Latin Honors: Comparing the Various College-Level Academic Distinctions
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
As you’re going through college, you’ll probably hear people talk about “cum laude,” “magna cum laude,” and “summa cum laude.” You may wonder what these odd words mean. Are they a club you join or an honor society you somehow missed out on?
These Latin honors indicate that someone earned a certain grade point average during their time in college. Read on to learn more about what each of these means and why we use them in academia.
Why Do We Use Latin Honors?
Before we dive into the differences among the various Latin honors, let’s talk some about why we use them. Latin honors are meant to recognize students who have performed well in their classes throughout college. The different Latin designations are based around your cumulative GPA during your college career.
Latin has been considered a formal language in our society since the origins of Western culture. We see school mottos, religious phrases, and even philosophical ideals expressed in Latin. So when we’re looking for a way to honor someone for high academic distinctions, it makes sense that we’d choose the language of culture and scholarship to do so.
Cum laude is the lowest of the Latin graduation honors, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. “Cum laude” is Latin for “with honor,” and you’ll see this phrase appear in the other two designations. Both of these are variations signifying the level of honor you’re graduating with, and cum laude signifies that you’re graduating with basic honor.
In order to graduate cum laude, you must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.500. This means that you must get at least half A’s and half B’s during your coursework. If you earn any C’s, you must have more A grades to make up for that in your cumulative GPA.
Magna Cum Laude
Magna cum laude is the next level of the Latin honors system. The phrase means “with great honor,” and you must have a higher GPA to graduate magna cum laude than to graduate cum laude. However, its requirements are not as strict as those needed to graduate summa cum laude.
If you want to graduate magna cum laude, you must maintain a GPA of at least 3.700. You’ll need to get A’s in at least three quarters of your classes if you hope to earn this designation. The other quarter of your grades may be B’s, but any C’s will make it very hard to earn this designation.
Summa Cum Laude
Summa cum laude is the highest level of Latin honors you can earn. The Latin translates to “with highest honor,” and it is a tremendously high honor to graduate summa cum laude. The phrase signals to everyone who hears it that you have worked incredibly hard during your college years and have reached the highest levels of academic achievement.
In order to graduate summa cum laude, you must have a 3.9 GPA. This means that you must make fewer than twelve hours’ worth of B’s during an entire 120-hour college degree program. You can make C’s in two classes, but only if all the rest of your grades are A’s.
How GPA Is Calculated
If you think you may have a chance of graduating with Latin honors, you may be wondering how you calculate your GPA. A GPA is simply the average of all your grades put together.
To begin, you must translate your grades into the point scale. On this scale, A’s are worth four points, B’s are worth three, C’s are worth two, and D’s are worth one. If your school uses the plus/minus system, this may get a little more complex.
Multiply the number of points you earned in a class by the number of hours the class counted as. So if you had an A in one three-hour class, you’ll get a total of twelve points. Do this for each of your classes and then add the total together.
Divide your total grade points by the total number of credits you have to get your GPA. So let’s say one semester, you take four classes worth three hours each and you earn two A’s, one B, and one C. You’ll wind up with thirty-nine total grade points and a semester GPA of 3.25.
How to Use These Designations
You’ve worked hard in college, you’ve earned plenty of A’s, and now you’re graduating with those sought-after Latin designations. Now what difference do they make in the real world? The truth of the matter is that after your first three years out of college, they may not make much difference in your career, but the hard work you did to earn them will serve you well your whole life long.
It’s a good idea to include your Latin designation on your resume with your college degree. For instance, you can say, “Bachelor’s degree in English 2016, University of Elsewhere, magna cum laude.” This will let employers know that you’re a hard worker who knows how to succeed and they may be more likely to grant you an interview.
Make the Most of Your Latin Honors
Latin honors are a signal to everyone who learns about them that you are someone who knows how to work hard and succeed at what you’re doing. If you want to graduate with any of these honors, you’ll need to be dedicated to your schoolwork. And once you earn them, be sure to include them on your resume so employers are aware of your achievement.
If you’d like to find the most success in your academic career, check out the rest of our site at The Honor Society. We have information about scholarships you can apply for, as well as a career center to get you started with the best job for you. Join today and start on the path to your best life.