Since 1985, the Dr. John Zubizarreta Honors Program has provided an enriched academic experience to outstanding students committed to excellence. 

Honors Overview 

The Dr. John Zubizarreta Honors Program requires students to maintain uncompromising academic standards, interdisciplinary knowledge, and a willingness to engage in intellectual risk. Honors students will continue to challenge their academic limits, working to reach their highest potential as scholars, individual thinkers, and leaders.

Course Requirements

Honors students are required to take twenty-four (24) semester hours of honors courses in order to graduate. These hours include a senior seminar and honors project.

Honors Project

The honors project is an opportunity for individualized, independent learning on a topic of your choosing. This is your chance to explore a topic you are passionate about while receiving guided academic assistance.


Prospective students may also receive an Honors scholarship in addition to any state or externally funded scholarship programs. To learn more about Honors scholarship opportunities, connect with the Dr. John Zubizarreta Honors Director, Dr. Marlee Marsh at

How Do I Join Honors?

1. Applying to Honors

Once you have applied for admissions, you may apply for the Honors Program. To apply, fill out the application and submit via email to the Director of Honors, Dr. Marlee Marsh at or 803.786.3674. 

You may also submit your application by mail to:

Columbia College
Attn: Admissions
1301 Columbia College Drive

Admissions Requirements for Honors

The typical honors student has a combined SAT score of over 1200 (verbal and math), is in the top 10% of their class, and has a GPA above 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. Having taken honors classes in high school, including AP or IB classes, may improve you chances of being accepted.

Due to the competitive nature of our honors program, early application is recommended. If you are not accepted in your first semester, you may reapply the following spring.

Application Essay

The honors program essay is the most vital piece of your application. The ability to write clearly and effectively is a characteristic of successful honors students and will weigh heavily in your favor. 

2. Maintain your Honors

As a student in the honors program, you will be required to maintain a 3.4 cumulative GPA. If for any reason you drop below this standard you'll be placed on one semester of academic probation. If you cannot met the requirements after your probationary semester, you will be effectively withdrawn from the honors program.

3. Graduate with Honors

Students who have met and maintained the honors standard and required courses are eligible for graduation with honors.

If you have questions about the honors program, contact us at 803.786.3589 or by email at

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I apply to the Honors Program?

If you are a motivated, ambitious student who is willing to accept challenges and take risks in your learning, willing to engage in deeper and richer ways of learning, then you should consider honors. The benefits of honors are numerous:

  • Small classes, predominately discussion-based, with focus on critical thinking, creativity, self-directed learning, critical thinking, and reflection.
  • Excellent faculty who have won every teaching award the college offers.
  • Unique seminar topics not available in regular classes.
  • Demonstration to medical/law/graduate programs and professional career employers of superior academic achievement and ability to complete sustained research/writing/creative work.
  • Residence hall options.
  • Special sense of community among students and faculty in honors.
  • Special student-designed orientation with City-as-Text™ excursions.
  • Tull Foundation and modest merit scholarships.
  • Opportunities to participate in National Collegiate Honors Council, Southern Regional Honors Council, National Conference on Undergraduate Research, National Society for Minorities in Honors, and other honor society conferences.
  • NCHC & other Honors Semesters (e.g. Prague, Grand Canyon, New York City, Wales, Amazon River).
  • Partners in the Parks experiential ventures (e.g. Glacier Nat’l Park, Acadia Nat’l Park, Cape Hatteras Nat’l Seashore, Gunnison of the Black Canyon in Colorado).
  • Participation in Washington Semester.
  • Membership in Honors Student Association.
  • Service projects and social events.
  • Distinction at commencement with Honors Medallion, designation on the transcript, and special honors diploma certificate.

To apply for the Honors Program, first apply to the college, then fill out the Honors Program application and submit via email to the Director of the Honors Program, Dr. Marlee Marsh.

I am a new prospective student. How do I apply to the Honors Program?

Students apply by completing the Honors Program Application that includes requests for personal contact information, high school credentials, a well-developed and well-written essay, and a creative submission. We consider applications holistically, considering the student’s writing skills, GPA, advanced level courses taken, class rank, test scores, creative submission, and any scheduled interviews. The application is available online or from the Admissions Office. All of the application materials may be returned electronically by email. Typical due date is 1 June, but we accept applications on a rolling basis throughout the summer.

I am a current CC student or transfer candidate. How do I apply to the Honors Program?

The Honors Program welcomes applications from current college students. Eligible candidates should have a current 3.4 cumulative GPA, complete a full application, and request two brief faculty recommendations that can be delivered by email. The evidence of college performance and the faculty endorsements are prioritized over any previous high school record.

Can I transfer any previous honors courses to CC from another honors program?

Students who transfer from another college honors program may receive selected credit for previous honors work.

Do high school AP/IB/Dual-Credit courses earn college honors credits?

Assuming required scores, credits earned from Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual-credit courses are counted by CC toward graduation, but they do not earn honors hours toward completion of the program.

Does the Honors Program offer scholarships?

Honors offers the Tull Foundation Award for the Outstanding Rising Senior each year and several modest scholarships, based on GPA merit, to top students in each of four years in the program. Admissions and Financial Aid offer special honors scholarships to new or transfer students admitted to the program.

If I discontinue participation in honors, do I lose my college scholarships?

College scholarships are managed by Financial Aid and typically have lower GPA thresholds than those in the Honors Program. You do not automatically lose college scholarships if you leave honors. However, scholarships specifically tied to the Honors Program are forfeited if you leave the program.

Can I be successful in honors if I am athlete or a student in an intensive major?

We have a good number of honors students who are athletes, who double major and minor, and whose disciplinary areas demand heavy credit, internship, practicum, lab, performance, and studio time. Athletics and majors such as education, business, the arts, and the sciences are challenging to juggle with honors or any other commitment, but we have many successful students in all those areas. Taking as many honors courses as possible early in your progress is a good idea; the Honors Choice is a valuable resource; careful advising is essential—but most of all, your motivation and determination are the factors that can tip the balance and help you finish honors.

How do I sign up for honors classes?
  • Some classes are already designed to have an honors component. These classes have an (H) next to their course name.
  • Several honors courses are double listed in class schedules. This means that the class has two sections: one regular, one honors. The instructor offers unique challenges to the program students enrolled in the honors section, helping them earn honors credit for the course.
  • If there are no (H) classes that you need to take, then you can consider taking advantage of the Honors Choice.
Are honors courses graded differently than regular courses?

Honors courses use the same grading scale as any regular comparable course. Honors courses are not weighted in any unusual way for calculation of GPA.

What is the difference between honors and regular courses?

The CC Honors Program motto is Non Magis Sed Melior (“Not More but Better”). We mean “better” in the sense of offering students different approaches to learning that challenge them to engage in deeper, richer modes of learning that involve discussion, research, writing, collaboration, application, interdisciplinary integration of knowledge, and critical reflection. The honors course is not intentionally designed to require more work, though some classes are naturally more difficult than others due to disciplinary standards and content areas. However, the priority in honors is to challenge students to be self-directed, curious, motivated, life-long, engaged learners not just ace pupils with high grades.

What is the Honors Choice?
  • If there are no (H) courses listed for Gen. Ed., your major, or other requirements, then you have the option of earning honors credit individually for any course you choose by contracting with the professor to enhance your learning with different and/or additional work.
  • The Honors Choice, ordinarily, can be used in up to 3 courses.
  • The Honors Choice contract form, tips for designing a good contract, and a variety of models are available online and from the Honors Office.
What is Honors Seminar (Hon. 490)?
  • Honors Seminar allows for a group of advanced honors students to come together and discuss, analyze, and investigate a unique topic with opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. Typically, each class has its own topic that is explored throughout the semester. Occasionally, study-travel excursions are included.
  • This is an honors course only.
What is the Honors Project (Hon. 498)?

The Honors Project is a process that engages students and mentors in independent, collaborative study and in critical dialogue about detailed work. As a process, the project develops into a finished product that grows out of careful planning and detailed goals, purposes, and criteria for evaluation. The project earns 3-4 semester hours.

  • Write a prospectus, typically due at the end of the previous semester before beginning Hon. 498. This allows students and mentors to consult thoughtfully about the project’s topic, content, due dates, and assessment.
  • Project is due to mentor one month before the end of the semester.
  • All projects are professional bound, with designated cover sheet; signed by student, mentor, and Honors Director; and kept in the project archive. The archive is available for viewing.
  • Honors projects are presented during the showcase at the Honors Medallion Ceremony before graduation. The presentations are not individual lectures; instead, students may share posters, display slides on a laptop, create a table exhibit, use a multi-media approach, or design other creative means of representing their projects.

Can be crosslisted with significant research, writing, creative, or experiential capstone project in a variety of majors; the disciplinary project substitutes for Hon. 498 and earns honors credit.

Information about Hon. 498, the Prospectus form, sample prospectuses in a variety of disciplines, the Honors Project cover sheet, and more are available online and from the Honors Office.

What are the requirements to graduate from the Honors Program?
  • Must have 24 hours in honors courses (including Hon. 490 and Hon 498).
  • Must maintain a 3.4 cumulative GPA.
    • If students do not maintain a 3.4 GPA, they have a one-semester pass. They must maintain a 3.4 GPA after that in order to take full advantage of all benefits of the program. They do not need to reapply.
    • The first semester of the first year is not counted in figuring minimum GPA or as a pass semester.
Is graduating with “Latin honors” the same as graduating from the Honors Program?

The college recognizes students with “Latin honors” at commencement with designations based solely on GPA: summa cum laude (3.950-4.000), magna cum laude (3.85-3.949), and cum laude (3.75-3.849).

Graduation from the Honors Program is designated as cum honore, and it is recognized at commencement, on the transcript, and with a special diploma certificate.