How do I Graduate Cum Laude?

Darlene Goodman

Cum laude is typically an academic honor given to students who excel in college. There are usually several steps a student must take to earn the honor. Depending on the requirements of the university, these steps may include earning a high grade point average (GPA), taking specially designated honors courses, writing an honors thesis, or crafting an honors project.

Most Latin honors are given when a student reaches a specified GPA.
Most Latin honors are given when a student reaches a specified GPA.

Most undergraduate universities and some graduate and doctorate programs grant honors to students who earn academic distinction. In the United States and some other countries, these awards are often designated by Latin phrases that signify the level of academic success. Cum laude, meaning with praise, is generally the base Latin honor offered. Other honors include magna cum laude, meaning with great praise, and summa cum laude, meaning with highest praise.

Students may need one-on-one tutoring in subjects they struggle with.
Students may need one-on-one tutoring in subjects they struggle with.

Nearly all universities that offer such Latin honors base a student’s success on his or her academic performance. This is typically reflected in the student’s GPA. A GPA is the cumulative average of all course grades, so, for most students, every class counts. In order to boost a GPA to a level high enough to earn Latin honors, students must usually put effort into all their classes.

Most Latin honors are given when a student reaches a specified GPA. The average cum laude GPA at most universities falls between 3.5 and 3.75. This number can differ from institution to institution. Magna cum laude and summa cum laude typically have higher GPA requirements.

For a student to earn a high GPA, he or she should usually cultivate a positive personal academic routine. Examples of such good study habits include attending class regularly, taking detailed lecture notes, keeping up with homework assignments, and studying for exams. Successful students may also ask specific questions of their professors to ensure that they understand the material.

While many universities base Latin honors solely on GPA, others require specially designated honors courses or projects. Honors courses are typically more academically demanding than standard ones. Depending on the school, these classes may be offered as part of an honors college or honors program, or may involve extra assignments, reading, or research added to a standard class.

Most honors theses or projects are known as independent studies. Students working independently usually work under the periodic supervision of faculty advisors. These in-depth and comprehensive projects typically address topics within the student’s major, and are most often completed in the student’s junior or senior year. Examples of such studies can include an extensive research paper, a documentary film, or a photography exhibition.

Cum laude means "with praise" in Latin.
Cum laude means "with praise" in Latin.

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Discussion Comments


@ Istria- I go to ASU, and to graduate with recognition the University only looks at the resident credits. You do need to have at least 50 or 56 resident credits to qualify for honors recognition depending on the campus, but that is the only requirement. At my University Cum Laude is 3.40 to 3.59 cumulative GPA. To graduate Magna Cum Laude you need a 3.60-3.79 cumulative GPA. Finally, to graduate Summa Cum Laude, a student must maintain a 3.80 to 4.00 cumulative GPA.

Right now I hold a 3.67 resident credit GPA in a B.S Sustainability, and I only have a year and a half left. I am really pushing to graduate with honors so I can pursue my goals of going to graduate school.


I have always wondered about the requirements to graduate with Latin honors. I transferred into my current school with a 3.83 GPA and I am beginning to fill most of my semesters with 300 and 400 level courses. When choosing my schedule, I have been interested in taking an honors thesis course, but I never knew what the requirements were to do so. After reading this, I have a better idea of what it takes. I should speak to my academic advisor before the next semester starts. Thanks wiseGEEK.

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