honors Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding incoming freshman and Eleanor M. McMahon Honors Scholarships are given to an outstanding rising junior and an outstanding graduating senior, respectively.

Matriculated students in the General Education Honors Program who did not receive honors scholarships as incoming freshmen may apply to the Director of Honors in April for scholarships for the following academic year. Such scholarships will be awarded, if monies are available, on the basis of overall grade point average; progress toward completion of the honors program; and length of matriculation at the college. The minimal requirement for application is a 3.25 cumulative GPA. The Director will send out a call for applications in April.

Departmental Honors Projects

Guidelines to Completing the Departmental Honors Project

Any questions regarding this process can be sent to Rebecca Sparks, Director of Honors at

I. Preparation for the Project

Ideally, one semester before starting the project, the student should find an advisor of his/her choice and work out a project topic and a plan for completion.  Depending on the department, the student may have a more (or less) formal initial approval of the department.  The Honors Program offers a course each spring for any student seeking extra guidance in the formulation of his/her project.  Any student interested in participating is welcome to register.

II. Working on the Project
  • Register for independent (or directed) study based upon the needs of the student’s project.  Most students register for at least 6 credits spread across two semesters.  (Typically 3 credits in the Fall, and 3 credits in the Spring.)   
  • Please notify Rebecca Sparks of the working title, advisor, and expected completion date.  Also include your intended graduation date.  (Please use the Honors Project Notification Form to notify the director of honors.)
  • Consider applying for funding from the Anne and Bob De Stefano Undergraduate Research Fund. Information may be found the honors website by following the ‘departmental honors’ link at the left side of the page. 
III. During and Near Completion on the Project

Important events the student should participate in are itemized below.

  • April poster/presentation session

To complete the departmental honors process, we ask that students display their work to the college community as part of the year-end Convocation of Scholars festivities. This display takes the form of a poster session meant to recognize those students who have successfully completed honors projects in their respective majors and to share their accomplishments with the college community. You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to invite friends and family, as well as your project advisors, to the poster session. We also hope that many faculty members from your respective departments will attend.

  • Honors Dinner during commencement season.

Students who have successfully completed an honors project are invited to bring their faculty mentors and guests to celebrate their accomplishments. Students will also receive honor cords to wear at commencement ceremonies.

When the final project is complete and passes departmental approval, the following notifications should be made:

  • Inform the Registrar's Office that the student has completed “Honors in (appropriate department)” and should have that designation on the student transcript.
  • Inform the director of honors (Rebecca Sparks) that the student’s final project has been approved with the associated title.
  • The student should work with the library to have his/her project on archive within the library. Information on how to complete submission may be found on the honors website.

Submit Completed Honors Project to Adams Library

If you have students completing theses or honors projects this year, please encourage them to electronically submit their work to Adams Library. The library is no longer accepting print theses for binding. Instead, electronic student theses and honors projects are maintained and archived in the DigitalCommons@RIC institutional repository, with the following options to limit access if needed:

  • Students have the option to make their thesis or honors project accessible to the general public, or to limit access to RIC campus and the RIC community. This gives students the ability to restrict access in a way that is analogous to print-only access through the library. 
  • With their advisor’s approval, students also have the option to place an embargo on their work to prevent all online access for a certain period of time. This is common if, for example, they are planning to publish the findings elsewhere. 
  • Here are instructions for digital submission of theses, dissertations, and honors projectss

For any questions regarding submission and archiving of student scholarship, please email Andrew Davis, Digital Initiatives Coordinator. 

Rhode Island College entrance

Program Director