What Is Magna Cum Laude?

Tiffany Park
Tiffany Park

Magna cum laude is a Latin phrase meaning “with great praise” or “with great honor” and is a title awarded to students when they graduate to recognize sustained academic achievement. It is the second of three different Latin honors awarded to graduates.

To graduate magna cum laude is to graduate with "with great honor."
To graduate magna cum laude is to graduate with "with great honor."

While there is no universal standard for assessing who should receive honors and who should not, the average magna cum laude GPA requirement ranges from 3.75 to 3.99. However, different schools have different methods of determining the qualifications for magna cum laude status.

Graduating magna cum laude usually requires a high level of commitment to academics and near perfect grades.
Graduating magna cum laude usually requires a high level of commitment to academics and near perfect grades.

What is the Highest “Laude” or Level of Honor?

Latin honors are typically only used for undergraduate university degrees, although they sometimes appear in high schools and at the graduate level. The distinction is most common in the United States, but occasionally appears in other countries, as well, such as parts of Europe, Israel, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic.

There are typically three levels of Latin honors:

  • The first and most basic is cum laude, which means “with praise” or “with honor,” and the average GPA to qualify is 3.5 to 3.74
  • The “magna” distinction comes next, with an average GPA of 3.75 to 3.99
  • And finally, the prestigious summa cum laude — “with highest praise” or “honor,” which is often reserved for 4.0 students

How are Honors Students Recognized?

Many institutions hold an annual, formal event called an honors convocation to celebrate graduating students with high academic achievements. Graduating honors students usually don cap and gown to walk across a stage, accept an award, and have a photo taken. Students and faculty speak at the event, and families may gather for a reception afterward.

The magna cum laude honor is also typically announced at graduation alongside other honors and awards. Students wear a special rope or cord on their graduation gown to signal their achievement to others.

How are Latin Honors Calculated?

Latin honors are typically awarded based on cumulative grade point average, though different schools are free to set their own standards. Some schools may not use GPA at all to determine eligibility. They may choose, instead, to award honors based on students’ rank within the graduating class. New York University, for example, honors the top 5% of the class with summa cum laude, the next 10% with magna cum laude, and the next 15% with cum laude.

Some departments will offer separate honors within a degree program. A chemistry student who had excellent grades in required science classes might be awarded a chemistry degree “magna cum laude” by her department even if her grades on the whole were not high enough to qualify her for that honor at the larger university level. Much of this depends on individual university policy.

There may be additional requirements for students to earn a magna cum laude distinction, such as the following:

  • Take an honors course
  • Write an honors thesis
  • Be nominated by professors or fellow students
  • Demonstrate well-roundedness with extracurricular activities

Strong grades are almost always a prerequisite—they just may not be the final means of calculation.

When and How to Put Magna Cum Laude on a Resume

Achieving magna cum laude status (or any Latin honors) is a huge accomplishment to strive for and feel proud of. It can push you to perform your best, and can bring great personal satisfaction from all your scholarly efforts. But does it have application in the “real world” after graduation?

The answer is, it depends. A 2017 study from the University of Illinois found that achieving Latin honors did prove to give students an advantage in the job market, but typically only for about two years after graduating. The distinction seems to stand out more if it is from a prestigious school. Latin honors also can be more or less relevant depending on the career field the student hopes to enter.

Here are just a few examples of industries that may be more concerned with whether or not a job candidate achieved academic honors:

If you plan to pursue a field that is highly dependent on superior academic skills, being able to notate an honors status on your resume might be worth the effort.

To include magna cum laude (or other honors) on your resume, you can list it in the education section on the same line as your degree, or you can write it as a bullet point in an “honors and awards” section.

Academic honors help to distinguish especially high performing students from the rest of their graduating class and to recognize them for their work. They provide one way to demonstrate a scholar’s intelligence, discipline, and growth in learning. Graduating magna cum laude is also a lifetime distinction that can attract attention on resumes and graduate school applications, opening you up to a variety of opportunities in your future career.

A student who graduates magna cum laude is generally considered to be among the school's highest performers.
A student who graduates magna cum laude is generally considered to be among the school's highest performers.
Tiffany Park
Tiffany Park
Tiffany Park is a communications, health, and parenting writer with a passion for improving family connection for herself and others. Having studied communications and early childhood education, she enjoys learning new things, seeing different perspectives, and seeking fun adventures with her husband and toddling daughter.

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Discussion Comments

anon319988

No, Snoopy was making a point that went over your head. He/she was saying that her school used the semester before she graduated to provide her/his GPA for distinction, that while he/she ended with summa status, the announcement at commencement was based off of the fall semester's gpa. This is sometimes the case when graduation ceremonies and printed material must be set before a registrar's office can recalculate grades. Snoopy's diploma will say summa on it, but she will be assigned magna based on her gpa before she buckled down.

anon317676

The University of Central Florida takes a stronger approach by calculating off the last three semesters, tus preventing someone from achieving this honor through a single final semester of cracking down. It requires sustained superior performance.

anon180566

@Snoopy: If latin honors were awarded based on the last semester the whole purpose of distinction would be lost. Everybody would study hard their final semester.

Seems you are lucky to have magna honors if that is your logic.

Snoopy123

I was completely unaware the GPA used to determine your cum laude recognition is not the current, or very last, semester of college. I was under the impression it was your last semester and worked harder my last semester to raise my GPA. I wanted a summa cum laude recognition, especially because I was the first female in my family to graduate from a University. When I received a magna cum laude rope in the mail I called the registrar’s office to verify. That’s how I learned they actually use the previous semester’s scores to determine your credits and Latin honor status. Although I was proud to wear the magna cum laude rope at graduation, I was a little disappointed because I achieved a 3.9 GPA. That would have qualified me to graduate summa cum laude in my class.

habura

summa (highest) cum (with) laude (honor/praise).

magna (great) cum (with) laude (honor/praise).

cum (with) laude (honor/praise).

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