Honors in the Major

Students who are declared psychology majors may opt to pursue Honors in the Major (HM).  Honors in the Major is especially appropriate for students who want deeper education and experience in psychology-specific content as well as research involvement and leadership, writing, and critical thinking skills beneficial to a wide range of graduate programs and career choices. HM can be completed independently from, or in conjunction with, Honors in Liberal Arts.  Students completing both Honors in the Major and Honors in Liberal Arts earn Comprehensive Honors.

The INTENT TO COMPLETE HM IN PSYCHOLOGY FORM is required to declare Psychology Honors in the Major.  Any student interested in Honors in the Major must meet with a Psychology Academic Advisor PRIOR to completing this form.

Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.3 within the Psychology major as well as minimum GPA of 3.3 overall. Students may complete the HM declaration process as soon as they meet the 3.3 GPA requirements within the major and cumulatively.  It is recommended students declare HM as soon as they are able in order to be eligible to enroll in Honors courses.

Requirements for Receiving Honors in the Major

Three Psychology Courses for Honors (choose ONE option) OPTION 1

Three Psychology Breadth and/or Depth courses for Honors


Two Psychology Breadth and/or Depth courses for Honors


Psych 210 (Basic Statistics) OR 225 (Research Methods) for Honors

Psychology Honors Seminar (choose at least one option)

Note: Although only one option is required, students are encouraged to take BOTH Psych 380 and Psych 686 as they support students throughout the thesis process.


Psych 380 (Junior Honors Seminar), taken Fall of Junior year


Psych 686 (Senior Thesis Seminar in Psychology), taken both Fall AND Spring concurrently with thesis

Senior Honors Thesis

Two-semester Senior Honors Thesis, Psych 681 & 682


GPA Requirements for Receiving Honors in the Major

  • A student must receive at least a “B” or better in an Honors course in order to receive Honors credit for that course and have it count towards the Honors in the Major requirements
  • A cumulative GPA of 3.3 is required to be eligible for any Honors degree from UW-Madison
  • A minimum GPA of 3.3 within the Psychology major is required to graduate with Honors in the Major

Preparing to Complete an Honors Thesis

A key component of the HM program is research. To this end, all HM students complete a year-long Senior Honors Thesis (Psych 681 and 682). A thesis must be mentored by a faculty member (or faculty affiliate) in Psychology. Thus, it is important to identify a faculty member who can advise your thesis research well before the year in which you intend to carry out your thesis. Note that admittance into HM does not guarantee you a spot in a lab. Students must secure a lab position and thesis mentor on their own.

Typically, students work in a faculty member’s research lab at least one year prior to completing a thesis. This is beneficial for multiple reasons, including allowing a student to have experience with the research process and learn policies and procedures of a lab prior to leading a research project.  Additionally, students have opportunities during that year to form relationships and read literature on the research foci of the lab.  

Each faculty member and lab has their own requirements and procedures for accepting students. Check out the Undergraduate Research portion of our website to explore the diversity of topics faculty and students in Psychology pursue. Students may also meet with an academic advisor to discuss strategies for getting involved in research.

The Department recommends that students take the Junior Honors Seminar (Psych 380), which is offered in the fall every year. This 1-credit course covers topics meant to help students prepare to undertake a Senior Honors Thesis (e.g., assistance applying for funding; guidance about how to establish a positive working relationship with a thesis mentor; helping identifying a research question; practice with presentations and writing).  Students must have permission from their Psychology faculty mentor to complete a thesis during their senior year in order to enroll in Psych 380.

Completing a Senior Thesis

The Undergraduate Thesis Guidelines provides information on what a thesis entails, including a typical timeline for students pursuing a thesis. Students exploring HM or considering completing a thesis should read through this page. An Honors thesis is a 2-semester commitment (Psych 681 & 682) totaling 6 credits. The Department of Psychology recommends that students enroll in Psych 686 (Senior Thesis Seminar in Psychology) concurrently with their thesis work. This course is intended to support students through the thesis process.

Additional information on theses can be found on the L&S Honors Program website. Students should review this information on the benefits of a thesis, funding opportunities, timeline, etc.

Dual Thesis Policy

The Department of Psychology follows the dual honors thesis policy of the L&S Honors Program. Students must have approval from both their primary thesis advisor and secondary thesis advisor prior to submitting the dual thesis authorization request. It is recommended that this process be completed early, ideally by the end of the spring semester before you begin your thesis. Students approved to complete a dual thesis will enroll in thesis credits through their primary department.

If your primary thesis department is not Psychology, you should reach out to the Psychology Honors in the Major program coordinator (honors@psych.wisc.edu).  If your primary department offers a junior thesis preparation seminar, you may be able to take that course in place of Psych 380. If your primary department offers a senior thesis support seminar, you may be able to take that course in place of Psych 686. That said, we recommend that you take Psych 686; students report that the course helps them connect with Psychology and stay on track in the thesis process.

If you would like to apply to have a course from another Department count for Psych 380 or Psych 686, you will need to complete the Request Curricular Exception form.

Not all Psychology courses have Honors options, and Honors course offerings vary from semester to semester.  It is recommended that students in an Honors program explore departmental Honors course offerings each semester. 

Typical automatic Honors course structures:

Introductory Psychology: The automatic Honors section of Introductory Psychology is a small enrollment (25 student maximum) course, typically open only to first year students who are declared in an honors program.

Psychology breadth honors courses: Students who enroll in the Honors section of a breadth course will attend the same lecture as the non-Honors students in that course.  In addition to the lecture, students will attend a small (typically 12-20 students) discussion section with the faculty member instructor.  In this discussion students will discuss the content of the course in more depth, typically through reading primary research articles, writing papers, and/or giving presentations to the small discussion.  Each faculty member creates their own syllabus for the Honors discussion.

Psychology depth honors courses: Students who enroll in the Honors section of a depth course will attend the same lecture as the non-Honors students in that course.  The Honors section will be taught by the faculty member of the course rather than a teaching assistant, and the faculty member will determine the work required for the Honors section students.

Psych 380, Junior Honors Seminar: This 1-credit course is intended for students entering the fall semester of their junior year.  This course will discuss the process of research and prepare students to conduct a thesis in their senior year as well as apply for thesis funding during the spring semester of their junior year.  Students must have permission from their Psychology faculty mentor to complete a thesis during their senior year in order to enroll in Psych 380.  PSYCH 380 AUTHORIZATION FORM

Psych 686, Senior Thesis Seminar in Psychology: This 1-credit course should be taken in both the fall and spring semester concurrently with thesis credits. This course provides guidance and feedback about writing about research, as well as a focus on the process of a thesis, including presentation opportunities. Students who enroll in Psych 686 will present at the Psychology Student Thesis and Research Showcase (STaRS) during the spring semester. The Department of Psychology recommends that all majors completing a thesis should also enroll in Psych 686. PSYCH 686 AUTHORIZATION FORM

University-Wide Honors Course Eligibility with HM Designation

Students who are enrolled in an Honors program, including HM in Psychology, are able to take any Honors course on campus for which they meet the prerequisites. This means that HM declared students are able to automatically enroll in honors courses offered in other departments without needing consent of an instructor.

Honors course enrollment for prospective HM students

Students interested, but not currently in, an Honors program, who want to enroll in an Honors section of a course within the Department of Psychology, may request permission to enroll by completing the Honors Course Authorization Form.

Students may only request permission into an honors section on or after Dec 1st for Spring courses, and April 25th for Fall courses.  Permission will not be granted if the honors section is full/closed.

It is the instructor’s prerogative whether you will be permitted to enroll in the Honors section. If approved, students will receive email notification letting them know the permission has been entered and will expire in 48 hours. Students must add the course through their Student Center prior to the permission expiration date.

Study Abroad and Psychology Honors in the Major

Studying abroad provides an opportunity for students to experience new places and cultures, gain a global perspective, develop valuable skills including intercultural communication, adaptability, and problem-solving, and see your academic studies with a different lens.

Choosing A Study Abroad Program

Students are encouraged to explore study abroad programs and find a program that offers the experiences and learning opportunities to fit their wants and needs.  The L&S Honors Program also provides information on studying abroad, including information on two Honors specific programs.

When to Study Abroad with HM
HM students may study abroad in any term they would like.  Students will need to plan accordingly as some courses and deadlines are semester specific.

  • Fall Junior year: Since this is the only semester HM students are able to take Psych 380, students who are abroad in this term will need to take Psych 686 both fall and spring senior year, concurrently with their thesis (681&682) credits.
  • Spring Junior Year: HM students who go abroad this term will want to be aware that several campus-wide thesis scholarships have deadlines during this term.  Students may submit these applications while abroad, but it can be beneficially to have as much of the application completed prior to going abroad as possible.
  • Senior Year: HM students going abroad senior year will need to take Psych 380 Fall Junior year, as well as start their thesis either Spring Junior year or Summer before senior year.

Research Considerations When Studying Abroad
Students planning to study abroad should communicate their plans with their lab manager and/or faculty mentor.

Psychology HM Coursework Abroad
A psychology course taken abroad does not automatically count towards HM requirements. Psychology Honors in the Major students may petition to have one psychology course taken abroad count towards one of their three psychology courses taken for Honors in the Major. Receiving credit is neither automatic nor guaranteed. The course must meet the goals and nature of an Honors course in order for the appeal to be granted.
The petition should be submitted within 6 months of returning from the study abroad program. It should not be submitted until after the course is completed with a grade of B or higher, and the course credit has been posted to your student record. The petition form should be reviewed prior to studying abroad, however, so that the student can record the relevant information needed for the petition throughout their time studying abroad. 

When a study abroad petition is approved, the Honors in the Major (HM) program coordinator submits an exception request so the course will count towards relevant requirements in the HM section of your DARS.


Honors in the Major students are eligible to apply for awards offered through the L&S Honors Program. These include awards for sophomore summer research, study abroad, community service, and thesis work.  Students are also encouraged to apply to Department of Psychology awards as well as campus-wide awards through the Undergraduate Academic Awards Office. Most University-sponsored awards and scholarships are administered through the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub. Members of Psi Chi are additionally eligible for Psi Chi Undergraduate Awards and Grants.

Intent to Complete HM in Psychology Form 

Thesis Enrollment Form

Study Abroad HM Petition 

Honors Course Authorization Form (for non-honors students)

Dual Thesis Request

HM Withdrawal Form

*Withdrawing from the Honors in the Major Program: If you are currently enrolled, but no longer intend to complete the Honors in the Major program requirements, you must withdraw from the program through the L&S Honors Program. Complete the online withdrawal form.  Your degree will not be conferred if Honors in the Major is on your record and you do not satisfy the HM requirements.