The Committee on College Honors, which is composed of three faculty members, three students, and Dean Phil Bean, has two principal functions:
- makes recommendations to the faculty on the awarding of two fellowships exclusively for graduating seniors at Haverford College: the Clementine Cope Fellowships, and the Augustus Taber Murray Research Fellowships.
- makes recommendations to the faculty regarding which graduating seniors should receive College Honors: magna cum laude and summa cum laude(Haverford does not award the distinction of cum laude). The Committee interprets the criteria for College Honors as defined by the rules of the faculty, and it establishes suitable procedures for the selection of students.
Each spring, the names of the top 15% of the graduating class, as measured by cumulative GPA, are circulated confidentially among the faculty, who are invited to send written recommendations to the Committee on Honors for any student on the list; the faculty are also invited to recommend any student who is not on the list. After discussing these letters and the transcripts of the students under consideration, the Committee on Honors devises a list of nominees for the distinctions of magna cum laude and summa cum laude, which is then submitted to the faculty for its approval.
The criteria used by the Committee in determining whom to nominate for magna cum laude and summa cum laude are outlined in the Haverford College Course Catalog:
"Whereas distinguished performance in the major is the criterion for departmental honors, the award of college honors recognizes students whose work has been outstanding overall. Special attention is given to study that goes beyond the requirements of the major. Such study can be interdivisional, as evidenced by superior work outside one's major division; interdisciplinary, as evidenced by superior work in more than one department of a single division; by superior work in several converging domains of knowledge represented by an area of concentration or the equivalent; or by other evidence of superior work beyond the requirements of the major and the College."
Students will note that the criteria used in this process differ from those used in the choice of recipients of other distinctions, like departmental honors and election to Phi Beta Kappa, and it is therefore not unusual for a student to be awarded some form of recognition of academic achievement but not be chosen for College Honors. Given the emphasis placed on breadth of study, it is not unusual for students with high GPAs not to be chosen for College Honors.
All students who do not earn a magna cum laude or summa cum laude but fall within the top 30% of their class will graduate with the distinction of cum laude on the basis of GPA alone; the process described above, involving the examination of transcripts and faculty input, applies only to candidates for magna cum laude or summa cum laude. The Committee on College Honors is therefore not involved in the process of determining who will graduate cum laude.