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The College Catalogue

Academics – The Award of Honors

General Honors

General honors (or Latin honors) are awarded with the degree on the basis of an average of all grades earned at Bowdoin, with a minimum of sixteen credits required for the computation. To compute the average, an A is assigned four points; a B, three points; a C, two points; a D, one point; and an F, zero points. Plus (+) or minus (–) modifiers add or subtract three-tenths of a point (0.3). Half-credit courses are weighted as one-half course. Credit grades (CR) are omitted from the computation, but a D or F grade received in a course taken on a Credit/D/Fail basis does count. In the case of a course taken at Bowdoin one or more times prior to Fall 2013, only the first grade is included; beginning with grades recorded for Fall 2013, all grades earned in repeated courses are included. The resulting grade point average (GPA) is not rounded. A degree summa cum laude is awarded to students whose GPAs are in the top two percent (2%) of the graduating class; a degree magna cum laude is awarded to students whose GPAs are in the rest of the top eight percent (8%) of the graduating class; and a degree cum laude is awarded to students whose GPAs are in the rest of the top twenty percent (20%) of the graduating class.

Departmental Honors: The Honors Project

The degree with a level of honors in a major subject is awarded to students who have distinguished themselves in coursework in the subject and in an honors project. The award is made by the faculty upon recommendation of the department or program.

The honors project offers seniors the opportunity to engage in original work under the supervision of a faculty member in their major department or program. It allows qualified seniors to build a bridge from their coursework to advanced scholarship in their field of study through original, substantial, and sustained independent research. The honors project can be the culmination of a student’s academic experience at Bowdoin and offers an unparalleled chance for intellectual and personal development.

Students who have attained a specified level of academic achievement in their field of study by their senior year are encouraged to petition their department or program to pursue an honors project carried out under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The honors project usually takes place over the course of two semesters; some departments allow single-semester honors projects. The honors project results in a written thesis and/or oral defense, artistic performance, or showing, depending on the student’s field of study. Students receive a grade for each semester’s work on the honors project and may be awarded a level of honors in their department or program, as distinct from general honors.

The honors project process differs across departments and programs in terms of qualification criteria, requirements for completion, the level of honors awarded, and the use of honors project credits to fulfill major course requirements. Students must complete an honors project to be eligible for departmental or program honors. If a student, in consultation with a department, intends to pursue honors, the student will register for an appropriate honors project course number, 4050–4079 {451–452}. All written work accepted as fulfilling the requirements for departmental honors is to be deposited in the College Library. If students do not fulfill the requirements for completion of the honors project but carry out satisfactory work for an independent study, they will receive independent study credit for one or two semesters and the course number will be changed to 4000–4028 {401–404}.

Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars (Dean’s List)

Sarah and James Bowdoin scholarships, carrying no stipend, are awarded in the fall on the basis of work completed the previous academic year. The award is given to the twenty percent (20 %) of students with the highest grade point average (GPA). Eligible students are those who completed the equivalent of eight full-credit Bowdoin courses during the academic year, six credits of which were graded with regular letter grades and seven credits of which were graded with regular letter grades or non-elective Credit/D/Fail grades. In other words, among the eight required full-credit courses or the equivalent, a maximum of two credits may be graded Credit/D/Fail, but only one credit may be for a course(s) the student elected to take with the Credit/D/Fail grading option. Grades for courses taken in excess of eight credits are included in the GPA. For further information on the College’s method for computing GPA, consult the section on General Honors on page 26.

A book, bearing a replica of the early College bookplate serving to distinguish the James Bowdoin Collection in the library, is presented to every Sarah and James Bowdoin scholar who has earned a GPA of 4.00.

Students who receive College honors have their names sent to their hometown newspaper by the Office of Communications. Students not wishing to have their names published should notify the office directly.


Online Catalogue content is current as of August 1, 2014. For most current course information, use the online course finder. Also see Addenda.