What Are Latin Honors: Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude & Cum Laude?

Latin honors are recognitions given to students that distinguish themselves academically by meeting high GPA requirements or by placing at or near the top of their class. They must also earn a minimum number of credits, it varies by school, toward their bachelor’s degree at the school giving the awards. Both full-time and part-time undergraduate students are eligible to earn Latin honors.  

The Latin honors are:

  • Cum laude, which means with distinction or praise.
  • Magna cum laude, which means with high distinction or praise.
  • Summa cum laude, which means with highest distinction or praise.

General requirements for earning Latin honors vary by school. The minimum GPA needed ranges from 3.25 to 3.8 or higher. At schools where these recognitions are awarded by percentages rather than GPA, minimum levels range from the top 10% to the top 30% academically. A few schools also weigh awards based on the academic difficulty of the major or by the requirements of a senior thesis or project.

Earning Latin honors demonstrates the student’s intelligence, ability to learn and synthesize new information and to exert academic discipline. These characteristics and the high GPAs behind them are considered advantageous for students to include on their resume as they apply to graduate school, scholarships to continue their education, or for employment.

Most U.S. colleges and universities use Latin honors or an equivalent such as distinction or honors, high distinction or honors and highest distinction or honors. In all cases, students earning these recognitions graduate with honors.

Academic honors are listed on the student’s transcript and diploma as a permanent record of their academic success. A few universities including prominent schools like MIT, Brown, Cornell and Stanford do not award general Latin honors or the equivalent such as distinction or honors awards.

What is Summa Cum Laude?

Summa cum laude is a Latin phrase that means “with highest honors” or “highest distinction.” Some schools use the English terms in place of the traditional Latin terms. Summa cum laude is the most prestigious academic honor awarded to undergraduate college students, a step above magna cum laude. It demonstrates the student’s superior academic abilities including intelligence and work ethic.

Summa cum laude recognition is reserved for students with a perfect 4.0 GPA or very close. Students who graduate with highest honors, summa cum laude, typically have a class rank in the top 5% to 10% of their graduating class.

Some schools consider more than GPA or class rank when awarding summa cum laude. For example, the difficulty of the coursework or major, distinction in research or contribution to the field might also be factors. The specific academic requirements for summa cum laude vary by school.

What is Magna Cum Laude?

Magna cum laude is a Latin phrase meaning “with high distinction” or “with high honors” or “with great praise.” It is the second most prestigious academic award after summa cum laude and a step higher than cum laude.

Students awarded magna cum laude distinction have academic achievement just below summa cum laude levels. This typically means that their standing isn’t in the top 5% but within the top 10% to 15% depending on the school. As a rule, the gpa needed for magna cum laude honors is 3.7 to 3.9. However, the GPA necessary to earn magna cum laude varies significantly from one school to another.

As with summa cum laude, magna cum laude or high honors may be partly determined by coursework, research involvement and other academic factors.

What is Cum Laude?

Cum laude is a Latin phrase meaning “with distinction” or “with honor” or literally “with praise.” Some colleges and universities use English names rather than Latin names.

This academic award is given to students with a GPA in the top 10% to 30% depending on the school. Earning cum laude is considered a significant achievement, though not high enough to earn magna cum laude or summa cum laude awards. The GPA needed for cum laude recognition is 3.5 to 3.7, though this is not a fixed rule and varies by school.

What is the Importance of Graduating with Latin Honors?

Graduating with one of the Latin college honors levels has advantages for the student because it shows that the student has exceptional academic skills and is capable of the hard work necessary to be successful.

As a result of earning the academic award, the student has greater opportunities depending on what they choose to do after completing their undergraduate degree:

  • Job prospects: Many employers look for high achievers when making hiring decisions. Earning Latin recognition tells the potential employer that the applicant is intelligent, works hard and is capable of excellent results.
  • Graduate school admission: Graduate programs are very competitive. Earning Latinate honors are considered by supervising professors and admissions committees in weighing candidates. When a student demonstrates superior academic performance in undergraduate work, they are likely to succeed in graduate studies.
  • Scholarships: Committees awarding scholarships for graduate school often consider whether the applicant earned graduation with distinction.
  • Career networking: Graduating with honors helps when being considered for honor societies, which serve as networking connections within their career field and may lead to job opportunities, mentoring and additional assistance that will assist them in their career path.

Keep in mind that the potential advantages of Latin academic awards do not guarantee success. And their importance to employers and admissions decision makers varies. In some fields, work experience, demonstrated skills and other achievements have greater weight than college GPA.

Where to Put Latin Honors on a Resume

Latin honors should be listed on your resume where the achievement is sure to be seen by the person or committee reviewing the resume.

There are several places to consider when deciding where to put these awards on a resume.

1). The Education section following your degree is the most common location.


Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, cum laude, University of ABC, 2024

2). Awards and Honors section in a list with other degrees.


Magna cum laude

President’s Award 2023

Dean’s List (4 semesters)

3). Summary section – when the Latin honors are especially relevant to the job or program to which you are applying.


2024 graduate, Bachelor of Science in chemistry, summa cum laude, applying to use research and laboratory experience in biochemical research position.

Note that Latin honors are typically italicized, according to writing conventions when including foreign language phrases. Plus, italics sets off the award to catch the attention of the reader.

What are GPA Requirements for Receiving Latin Honors?

A survey of US universities shows these typical GPA requirements to receive recognition.

SchoolSumma cum laudeMagna cum laudeCum laude
Purdue University4.0 only3.8 – 3.993.7 – 3.79
University of Michigan3.992 – 4.03.955 – 3.9913.875 – 3.954
Wichita State University3.90 – 4.03.55 – 3.893.25 – 3.54
Harvard University3.921 – 4.03.923.753 – 3.919
Univ. of Iowa3.90 – 4.03.80 – 3.893.75 – 3.79
Univ. of Alabama3.9 – 4.03.7 – 3.93.5 – 3.7
Arizona State University3.80 – 4.03.60 – 3.793.40 – 3.59
University of Kentucky3.80 – 4.03.60 – 3.793.40 – 3.59
University of Florida3.80 – 4.03.65 – 3.793.5 – 3.64
University of Connecticut3.733 – 3.9923.571 – 3.9503.351 – 3.918

For some schools like Harvard and Michigan State University, the minimum GPA requirements for each level of Latin honors fluctuate each semester based on the number of students and the average GPA among them. This keeps approximately the same number or percentage of students receiving honors each semester.

Many schools maintain firm GPA standards for Latinate honors from one semester to the next, which means that the number or percentage of students receiving honors varies.

Few schools, including Purdue University, require a perfect GPA of 4.0 to be awarded summa cum laude. For most, the starting point for highest honors or distinction is closer to 3.8 to 3.9. Few schools, among them the University of Connecticut, have a minimum GPA for summa cum laude below 3.8.

What Are Examples of Latin Honor Requirements for Top Percentiles?

This table shows that the percentage of students receiving honors varies widely from 10% to 30% and schools across the U.S.

SchoolSumma cum laudeMagna cum laudeCum laude
University of OregonTop 2%3% – 5%6% – 10%
University of California – IrvineTop 2%3% – 7%8% – 17%
University of Miami of OhioTop 2%3% – 7%8% – 17%
University of MichiganTop 3%4% – 10%11% – 25%
University of VanderbiltTop 5%6% – 13%14% – 25%
Columbia UniversityTop 5%6% – 15%16% – 25%
Duke UniversityTop 5%6% – 15%16% – 25%
Yale UniversityTop 5%6% – 15%16% – 30%
Boston UniversityTop 5%6% – 15%16% – 30%
University of Notre DameTop 5%6% – 15%16% – 30%

Most schools award a level of academic distinction to 15% to 25% of graduates, and some have Latinate honors systems that include 30% of graduates.

How Do Latin Honor Requirements Vary by Major or Sub-school?

Requirements for honors vary by major, sub school or college within a university primarily due to differences in levels of academic rigor. Other differences leading to varying requirements are related to grading systems, departmental standards or goals, and variations in curriculum.

Academic difficulty or rigor is the most common reason for varying requirements by major or sub-school. One example is Duke University academic honors. At Duke, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences has higher GPA standards than the Pratt School of Engineering. This is because students in majors within arts and sciences get higher grades possibly due to courses being slightly easier than courses in engineering majors.

There are even more tiers in the spectrum for the University of Connecticut Latin honors. For example, to receive honors as a Social Work major, the student must achieve a GPA of 3.907 to a perfect 4.0 GPA. Lesser GPAs earn honors in Engineering at 3.773 to 3.959, Business at 3.817 to 3.961, and 3.772 to 3.957 for students in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources.

Not all schools vary requirements in this way. Many have standardized Latin honors requirements across all majors, colleges and sub-schools.

Can Transfer Students Get Latin Honors?

Yes, transfer students are eligible for Latin honors at most colleges and universities.

The major factor is whether the transferring student earns a sufficient number of credits at the school where they ultimately graduate. Each school sets its own standards in this regard, though most require approximately 50% of the credits be earned at the school. Miami of Ohio degree honors are only eligible to students who earn over half, or 62 credit hours, at the school. At Michigan State University and UC Berkeley, the number is 50, or less than half.  Others are 54 at UConn, 60 at UT Austin, Kansas State and Cal State, and 90 total at the University of Oregon and the University of Washington with the additional stipulation that at least 60 of the credits must be numerically graded credits rather than pass/fail credits.

Whether the GPA of credits earned at the previous school count toward Latin honors varies. Schools like California State University do include the GPA of transferred credits when awarding recognitions. The University of Connecticut has a strict residency requirement, and the school only counts classes taken at UConn when awarding honors.

Before you transfer schools, check with the admissions office of the school you are considering transferring to in order to learn its policy about using transfer credits in awarding honors.

Can Part-time Students Get Latin Honors?

Yes, part-time students can earn Latin honors at most colleges and universities. Each school sets its own requirements for part time students to be eligible for honors.

A common requirement is earning at least half of the credits at the school and, of course, maintaining a GPA high enough to meet honors standards.

Some schools have a sunset policy or time to degree limit meaning that a student must complete their degree within a set number of semesters or years. If the school has such a policy, it usually requires degree completion within 8-10 years. If the degree is completed within the time frame, then the student is eligible for Latinate honors.

Can a Student Get Latin Honors from an Online Program?

Yes, most online college programs award Latin honors to high-achieving students. These schools include those that are entirely online, meaning they have no local campuses, and those that have both physical campuses and online degree programs.

For example, Purdue University Global Latin honors are 3.7 for cum laude, 3.80 for magna cum laude, and 4.0 for summa cum laude.

Most schools with online and physical campuses have the same criteria for awards regardless of how the degree is earned.

What Are Distinction Alternatives to Latin Honors?

The terms with “distinction,” “with high distinction” and “with highest distinction” are used as alternatives to Latin honors. Among the many schools that use terms of distinction in place of Latin honors are UC Berkeley, Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina. 

In addition, some schools use the term “honors” in place of “distinction.” The phrases are “with honor,” “with high honors,” and “with highest honors.” The University of California system is among those schools and systems using “honors.” 

When using the terms “distinction” or “honors,” the schools award the honors for GPAs and percentile rankings roughly equivalent to those used for awarding Latin honors. 

What Are Other Types of College Academic Honors?

Most schools have departmental and university-wide academic honors in addition to Latin honors and distinctions. Here are the most common other types of college academic honors.

  • Dean’s List: Academic deans are officials overseeing sub schools or colleges within the university. The Dean’s List at the University of Minnesota is similar to most. Its purpose is “to publicly recognize undergraduate students’ superior academic performance.” The GPA requirement for the Dean’s List varies by school but is typically 3.5 or higher, and students must have full time enrollment status.
  • University Honors: These honors are similar to the Dean’s List but cover the entire school. University Honors are given each semester to students meeting academic load and GPA requirements. There are many similar honors such as Distinguished Scholar awards, though they often include more extensive criteria such as being in the top few percentage points of one’s class.
  • Departmental Honors: This award is often more comprehensive than just semester grades. It often includes additional work such as a thesis or written test in order to earn the honor.
  • President’s Award or List: Honors given by the office of the school president differ by school and range from honors to scholarships to monetary awards.
  • Awards by Year in School: These vary widely from school to school. For example, the University of Michigan awards the Branstrom Prize to first-term freshman with a 3.5 GPA or higher. Alma College gives the Barlow Award and the University of Kansas gives Class of 2024 etc. awards to distinguished graduating seniors.

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