Honors Carolina is a program of the College of Arts and Sciences for qualified undergraduate students that features courses, special events, and learning opportunities to enhance a student's degree work. Some students enter the program when they enter the university, and others apply at the end of their first year. Honors students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.000 or higher and complete a minimum number of honors credit hours by graduation in order to receive the "Honors Carolina Laureate" distinction on their transcript. Honors courses are open to all academically qualified students, although members of Honors Carolina receive priority registration. To graduate from the university with honors or highest honors, students must complete a senior thesis in their academic major.
The honors program began in 1954 for academically gifted freshmen. Over the years it expanded its scope to cover all undergraduates and a larger cohort, more programs, and more outside-the-classroom learning opportunities. The program renovated and moved into its current location in 2000 and changed its name to Honors Carolina in 2011.
The campus home for Honors Carolina is the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, located in Graham Memorial Hall. The center is named in recognition of the James M. Johnston Charitable Trust, which supported the 1999—2000 renovation of the building. Johnston was an alumnus who created the trust in his will. The trust has also made over $25 million in scholarships gifts to Carolina since 1967.