Honors Program

Graduating in Cursu Honorum

Instructions for Completing Your Mission (aka Graduating From the Honors Program)

Grads S23

What’s Left in 6 Easy Steps

If you're uncertain whether you'll graduate in cursu honorum because you’re not sure you’ll end up with an institutional GPA of 3.5, and you've met all the Honors Program curricular requirements, go ahead and schedule your interview anyway; you can cancel if necessary. If you are graduating with the Honors minor only (3.1-3.49),  you are not required to do an exit interview. Scroll to #6 below for further clarification.

After reading the series of steps below, scroll down for details on each step.

Schedule your Honors exit interview using the directions below:

  • Spring graduates: RESERVE a spot by March 1; COMPLETE you exit interview by April 1.
  • Fall graduates: schedule your interview for September if possible, but before fall break.

Write an essay on a controversial issue in your major field, demonstrating maturity in critical thinking. At the end of this document, you will find examples of short excerpts from in cursu honorum essays written by previous graduates.

Write a reflective developmental essay, assessing the ways you’ve grown throughout your Honors education.

Submit the essays and an updated resume, incorporating Honors experiences. Ask Dr. Barnes if you want help describing Honors-related activities.

Do your Honors exit interview with Dr. Barnes and your faculty mentor.

Graduate in cursu honorum.

IMPORTANT: If you are graduating with the Honors minor only (3.1-3.49),  you are not required to do an exit interview. Scroll to #6 below for further clarification.

1. How To Schedule Your Honors Exit Interview

The exit interview, formal though it sounds, is really a congenial conversation in which you meet with Dr. Barnes and a faculty member from your major field. 

The faculty mentor you invite should be a full-time member of the teaching faculty in your major department. Double majors can opt to invite their mentor from each of their two majors, but it's not required.

If you are uncertain which faculty member to invite, ask your department’s Honors Faculty Liaison, or ask Dr. Barnes for suggestions.

Don’t delay: it becomes increasingly difficult to schedule as the semester goes on. Ask early for three specific dates and times of day when they will be available. 

After you've identified an assortment of times (at least three) when you and the professor are available, E-mail this information to Dr. Barnes (, with the subject line “[Your Name]: exit interview scheduling." Copy (cc: ) the professor so they remain in the communication loop.


Dear Dr. Barnes:

Dr. X in the Department of Physiocreatonomy has agreed to meet with us for my Honors exit interview. Both of us are available at the following times, in order of preference:

Friday, February 3 at 10 am

Monday, February 6, at 3 pm

Wednesday, February 15, at either 10 or 3 pm

I am writing my essays now, and will send them to both of you at least three business days before the interview.

Dr. Barnes will respond to confirm your exit interview time. 

  • Spring graduates: RESERVE a spot by March 1; COMPLETE you exit interview by April 1.
  • Fall graduates: schedule your interview for September if possible, but before fall break.

Steps 2-3: Writing Your Essays

Your essays are the basis for your conversation during the exit interview. The two essays can offer you some important perspectives on your experiences—not only as an Honors student, but also as a person who has been thinking about your major and life as a whole. 

Both essays (at least 500 words each) must be given to your faculty member and to Dr. Barnes at least thee business days before your scheduled exit interview. If sent by e-mail, confirm their receipt.

2. Writing the Critical Thinking Essay

The critical thinking essay demonstrates your ability to use well-vetted information and apply it to a topic that is debated—or at least, not generally agreed upon—among experts within your field of study. The topic will likely have interdisciplinary implications, but must be examined through the lens of the major field in which you’ve specialized.

Example: A civil engineering major might argue that the impact of using certain construction materials does less long-term damage to the environment than other, seemingly more efficient, materials that must be shipped long distances. A psychology major might address a controversial treatment plan. Every field has controversies; if you are not aware of them, talk to your professors.

Your essay must grapple with actual and specific issues and include real-life, complex points of view, rather than setting up a straw-man argument or equivocating.

The essay needs to be accessible to a reader outside your field. Do NOT dumb-down, however.  Define your terms, carefully setting up what you are going to discuss. It's more important in this essay to pose reasonable questions and explore them logically, than to emerge with a clear-cut answer. If the issue is black-and-white for you, it's not going to be a good avenue for demonstrating your critical thinking skills.

Do not plagiarize in any way whatsoever, or your essay will be disqualified. Evidence needs supporting documentation from reliable, peer-reviewed academic studies (not Wikipedia, Twitter, popular news sites, or the dictionary).

3. Writing Your Developmental Essay

This essay analyzes and reflects on your growth during your time at Tech. For inspiration, you could look through your Honors portfolio in the office to review your Honors 1010 personal statement and resume; evaluations you've written about workshops, projects, and service activities; memorable events that made a difference for you; and projects from your Honors Colloquia, Contracts, or other Honors activities. 

As you think about some of the assumptions and viewpoints you’ve held during the last several years, make note of specific examples that show changes in your perceptions. Describe any personal and critical thinking skills you have developed during college. In what ways have your Honors experiences helped you grow?

4. Your Updated Resume

An Honors graduate's resume should stand out not because of the in cursu honorum listing. You've done a lot that you need to describe for potential employers and grad schools. * For starters:

In the Education section, add: in cursu honorum, Honors Program. Do NOT list the Honors Program as an activity or award: graduating in cursu is the highest level of undergraduate academic credential, not an extracurricular! 

Taking 22 hours of Honors requirements shows you achievement beyond grades, so it is listed before any GPA-based designations.  For example:

B.S., Biology; Concentration: Cellular and Molecular; Minor: French

in cursu honorum, Tech Honors Program (22 credit hours of Honors coursework)

magna cum laude, GPA: 3.7

*If you need help describing your Honors/ASG activities, listing conference presentations, etc., ask Dr. Barnes for "Resume Tips You Might Not Have Heard Before."

5. The Exit Interview

Both essays (at least 500 words each) must be given to your faculty member and to Dr. Barnes at least four business days before your scheduled exit interview. If sent by e-mail, confirm their receipt along with the day and time.

What happens in the interview?

We start with the critical thinking essay. Your mentor and Dr. Barnes will ask you some questions to stimulate the conversation, but don't worry: it's not a quiz! This is simply a time to discuss your ideas, not to spout facts and figures.

In the second half hour, we'll ask you questions about your future plans as well as your experiences as an Honors student at Tech, based on the information in your developmental essay. This is not an interrogation, but a friendly exchange about your education and ideas.

6. in cursu honorum graduation

If you have completed your exit interview, are graduating with an institutional GPA of 3.5 or above, and have successfully finished all academic requirements for graduating in cursu honorum, you are eligible to wear the gold stole and recognition at commencement. This is the highest level of academic achievement, and appears on your transcript as in cursu honorum.

How does this differ from the Honors minor? An Honors minor requires a 3.1 institutional GPA and completion of all 22 Honors credits, and is recorded as a minor on your transcript, but does not qualify for the distinctions above. 


Excerpts from Essays by Honors Graduates

Critical Thinking Essay Excerpts

In 1781, Jeremy Bentham penned a famous response to the subject of whether animals perceived to be non-sentient could feel or understand pain. He wrote, "The question is not Can they reason? Nor Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?" This simple sentence caused a nation of people to wake up and discover that suffering and sentience are not mutually inclusive. Our nation has come a long way since then, but we are still struggling with the same issues of our ancestors. How far can we take our dominion over animals? We eat their meat, control their breeding, and often control when they live or die. Is it too much to ask that we ensure their deaths are not painful?

—Amy Macintire (Chem '09)

The central problem revolves around the meaning of the word 'equal.' If '(equal" means "identical," then perhaps special programs for gifted students are unfair. If this is the case, providing special services for handicapped students is also unfair. The practice of selecting the best candidates for sports teams, dramatic productions, and musical groups would also have to go. I believe that the position "equal means identical" is untenable because it ignores the essential differences that make us human. Instead, I propose the idea that equal treatment means appropriate treatment. Not all students have the same skills, background, and ability.

—Matt McBee (Psy '02)

Developmental Essay Excerpts

Before I entered the Honors Program and college, I had really never been instructed how to ask the question "why." From my former experience, answers to such questions as "who," "what," "when," and "how" were satisfactory. Yet, while in Honors, I was forced in many of my classes to ask rhe more imperative question of "why." By learning to ask why instead of simply settling for rhc norm, I have developed the wisdom that events and   traditions and procedures do not always have to be executed in the same methodical way. I now always contemplate views on different controversial subjects. When we ask "why," innumerable doors open to the imagination. The moment we begin to ask "why" creates an incessant chain reaction of analysis. This capability I've truly seen throughout the Honors Program   than any other segment of the university.                                           

—Kellie Melton Rowland (Acct '04)

I would love to believe that I would have been motivated enough on my own to participate in all the organizations I have been involved in and serve the community like I have, but I sincerely doubt any involvement without the requirements of HPEO. Like the average college student, I believe 1 would have enjoyed occasionally skipping out on classes and focusing on social activities. However, I cannot express how grateful I am for the opportunities the HI) EO Program provided me directly and indirectly. I came to college knowing exactly what I wanted; I am leaving with the same passions, only strengthened and a broadened view of potential future careers. I cannot pinpoint when the shift occurred from participating because I had to and participating because I wanted to. Maybe it was gradual or maybe it was because I felt passionately about what I became involved with. Either way, I leave Tech with a strong sense of academic achievement, a commitment to serving my community, and a drive to become a professional leader in my field.

—Brooke Mayo (EXPW '11)

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