The Dr. John Zubizarreta Honors Program provides an enriched academic experience to outstanding students.

Honors Benefits 

If you are a motivated, ambitious student who is willing to accept challenges and engage in deeper ways of learning, then you should consider honors. 

Classroom & Curriculum Advantages 

  • Unique seminar topics not available in regular classes
  • Teaching from excellent faculty who have won every teaching award the college offers
  • Small classes, predominately discussion-based, with a focus on critical thinking, creativity, self-directed learning, critical thinking, and reflection
  • Demonstration to employers and graduate schools of superior academic achievement

Unique Recognition & Opportunities

  • Distinction with Honors Medallion, designation on the transcript, and honors diploma certificate
  • Opportunities to participate in: National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), Southern Regional Honors Council, National Society for Minorities in Honors, and more
  • Semesters in places like Washington DC, Prague, Grand Canyon, New York City, Wales, and the Amazon River
  • Semester-at-Sea & Partners in the Parks experiential ventures
  • Special student-designed orientation with City-as-Text™ excursions 

Apply for Honors

Step-by-Step Instructions

Model of Success

Our program has been used nationally and internationally as a select model of excellence. Our program and students have also been featured in the inaugural Peterson’s Guide to Honors Programs. 

  • Three National Honors Student of the Year Awards
  • Four Partners in the Parks Program Sections (NCHC and U.S. National Parks experience)
  • Two Semester-at-Sea Program Selections
  • Numerous global opportunities in Prague, the Grand Canyon, New York, Amazon/Peru, Paris, Berlin, Belfast, New York, Orlando, Miami, London, and more. 

Honors students have earned research fellowships and internships with Harvard’s WorldTeach, Yale School of Medicine Enrichment Program, Andrew Mellon Foundation’s Summer Institute for Literary and Cultural Studies at Wheaton College, Mayo Clinic, Arts and Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Delaware, Red Cross, MUSC’s Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program, High Magnetic Lab, APA Research Institute, Jackson Lab for Genetics, UMC Racial-Ethnic Minority Fellowship Program, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, and more.

Honors students have earned graduate, medical, and law degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Rutgers, NYU, Emory, Duke, Virginia, Michigan, Columbia, LSU, MUSC, Wake Forest, Elon, Drew, NY School of Art, Syracuse, Georgetown, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio State, Temple, Central Florida, Maryland, USC, George Washington, Howard, Texas Women’s, and North Carolina State, among others. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Courses & Curriculum

What are the honors course requirements?

Honors students are required to take 24 semester hours of honors courses in order to graduate. These hours include a senior seminar and an honors project. 

What are honors GPA requirements?

Honors students 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 for this minimum GPA requirement or as a pass semester.
Can I be successful in honors if I am an athlete or a student in an intensive major?

We have numerous 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 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.

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.

Applying for Honors

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

Students apply by completing the Honors Program Application which 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. The typical due date is 1 June, but we accept applications on a rolling basis throughout the summer.

Honors Admissions

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.

Prospective students may also receive an honors scholarship in addition to any state or externally funded scholarship programs. Learn more about scholarship opportunities, and you can always connect with the Dr. John Zubizarreta Honors Director, Dr. Marlee Marsh at for more information. 

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.

Have more questions? 
Contact us at 803.786.3014 or by email at

Dr. Marlee Marsh

Meet the Honors Director

Dr. Marsh is passionate about helping students reach their full potential across academic disciplines. As a biology professor, she has dedicated herself to helping students improve their scientific writing and active learning. Many of her recent mentees have received research funding, and all of them have presented projects at state and regional meetings.  

How to Apply for Honors

Step-by-Step Instructions

Who is Dr. John Zubizarreta?

Dr. John Zubizaretta—affectionately known as Dr. Z—served as the director of Columbia College's Honors Program from 1987 until his retirement in 2021. In 2018, he received the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Sam Schuman Award for Excellence, the Council's highest honor for faculty. In June 2021, the Honors Program was renamed in his honor to acknowledge his profound contributions to the development and leadership of the program.