Cum Laude GPA – What is the Laude System and Latin Honors?

Cum Laude GPA – What is the Laude System and Latin Honors?

cum laude gpaCum laude is Latin for with honors or distinction. It represents a level of academic achievement.  Cum laude GPA requirements vary depending on the school. Cum Laude is usually awarded to the top 25-35% of the class and requires a GPA above 3.5.   Educational institutions use the phrase to signify an academic degree that was received with honor.

Cum laude is one of the three commonly used types of Latin honors recognized in the United States.  The other two are summa cum laude and magna cum laude. The terms are from Latin, so they often are called Latin honors. They are common in the United States, but very few other countries around the world use the system.

Key Points

  • Cum laude is the lowest of the three Latin honors bestowed by educational institutions bestow for academic achievement.
  • The phrase is Latin for with distinction or honor or praise.”
  • Educational institutions have individual standards that must be met for each honor.

Understanding the Laude System and Latin Honors

The Latin honors system serves as a way to distinguish students with exemplary academic success. Schools confer honors in a variety of ways and there is no standardized set of criteria.

Cum laude means with honor, praise, or distinction.  It is the lowest level of Latin honor that is bestowed.  Next up the ladder of distinction is magna cum laude, which means with high honor or high praise. The highest level of distinction in the Latin honor system is summa cum laude, which bestows the highest honor or praise on its recipient.  Each academic institution has different guidelines through which each level of academic honors is achieved. Universities or colleges typically outline their own expectations and criteria for each honor.

The standards for earning Latin honors usually include the grade point average (GPA).  But other factors may include class rank, number of hours completed, and academic records and achievements. Students receiving Latin honors are typically identified in graduation programs, and the designation appears on the student’s diploma. Students graduating with honors also may be allowed to wear some sort of special insignia, tassel, or sash at graduation.

Latin Honors for Colleges and Universities

Most colleges award three tiers of honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude) based on the college’s own standards. The primary factor is usually the GPA.  But, college prerequisites for graduating with honors may also include completion of an honors thesis or early graduation. With the exception of law students, Latin honors are almost always given to students earning bachelor degrees.

Latin Honors for High Schools

High schools traditionally recognize the highest grade in the class with the honor of valedictorian.  However, there is a trend towards recognizing multiple top students—including classes with dozens of valedictorians. Some high schools use the three-tiered Latin honors system and award honors based on GPA or class ranking percentage.

Latin Honor GPAs

Cum Laude GPA

Cum laude is the most common Latin honor conferred for academic achievement.  Requirements for the honor vary depending on the school.  Cum Laude is generally awarded to the top 25-35% of the class.  The honor usually requires an average GPA of around 3.5-3.7.

Magna Cum Laude GPA

Magna cum laude means with high or great honor and is a higher distinction than cum laude. It is generally given to students in the top 10-15% of their class and the estimated average GPA would be 3.8-3.9. For some schools, magna cum laude is the highest possible honor.

Summa Cum Laude GPA

Summa cum laude means with the highest honor and is generally given to students in the top 1-5% of the class. This honor is sometimes reserved for students with perfect grades (4.0+), but the criteria depend on the school. Some colleges even have different GPA requirements for different majors.  For example, an education major might need a 3.96 to graduate summa cum laude, while graduates from the school of medicine only need a 3.87.

Latin Honors – Example Criteria

Graduating seniors are eligible for cum laude designations on diplomas and transcripts if their complete academic records show at least 54 calculable credits at the University and meet the following criteria:

  • cum laude: at least a 3.0 total GPA (grade point average) and a class rank in the 75th percentile or above in the student’s school or college.
  • magna cum laude: at least a 3.4 total GPA (grade point average) and a class rank in the 85th percentile or above in the student’s school or college.
  • summa cum laude: at least a 3.7 total GPA (grade point average) and a class rank in the 95th percentile or above in the student’s school or college.

General graduation honors for students meeting requirements at the conclusion of the summer sessions or the fall semester will be based on the grade point average cut-off points used for the previous spring semester to establish class rank in each school or college. Please note that the graduation honor designations depend on the GPA of each school or college and that the cut-off points are determined on a yearly basis. The minimum GPA cut-offs listed above are not necessarily the actual cut-off points for any given college or school in any given year. (Source

Laude System – Special Considerations 

Some universities bestow Latin honors at certain GPA levels. Typically, a GPA of 3.5 or higher is required to receive the cum laude designation.  Higher GPAs are required for magna cum laude and summa cum laude honors. The designation is based only an individual student’s cumulative GPA as of graduation.

Other universities reserve Latin honors for a stated percentage of each graduating class. For example, only the top 25% of a class may receive any honors and smaller percentages may receive the magna cum laude and summa cum laude honors designations. At Ivy League universities and other highly competitive schools, GPA alone may not be enough to earn these honors. Faculty committees also consider students’ academic records and achievements and may recommend honors for exceptional students.

Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University, and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t.  Anyone with a grade-point average of at least 3.4 is granted Latin honors at Middlebury College; the number of students graduating with honors has been rising in recent years, the school says, and was north of 50% this spring. WSJ

Cum Laude GPA – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Dean’s List? – The Dean’s & President’s List is a way for students to be recognized for academic achievement within a given semester. The Dean’s List is a list of all students that received A’s and B’s for the semester. The President’s List is a list of all student that received all A’s for the semester.

Is a 3.5 GPA Good? – The national average for GPA is around a 3.0, so a 3.5 puts you above average nationally. It means that you’ve earned an A- average across all of your classes. It is well above the national average for GPA and meets the threshold for being awarded cum laude honors.

Is Summa Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude Higher? – Magna cum laude means With Great Praise.  Magna cum laude GPA – 3.8 to 3.9.  Summa cum laude means with Highest Praise.  Summa cum laude GPA – 4.0+.  Summa cum laude is the highest honor awarded.

Does Graduating College with Latin Honors Even Matter? – Latin honors don’t really matter.  But, your GPA does matter if you want to go to grad school.  You might decide later on that you do, even if you don’t want to now.  Also, graduating with honors matters to some employers when you are an entry-level job applicant.

What are the Top Graduates Called?The salutatorian is ranked second in the class, right after the valedictorian. Salutatorians deliver the salutation or the opening speech of the graduation ceremony. Some schools also use terms like summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude to designate high-achieving students.

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