Cum laude is a Latin term that means with honor. It is used to refer to college students who have met high academic standards and at the time of graduation and are receiving their bachelor’s degree. There are three honors that are bestowed on graduates, including cum laude, which means with honors, magna cum laude, which means with great honor, and summa cum laude, which means with greatest honor. The graduate’s diploma typically has the honors category printed on his or her degree.
This system is used mostly in the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. A different recognition system is used in British countries and in areas in areas of Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. The Latin honors system is used in Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Hungary, Brazil, Italy, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. In countries that use it, grade point averages need to be close to perfect to be awarded summa cum laude. The requirement at some colleges and universities is a 3.9 or 4.0 average over four years of college. Very few students are able to achieve these high grades, or the magna cum laude which requires a 3.8 out of 4.0 overall average for all four years of undergraduate work. Cum laude is presented to students with averages of 3.65.
Graduating from college with this distinction means that certain high grade point averages have been maintained for the four years of the undergraduate program. This is not the same as honors courses that are typically more advanced and more difficult than other courses. Latin honors are given in response to regular college level classes. These categories are almost always given to undergraduates, and are very rarely presented to those receiving graduate degrees.
National records are not kept recording how many college graduates receive these distinctions, so there is no database that can determine how many graduates actually receive them. At Harvard, which is known for having difficult courses, only the top two percent of graduates receive summa, a few less than two percent receive magna, and around four percent receive cum laude.
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Harvard University was the first college to use Latin honors in 1869. For instance a magna category degree required only an 80 percent average or for the graduate to receive an honors in any department at the college. They were required to write a dissertation related to the honors from English, math, or whichever department bestowed the award on the student. Today’s standards are much higher because in order to receive Magna status, a student could only receive a few B’s as semester grades over their entire four years of college, and the rest of the grades would need to be A’s.
There is a lot of discussion over whether or not receiving these matters when it comes to gaining admittance to a graduate program. Many professional educators believe that it is not that important in most programs. If a student graduates with distinction from an honors track of advanced classes, this would mean much more. Graduates list their awards on their resumes, however, and these sometimes lead to being hired for their first job over another student who may have graduated with a 2.0 average. They are a tradition in every American college and university, and students work hard to achieve them. If a student has had a perfect 4.0 average and drops down to 3.8, their work is still superior, but the student will work very hard to regain the top bracket. There is a sense of competition to receive these distinctions along with an undergraduate degree.