What is Magna Cum Laude?
Magna cum laude is one of the 3 popular Latin honors given to college students as a result of their academic achievements.
The 3 honors are:
- Cum laude
- Magna cum laude
- Summa cum laude
These honors can be loosely translated to English with cum laude meaning “with honor.” Magna cum laude means “with high honor” while summa cum laude means “with highest honor.”
In some cases, maxima cum laude may be used.
This honor is awarded to students who have grade point averages between magna cum laude and summa cum laude.
It’s usually common in schools that have only reserved the summa cum laude honor for students with perfect grades.
Magna cum laude, and other Latin honors are mostly used in the United States, countries in Europe, and Southeastern Asian countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.
It needs to be said that many countries in the world use different academic classifications apart from the Latin honor system.
Many countries use the British Undergraduate degree classification with their various modifications. Some of these countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Africa, etc.
HOW TO ATTAIN MAGNA CUM LAUDE
You may be wondering how you can qualify to graduate with magna cum laude. The simple answer is that: it depends on your school.
In fact, some schools don’t even use the Latin honor system.
For instance, if you’re a Stanford student, then you should forget about the Latin honor system.
Likewise, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology doesn’t provide Latin honors to its students.
Even though they use similar scores to grade their students, they don’t use the exact terminology. And in schools where they use Latin honor system, it depends on your school.
Different schools have different grade-point averages (GPA) they use to make students qualified for an honor. In some schools, you may have to submit an honor thesis to make you qualified for a Latin honor.
REQUIREMENTS FOR DIFFERENT AMERICAN COLLEGES
With the difference in how various schools set their qualification requirements for magna cum laude and other Latin honors, it’s possible to bag two different honors compared to a student in another school.
Even if you have a similar academic performance to that student.
For instance, a GPA of 3.8 will qualify you for magna cum laude in some American colleges. Whereas the same GPA is enough for the summa cum laude in another school.
This inconsistent system of acquiring Latin honor in different schools is one of its major disadvantages.
The most popular requirements for Latin honors are having a GPA of 3.50 to 3.69 for cum laude, 3.70 to 3.89 for magna cum laude, and 3.90 to 4.00 for summa cum laude. Different schools have variations of these to award Latin honors to their students.
Some schools, however, don’t use GPA strictly and rather consider a percentage of the top students for the honors.
For instance, a school could have their top 5% of students as summa cum laude, the next 8% as magna cum laude, and the next 12% as cum laude.
And in some cases, individual schools within the same university could have different requirements for the Latin honor system.
It’s best to check the requirement for the university you’ve enrolled to be sure of what you need to do.
The first university to use the honor system is Harvard University in 1869. Initially, between 1872 and 1879, the cum laude and summa cum laude were the two Latin honors awarded to graduating students.
However, in 1880, magna cum laude was included among the honors.
Harvard offers two types of honors which are the departmental honors, also called the English honors, and the College honors, also called the Latin honors.
Latin honors are awarded based on the entire student records. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences make recommendations for Latin honors to the Governing board of the University.
First of all, a student has to be awarded departmental honors before they can be recommended for the Latin honors. Harvard University presents the following awards to students:
- Regular degree
- Cum laude in a field
- Magna cum laude in a field
- Magna cum laude with Highest Honors in a field
- Summa cum laude in a field
For the Latin honors to be awarded, there’s no fixed GPA. From the students recommended for Latin honors, the Faculty will consider their records to determine those who should be awarded summa cum laude in their field.
The summa cum laude is awarded to the top 5 percent of the graduating class. After this, students who have the highest honors in their concentration but failed to make summa cum laude will be awarded the magna cum laude with Highest Honors in a field.
The remaining students who have met the minimum GPA allocated for magna cum laude for that year will be awarded the honor.
The combination of the students awarded summa cum laude and magna cum laude will not be more than 20% of all the degree candidates that May.
Students who achieve the minimum GPA for the cum laude are awarded the cum laude Latin honor.
The combination of the students who are awarded summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude cannot exceed 50% of the total degree candidates. The GPAs set for the 3 honors are used until the next May when another set of GPAs will be set.
For 2018, the cutoff for magna cum laude in field was 3.844 out of a possible 4. The cutoff for summa cum laude was 3.947 while the cutoff for cum laude was 3.620.
For Yale University too, there’s no specific GPA for Latin honors and GPAs are determined on a yearly basis.
Yale University awards Latin honors to no more than 30 percent of the graduating class. This is lower than Harvard University at 50 percent.
Yale University awards the summa cum laude honor to no more than 5 percent of the graduating students.
Magna cum laude honor is awarded to no more than the next 10 percent of the class while cum laude is awarded to no more than the next 15 percent of the class.
For the year 2018, the GPA set for the summa cum laude honor was 3.95. For the magna cum laude honor, a student has to achieve a GPA of 3.90 while cum laude required a GPA of 3.82.
When compared to other schools, ivy league schools like Harvard and Yale University tend to have higher GPA requirements to attain the magna cum laude honor.
New York University
This college doesn’t use fixed GPAs for its Latin honor system.
The school offers the summa cum laude to the top 5% of its students, magna cum laude to the next 10% of its students, and cum laude to the next 15%.
Therefore, not more than 30% of the graduating students from New York University will have a Latin honor.
However, it should be noted that the GPA required for Latin honors in NYU will depend on each school in the university.
For instance, between September 2018 and May 2019, the GPA required for magna cum laude in the NYU School of Nursing is 3.872.
For the summa cum laude honor, a student will need a GPA of 3.97 while cum laude honor requires 3.77 GPA.
In the school of Liberal studies, a GPA of 3.868 is enough for the magna cum laude. However, a graduating student will need a GPA of 3.97 for summa cum laude while 3.813 is enough for a cum laude honor.
University of California Berkeley
The University of California Berkeley doesn’t have an official Latin honor system. But it awards distinctions to students which is similar to the Latin honor system.
It awards distinction, high distinction, and highest distinction, which can be compared to cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude respectively. The GPAs for these awards will depend on each particular school in the university.
The university awards these distinctions to no more than 20 percent of the graduating class. The top 3 percent of the graduating class in a school in terms of grade point averages are awarded the highest distinctions. The next 7% are awarded high distinctions while the next 10% are awarded distinctions.
For instance, in the college of letters and science, the GPA for general distinction, high distinction, and highest distinction are 3.747, 3.860, and 3.953 respectively.
University of Pennsylvania
For UPenn, summa cum laude honor goes to students who get a grade point average of 3.8 or higher out of a possible 4.
The magna cum laude goes for students who get a GPA of 3.6 or higher while cum laude goes to students who get a GPA of 3.4 or higher.
There’s a fixed GPA for Latin honors in the American University. For a student to be awarded the magna cum laude honor, they’ll need a GPA of 3.81 to 3.90.
For other honors, a student will need a GPA of 3.67 to 3.80 for cum laude while they’ll need a GPA of 3.91 or higher for summa cum laude.
LATIN HONOR SYSTEM IN COUNTRIES
There are different Latin honor systems depending on the country.
This European country offers 4 honors to students graduating from its schools. These honors are:
- Cum laude
- Magna cum laude
- Summa cum laude
In Brazil, some schools use the Latin honor system to award their graduating students. For instance, the Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica (ITA – Aeronautical Institute of Technology) offers its Latin honor system.
Graduates are able to claim the magna cum laude honor when they have an average grade above 8.5 out of 10 and have 50% of their individual grades above 9.5. In comparison, a graduate is awarded cum laude when the student has all their individual grades higher than 8.5.
For the summa cum laude honor, a student will have to graduate with an average grade of 9.5. This is so difficult to achieve that only 22 graduates of this school have achieved the summa cum laude honor as of 2009.
Another school that uses the Latin honor system in Brazil is the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. This school awards the magna cum laude honor to students who have an average grade of 9.0 to 9.4 out of 10.
For other honors, a student with an average grade of 8.0 to 8.9 will have the cum laude honor while a student with an average grade of 9.5 to 10 will be awarded the summa cum laude honor.
Another university that uses the Latin honor system is the Federal University of Ceara which awards the magna cum laude honor to graduates who achieved an average grade of 8.5 out of 10 and never failed a course.
Added to that, the graduate would have received a fellowship of both Teaching Initiation and Academic Extension.
There are 4 ranges of honors available to graduates in Germany. These are:
- Rite which is “duly” conferred and means the student has fulfilled all the requirements.
- Cum laude
- Magna cum laude
- Summa cum laude
Although it has to be noted that these honors are only given when a student has attained a doctorate degree. For lower degrees like diplomas, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees, numerical grades between 1 (very good) and 5 (fail) are usually given.
In Malta, the Latin honor system is equivalent to the British grading system. For instance, magna cum laude refers to second class honors (upper division).
For other Latin honors, cum laude refers to second class honors (lower division) while summa cum laude refers to first class honors.
The last is the Bene Probatus which refers to third class honors. Degrees like bachelor of pharmacy which takes longer than the standard 3 years to complete also has the Egregia cum laude.
In the Philippines, the junior high school and senior high school students use an honor system for their new K-12 curriculums. These honors are translated to the Filipino language.
Students are awarded the magna cum laude honor (May Mataas na Karangalan in Filipino) and a silver medal with the seal when they achieve an average grade of 95 to 97 out of a possible 100.
In comparison, the cum laude honor (May Karangalan) is awarded when a student gets a final grade average of 90 to 94.
Students who achieve a final grade average of 98 to 100 are awarded the summa cum laude honor (May Pinakamataas na Karangalan).
In Singapore, the Singapore Management University uses the Latin honor system. For a graduate to be awarded the magna cum laude honor, they need to attain a grade point average of 3.6 out of a possible 4.
For the cum laude honor, a student will have to achieve a GPA of 3.4 while a student needs a GPA of 3.8 for the summa cum laude honor.
CRITICISM OF THE LATIN HONOR SYSTEM
Some people have leveled criticisms at the Latin honor system. There were criticisms of Harvard University as critics claimed the Latin honor system may do more harm than good to students’ academic performance.
They claimed students would take classes as a means to bump up their grades rather than to pursue true academic excellence. The school is yet to eliminate its honor system. Another argument against the criticisms is that: how do you reward excellent students?
There’s no perfect grading system. But some companies prefer to pick students at the top of their classes. In many cases, excellent students also want to work in these influential companies.
Research by Pauline Khoo and Ben Ost of the University of Illinois at Chicago found that Latin honors actually provides benefits for graduates 2 years after graduation.
The 2017 paper titled “The Effect of Latin Honors on Earnings” revealed that graduates have benefits for their first 2 years after graduation. It further reveals that there appears to be no benefit in the third year or beyond.
But when you look at it, the benefits in the first 2 years could make all the difference. Because this is when new graduates are looking for jobs.
“We find that obtaining honors provides an economic return in the labor market, but this benefit only persists for two years,” they wrote in the paper.
“By the third year after college, we see no effect of having received honors on wages, suggesting that firms may use the signal for new graduates, but they do not rely on the signal for determining the pay of more experienced workers.”
Their study also revealed that graduates of some schools get these benefits more than graduates of other schools.
Magna cum laude may be second to summa cum laude but it’s an incredible achievement — especially in some tough courses.
Receiving the magna cum laude honor is no mean feat. Students who receive this honor are among the top students in their classes.
However, the magna cum laude honor is also subjective to many factors.
Whether you attain this honor could depend on the university you attend, the particular school of the university, and your graduating year.
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