Magna Cum Laude Meaning Requirements and Value

Magna Cum Laude Meaning Requirements and Value

Magna Cum Laude: Meaning, Requirements, and Value

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What Is a Magna Cum Laude GPA?

Magna cum laude is an academic honor awarded to students who graduate with a grade point average (GPA) near the top of the class. The precise standards differ among colleges, but a magna cum laude GPA generally indicates average grades of about 3.7 to 3.9 out of a perfect 4.0.

Magna cum laude is a Latin phrase that means “with great praise."

U.S. colleges commonly use three levels of academic distinction. Cum laude, meaning "with distinction," is awarded to graduates with a GPA of about 3.5 to 3.7. Magna cum laude, or "with great praise," indicates a GPA of about 3.7 to 3.9. Summa cum laude, or "with highest distinction," indicates a GPA above 3.9.

Some colleges calculate their honors according to class placement. For example, a student in the top 3% of the class might qualify for a magna cum laude distinction.

Key Takeaways

  • Magna cum laude is an academic honorific awarded to students who have achieved academic excellence.
  • There is no set standard to qualify for this honor, with each school free to set its own criteria.
  • The practice of awarding honors degrees began at Harvard University in the mid-19th century and has spread to colleges and universities around the world.
  • Some colleges, including Stanford University, do not offer Latin honors and instead use the word “distinction” to honor students who achieve academic excellence.
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Understanding Magna Cum Laude

The awarding of Latin honors—the titles are referred to as Latin honors because they retain their original Latin forms—is common in colleges and universities in the United States, although not all bestow them. Many high schools also grant Latin honors.

Magna cum laude means “with great praise” and is awarded to students who have achieved academic excellence. It is more prestigious than cum laude honors but less prestigious than summa cum laude.

The criteria by which each of these distinctions is achieved is set by each institution.

Latin honors are most commonly awarded with bachelor’s degrees. Students who graduate with honors may wear stoles of a distinct color or some other designation during commencement ceremonies, and their honors may be cited when their names are read.

Latin honors are generally included in a student’s official transcript.

Magna Cum Laude Requirements

Magna cum laude is generally awarded to a student who has earned a high GPA or some other mark of academic achievement, but not the highest possible. The criteria vary and may include some combination of the student’s GPA, class rank, number of hours completed, and recommendations from an academic department.

Some colleges award their Latin honors to a percentage of the graduating class, meaning that the precise grade point averages achieved change every year.

What Is a Magna Cum Laude GPA? Examples

The academic thresholds for honors differ among academic institutions and even among programs at the same institution.

Texas A&M graduates must complete 60 credit hours while earning a GPA of 3.70 to 3.899 to earn a magna cum laude degree.

At some universities, the GPA requirements for Latin honors change every academic year because they are based on a percentage of the student’s class. A student graduating magna cum laude in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, must finish in the top 5% to 10% of the class after completing 90 credits. For the 2022–2023 academic year, students would need to achieve a grade point average of 3.898; for 2023-2024, the required GPA is 3.934.

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Harvard’s Rules

At Harvard University, where Latin honors originated in the mid-19th century, undergraduates completing degrees with an overall GPA in the top 20% of all graduates will receive either summa cum laude or magna cum laude distinction, with the summa honorific reserved for students with the highest GPAs.

Another Ivy League school, Brown University, does not use a student’s GPA in its calculation. Students are eligible for just one Latin honor, magna cum laude, upon graduation. A student achieves this honor by earning a high percentage of A grades and S for distinction marks for courses. No more than 20% of a graduating class can earn magna cum laude honors.

Other Factors

Colleges may consider other factors in their decisions to grant magna cum laude status.

An institution might require that students complete an honors thesis to be eligible. Others seek letters of recommendation from faculty members attesting to students’ exceptional academic performance.

Others stipulate that students must complete a certain number of advanced courses.

Schools With No Magna Cum Laude

Some colleges, including Stanford University, do not offer Latin honors. Stanford bestows a single “with distinction” title on the 15% of students with the highest GPA in each graduating class.

Some schools have substituted other titles, such as “with distinction,” in place of or in addition to the traditional Latin terms.

The Value of a Magna Cum Laude Degree

The relative value of a magna cum laude degree or another Latin honor is difficult to judge as a factor in the job market. It may mean a great deal to some employers and nothing to others. Nonetheless, as new college graduates compete for their first jobs, having a Latin honor on a resume can’t hurt.

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It is of benefit to students competing for slots in graduate school. The top law schools, for example, expect students to have achieved certain GPAs as undergraduates—the type of high marks that are often accompanied by Latin honors.

What Grades Do You Need for Magna Cum Laude?

The academic thresholds for magna cum laude status differ among academic institutions but it generally means near-perfect.

At the University of Pennsylvania, a magna cum laude distinction means a GPA of 3.6. At Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, the bar is set at 3.7.

Requirements are also subject to change and may differ among academic programs at the same institution.

Grade point average (GPA) isn’t always the only factor taken into consideration. Some colleges consider the number of hours completed and recommendations from an academic department. Some award Latin honors to the top percentage in a class.

Is Magna Cum Laude the Highest?

No. In schools where Latin honors are used, the highest distinction is usually summa cum laude, followed by magna cum laude, and then cum laude.

Which Is Higher: Summa Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude?

Summa cum laude is the highest honor available and is more prestigious than magna cum laude. For example, at New York University, summa cum laude is awarded to the top 5% of graduates, while the next 10% are awarded magna cum laude status.

The Bottom Line

Getting a degree is always a great achievement, but a new graduate needs to stand out in a crowded field of job seekers or graduate school applicants.

Latin honors such as a magna cum laude distinction indicate hard work and determination. It could be the factor that gets you in the door for an interview.

Latin honors such as a magna cum laude distinction indicate hard work and determination. It could be the factor that gets you in the door for an interview.

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