The Difference Between Magna Cum Laude GPA vs. Summa Cum Laude GPA

By Indeed Editorial Team

November 2, 2021

In educational programs including primary, secondary and postsecondary school, there are several academic achievements you may be rewarded by earning good grades. Two common academic achievements include magna cum laude and summa cum laude. In this article, we explain what each of these honors entails including the GPA you must earn for each.

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What is magna cum laude?

Magna cum laude, which means “with great honor” in Latin, is an academic achievement designated to students in the top 10-15 percent of their class or who earn a GPA between 3.7 and 3.8.

Cum laude GPA awards include:

  • Cum laude: 3.5–3.6 GPA

  • Magna cum laude: 3.7–3.8 GPA

  • Summa cum laude: 3.9–4.0 GPA

The requirements to earn a magna cum laude designation vary by school. For certain colleges and universities, this may be their highest honor. Many higher-education institutions are made up of different schools and departments, administrators may calculate your GPA compared only to your immediate cohort. For example, if you are an engineer, your school may compare your grade-point average (GPA) only to other engineering students. If you’re unsure, check with your advisor to learn about these specific requirements.

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What is summa cum laude?

Summa cum laude, which means "with highest honor" in Latin, is the highest academic award designated for students in the top one to five percent of a class or those with a GPA between 3.9 and 4.0. Like the magna cum laude honor, the requirements for summa cum laude may vary by institution and department.

It's likely that you need a 4.0 GPA or higher if your school has courses where you can earn above a 4.0. Usually, the only way to earn above a 4.0 is to enroll in honors programs at your school, such as AP (advanced placement) or IB (international baccalaureate).

Related: Find Your GPA With Our Calculator

Summa cum laude GPA vs. magna cum laude GPA

Summa cum laude is the highest Latin honor awarded to students with the highest GPA (3.9–4.0 or top one to five percent) while magna cum laude is the second-highest honor awarded to students with a GPA between 3.7 and 3.8, or top 10 to 15 percent. Since there is no national standard for these awards, the GPA your school requires may vary.

There are three different Latin honors you can achieve. From the lowest to highest honor, they are cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude. Each of these honors signifies that you are a high-achieving student. Latin honors tend to be a collegiate designation, although some high schools may also award these honors to their students.

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What is an honors convocation?

An honors convocation is an annual celebration where institutions recognize their students for their academic achievements. This is a longstanding tradition for many colleges and universities and is a joyful celebration for high-achieving students and their families. Most schools reserve this event for students who are graduating rather than those who have yet to finish their degrees.

During the ceremony, most schools ask the students to wear their cap and gown. This event usually takes place around the same time as graduation, so you may have a series of similar events to attend at the same time of year. Faculty members and the highest-achieving students may give a few speeches throughout the ceremony.

Similar to graduation, a faculty member may announce your name as you walk on stage. During this moment, you may accept your award as a photographer takes your picture. After all the scholars receive their honors, a faculty member says a final word. After the ceremony, schools usually hold a reception where family, faculty and scholars can gather to converse and celebrate.

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Additional academic honors your college may award

Along with Latin honors, colleges and universities may give students these other types of awards:

  • Dean's list: This is an academic distinction that recognizes the highest-achieving students at an institution. This award is usually only for full-time students who earn a high GPA. It may be based on your cumulative GPA throughout the course of your college career. Schools often publish the names of students who are on the Dean's list in their newsletters or local newspapers.

  • Chancellor's scholars: Unlike many other awards, this honor is for incoming students. It's a scholarship for students who earned good grades during high school. It may include funding for living expenses, tuition and course materials.

  • Honor students: Those who work on special projects or enroll in honors courses may receive this designation. Honors courses are higher-level courses that cover more material than regular courses.

  • Academic distinction: Schools base this award on how many courses you complete for credit and letter grade. Students who earn a 3.5 to 3.9 GPA in their courses may earn the academic distinction while students who earn a 4.0 GPA may earn the highest academic distinction.

  • Valedictorian and salutatorian: These are two of the highest possible honors you can earn upon graduation. You can become valedictorian if you are a student with the highest academic achievements. If you are the second highest-achieving student, you can earn the title of salutatorian. Students with these honors often speak at graduation and offer their peers words of wisdom.

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