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Program Overview

Faculty teaching

The Honors Program includes at least eight semester course credits of work, which is essentially one-half of the work of the junior and senior years. The program consists of four separate preparations chosen from at least two departments. The preparations are evaluated by outside examiners, in both written and oral form, at the end of the senior year. A preparation presented for examination may be based on 1) two credits of work, such as a two-credit seminar, thesis or research project; or 2) three credits of work consisting of a two-credit seminar or its equivalent plus a unit of prerequisite work (normally an advanced course); or 3) a single-credit thesis or unit of advanced course work which is paired with another course or which is the culmination of substantial previous work in the field. Normally a student's honors program contains three preparations in the major and one in the minor, though interdisciplinary programs are also possible. The program also can include "Senior Honors Study," which is intended to enhance and, where appropriate, integrate completed or ongoing preparations in the major and minor.

Honors candidates are chosen by the faculty on the basis of their previous performance in course work and the faculty's assessment of their capacity to assume the responsibility for work in honors. Honors candidates propose in their sophomore or junior year a program of honors study. The proposal must be approved by their major and minor departments, or by special or interdisciplinary concentrations or programs. Participation in the Honors Program is the only route to a Swarthmore degree with honors.

Evaluation of Honors Work

Swarthmore faculty grade all of the specific honors courses and/or seminars taken as honors preparations, but do not grade theses or other original work. At the end of their senior year, honors candidates face visiting examiners from other institutions who, through their own written and oral examinations, have the sole responsibility for assessing the student's overall level of honors as it appears on their final transcript. The visiting examiners give both written and oral examinations for course and seminar preparations and oral examinations for theses and other original work. An honors candidate's performance in all the examinations is the basis for decision by the visiting examiners whether or not the student should receive a degree with honors, and for assignment by the visiting examiners of an overall level—honors, high honors, or highest honors—which appears on the academic record.

The Seminar Method

Although a growing number of students make their honors preparations through combinations of courses, independent study projects, and theses, the seminar (a class of usually not more than eight students) remains a central feature of the program. In weekly meetings of three hours or more, students bear equal responsibility for reading the assigned material, preparing papers to be presented before the group, and leading the discussions.

Levels of Honors

Visiting examiners have the sole responsibility of determining whether honors shall be awarded and whether the rank shall be honors, high honors, or highest honors.