The bachelor of arts degree is awarded to students who:
- Complete thirty-two* full semester courses or the equivalent and four years (eight semesters) of residence.
- Transfer students must complete thirty-two full courses or the equivalent, at least sixteen of which are at Amherst, and must be in residence at Amherst for at least two years (four semesters).
- All students who have withdrawn from or failed a course during any semester except their last two (final year) shall be allowed to graduate with thirty-one full courses or the equivalent, provided that they have met the residence requirement. Transfer students must also have completed at least fifteen full courses or the equivalent in-residence at Amherst.
- Students enrolled during any part of the 2020–2021 academic year will be permitted to graduate with the equivalent of thirty courses, due to reduced course load expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Complete the requirements for a major in a department or a group of departments, including a satisfactory performance in the comprehensive evaluation.
- Attain a general average of C- (1.67) in the courses completed at Amherst and earn a grade of at least C in every course completed at another institution for transfer credit to Amherst.
* Please note that students who were enrolled during academic year 2020-2021 may graduate with a minimum of 30 courses. Students who are eligible to graduate with 30 courses may not withdraw from a course and graduate with 29 classes. If you have any questions or concerns about specific students’ graduation requirements, please contact the Registrar at email@example.com.
Liberal arts education seeks to develop the student’s awareness and understanding of the individual and of the world’s physical and social environments. If one essential object in the design of education at Amherst is breadth of understanding, another purpose, equally important, is mastery of one or more areas of knowledge in depth. Juniors and seniors are required to concentrate their studies by pursuing a major. Majors allow students to gain specific knowledge of a field and its special concerns, and to master and appreciate the skills needed in that disciplined effort.
A major normally consists of at least eight courses pursued under the direction of a department or special group. Students may change their majors at any time, provided that they will be able to complete the new program before graduation. Students must declare their major by the last day of classes of their second semester sophomore year.
Students may complete the requirement of at least eight courses within one department. They must complete at least six courses within one department and the remaining two courses in related fields approved by the department.
Some students may wish to declare a major in more than one department or program. This curricular option is available, although it entails special responsibilities. At Amherst, departments are solely responsible for defining the content and structure of an acceptable program of study for majors. Students who elect a double or triple major must present the signatures of all academic advisors when registering for each semester’s courses and they must, of course, fulfill the graduation requirements and comprehensive examinations established by each of the academic programs. In addition, double or multiple majors may not credit courses approved for either major toward the other without the explicit consent of an announced departmental policy or the signature of a departmental chairperson. In their senior year, students with a double or multiple majors must verify their approved courses with both academic advisors before registering for their last semester at the College.
Students who would like to construct an interdisciplinary major must submit a proposed program, endorsed by one or more professors from each of the departments or programs concerned, to the Committee on Academic Standing and Special Majors. Under ordinary circumstances, the proposal is submitted no later than the seventh week of the first semester of the junior year. The program will include a minimum of six upper-level courses and a thesis plan. The Committee on Academic Standing and Special Majors authorizes the appointment of an ad hoc advisory committee of three professors, which will approve any possible modifications in the program, administer an appropriate comprehensive examination, review the thesis, and make recommendations for the degree with or without honors. Information on proposing interdisciplinary programs is available in the Office of Student Affairs.
A part of the major requirement in every department is an evaluation of the student’s comprehension in the major field of study. This evaluation may be based on a special written examination or upon any other performance deemed appropriate by each department. The mode of the evaluation need not be the same for all the majors within a department, and, indeed, may be designed individually to test the skills each student has developed.
The comprehensive exam or project should be completed by the seventh week of the second semester of the senior year. Any student whose comprehension is judged to be inadequate will have two opportunities for reevaluation: one not later than the last day of classes of the second semester of the senior year, and the other during the next college year. Notification of completion of comprehensive exams must be logged in Workday by the department.
Degree with Honors
Latin honors are awarded to students completing a thesis within their major department or program, depending on the major department’s recommendation and the student’s graduating cumulative average. English honors are awarded to students solely on the basis of performance in course work. The awarding of both Latin and English honors is made by the faculty of the college and will appear on the diploma.
The following guidelines have been voted on by the faculty regarding awarding degrees with honors:
- Candidates eligible for the degree summa cum laude must have a minimum overall grade point average in the top 25 percent of their class and have received a recommendation of summa based on a thesis or comparable work from a department or program in which they have majored. In addition, the theses of candidates for the degree summa cum laude are reviewed by the Committee of Six, which will transmit its recommendation to the faculty. Candidates also have their entire records reviewed by the provost and dean of the faculty and the Committee of Six, which will transmit its recommendations to the faculty.
- Candidates eligible for the degree magna cum laude must have a minimum overall grade point average in the top 25 percent of their class and have received a recommendation of magna based on a thesis or comparable work from a department or program in which they have majored. Although each department or program may define additional criteria upon which it will base its recommendation, the candidate must submit a thesis or comparable work that is judged by the department or program to be of magna quality. Candidates will also qualify for the degree magna cum laude if they have been recommended for summa cum laude and are in the top 40 percent but not the top 25 percent of their class and have otherwise met the requirements for the degree summa cum laude.
- Candidates eligible for the degree cum laude must have received a recommendation of cum based on a thesis or comparable work from a department or program in which they have majored. Although each department or program may define additional criteria upon which it will base its recommendation, the candidate must submit a thesis or comparable work that is judged by the department or program to be of cum quality. Students recommended for summa sum laude who are not in the top 40 percent of their class will graduate cum laude. Students recommended for magna cum laude who are not in the top 25 percent of their class will graduate cum laude.
English Honors - Graduation with Distinction
Candidates eligible for a degree with Distinction must have an overall grade point average in the top 25 percent of their class.
The registrar must have all senior grades in hand by the senior grade deadline in order to calculate honors. Grades for students in the “E” graduating class are also required by the senior grading deadline so that the registrar may clear students for early participation in commencement.
Participation in Commencement Exercises
Participation in commencement exercises is limited to those who either (1) have completed all graduation requirements and whose degree will be voted by the faculty and the board of trustees; or (2) are within four courses (sixteen credits) of the total required for graduation, have no disciplinary violations, and are a member of the current graduating class, any prior class, or the subsequent graduating “E” class.
Students who wish to participate in commencement early must complete an application to do so. Additional details on early participation at commencement may be found on the Registrar’s webpage.
Once permission is granted, these students will not be eligible to participate in any other future commencement exercises, and they will receive their diplomas and official transcripts recording completion of the degree only after all degree requirements have been satisfied and the degree voted by the faculty and the Board of Trustees.