Understanding The Laude System And Latin Honors

3.4 GPA

Graduating high school or college is an achievement but being an honorary student is another excellence you should be proud of.

There are different terms when defining honor students, known as the Latin honors, and these terms signify different levels of academic achievement. Many universities and colleges confer Latin honors throughout the country and other parts of the world.

Is a 3.4 GPA honors?  3.4 GPA can be considered cum laude for some school institutions. Though many colleges require an average estimate of 3.5 to 3.7 to be Cum Laude. For Magna Cum Laude, you 3.8 to 3.9 GPA, and for Summa Cum Laude, you need a 4.0 GPA.

In this article, you will understand better the differentiation of GPA honors and its Latin honor equivalents. It also depends on how your school or university tackles this academic excellence with other factors.

Latin Honors

For college graduates who have not managed to squeeze in a Latin course or do not have a Latin-English dictionary, Magna Cum Laude usually refers to English as “With Great Distinction.”

It means that a student stands above Cum Laude, which can be translated to “With Distinction.” These Latin honors will be handed out to a student who has earned high academic achievements but usually not the highest possible.

On the other hand, there is a Summa Cum Laude, translated into English as “With Highest Distinction.”This particular student has earned grades that are within the highest percentage of their school or department.

It only means that they achieved some other metric that the school considered worthy of the highest recognition.

How Colleges Decide Which Distinction To Award

There are no exact criteria followed by many school institutions when it comes to a national standard for qualifying these honors. It is always up to the colleges and university standards, and they are free to set their own qualifications for their students.

For instance, at the University of Pennsylvania, students need to have a grade point average of 3.4 for cum laude, 3.6 for magna cum laude, and 3.8 higher to graduate as summa cum laude.

Meanwhile, Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences set really high standards at 3.9, 3.7, and 3.5, respectively.

It is also worth mentioning that individual colleges or schools within a particular university have their own requirements.

For the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, graduates need to have a GPA of at least 3.75 to qualify for the summa cum laude honor, while for their Law school graduate, you need to have 4.0 to have the same honor.

In some cases, some colleges give recognition to their students depending on the class rank.

Take New York University as they confer summa cum laude honors on the top 5% of its undergraduate class. Magna cum laude for their next 10%, cum laude for the 15% of its graduate, and his means that 30% of its graduates receive one of the three honors.

Another example is the Northwestern University Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, summa cum laude goes to graduates in the top 5%, 8% for the Magna cum laude, and the cum laude honor goes to the next 12%.

In addition to these numerical requirements, some colleges do prefer to have other criteria in the mix. It includes faculty recommendations or a requirement that students need to complete for a certain number of advanced courses.

As a result, colleges and universities can vary differently on how many they can bestow their graduates each year.

Some schools do not offer Latin honors like Stanford University, but they do have an alternative system. It means that students do not go unrecognized, and they award Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction to the top 15% of its graduating class depending on their GPAs.

Special Considerations

While having a Latin honor can be great for your diploma, college transcript, or even your resume, some still think it won’t affect you in real life.

According to research, obtaining honor can provide you an economic return in the labor market. But you can only benefit from this for over two years, and by the third year after your college life, you will see no effect on having these honors.

It means that many firms will opt to select new graduates. However, they do not rely on the signal for determining the pay of more experienced candidates. It is also found that the economic benefit can only be applied to students who graduated from well-versed schools.

Understanding The Laude System And Latin Honors

Now that you are familiar with the required GPA for specific Latin honors depending on the school., you need to understand the Laude system.

The school confers honor in various ways, and there is actually no standard for this criteria. Cum laude means honor, praise, or distinction, and it is the lower level of Latin honor bestowed on students.

Next to the ladder of distinction is magna cum laude, which means high honor or praise. The highest distinction level in the Latin honor system is summa cum laude, which students get when they have the highest honor or praise during their academic years.

Each academic institution has its own policies and guidelines to determine the level of academic honors its students will get. Universities and colleges usually outline their own expectations and criteria for each of these honors.

If you want to get these honors, the standard way to earn these is through a grade point average, also known as GPA.

Other factors can affect the class rank, the number of hours completed, and your academic records/achievement.

If you are identified as one of the Latin honors, you will be recognized during your commencement exercise, and the designation will appear in your diploma. You can also expect to wear some special insignia, tassel, or sash during the graduation ceremony.

Latin Honors For Colleges And Universities

Many colleges award three tiers of honors like cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude during their graduation ceremony.

The primary factor in determining if you are one of these three is your GPA, but college prerequisites for graduating with honors can vary. It will be based on the college’s own set of criteria and standards.

It includes the completion of an honor thesis or even early graduation. Latin honors are almost always given to students who are earning bachelor’s degrees. But there will always be an exception, like in many law schools.

Latin Honors For High Schools

Many high schools in the United States traditionally recognized the highest grade in the class with the honor of being the valedictorian.

However, nowadays, there is a trend where they recognize multiple students, including classes with dozens of valedictorians. Some high schools use the Latin honor system, and they give honors and recognition depending on the class ranking percentage.

Cum Laude GPA

Having a cum laude honor is the most common honor that is usually conferred for academic achievement. For the requirement of this honor, the criteria vary depending on the school requirements.

Cum laude is generally awarded to the top 25 to 35% of the class and usually requires a GPA of around 3.5 up to 3.7.

Magna Cum Laude GPA

Magna cum laude can be differentiated from cum laude because it is generally given to students in the top 10 to 15% of the class. They need to have an estimated average GPA of 3.8 up to 3.9, and for some schools, magna cum laude is the highest possible honor.

Summa Cum Laude GPA

Summa cum laude, as you know by now, means the highest honor, and it is normally given to students that are part f the 1 – 5% of the class.

This particular honor is reserved for students that achieved a perfect grade of 4.0+, but it will also depend on the school’s discretion. Some colleges have different GPA requirements for different majors.

Laude System Considerations

Some universities give their Latin honors to certain GPA levels, and typically GPA of 3.5 or higher is required to receive cum laude recognition.

The recognition will be solely based on the individual’s cumulative GPA as of graduation. Other universities give Latin honor to a certain percentage of the graduating class.

Suppose you are graduating from an Ivy League university. In that case, your GPA alone might not be enough to earn these honors as there are other factors that students need to consider aside from their academic records.

For instance, only the top 25% graduating class will receive any honor, and smaller percentages may receive Magna and summa cum laude honors.


Overall, receiving a Latin honor is no mean feat, and students who receive this honor are among the top of the classes.

Be proud of what you achieve because you dedicate your academic years to studying, and you are just reaping what you sow. Just remember that whether you attain this honor could depend on the university or school you attended.

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