Magna Cum Laude Details

Magna cum laude is a distinction, used mainly in the American Education system, by which students who graduate with honors with an academic degree are recognized. There are typically three tiers in which this recognition is applied to degrees, which are “Summa cum laude”, “Magna cum laude,” and “cum laude.” In order, they mean “with the highest distinction,” “with great distinction,” and “with distinction.” If you think of a pyramid, with the tip being Summa, Magna being the middle level, and cum laude the base, it is an effective way of distinguishing the achievement of graduates within a particular school.

The bar for which each distinction is set varies from institution to institution in the United States. Some schools require a grade point average (GPA) of 4.0 in order to award summa cum laude, and 3.8 for magna cum laude, while others award the highest latin honors at 3.8 and magna cum laude at 3.6. The GPA can sometimes even vary by field, with different academic disciplines setting different standards for achieving such honors.

Other schools choose to award one of the three honors based on students landing in a certain percentile. For example, summa cum laude may be awarded to those students graduating in the top 5% of their class, magna cum laude for students who graduate in the top 10% and cum laude for students who graduate in the top 20%.

Real World Example of Magna Cum Laude

New York University uses a percentage rank in order to determine Latin honors. Graduates can earn magna cum laude if their GPA falls in the range of top 5-15% of graduates.

Students in the top 5% will earn summa cum laude, and students in the top 15-30% of their class will graduate cum laude. There are also comparisons to the prior year’s GPA thresholds that help determine eligibility, as well as credit requirements for each program of studies.

Significance of Magna Cum Laude

Many prestigious universities and colleges look at more than the academic record when determining if a student will receive Latin honors. Some schools distinguish between a student's academic record in a field or specialty and their overall academic performance.

Many require students who fit the criteria to be recommended by faculty and then compared with the pool of candidates to determine who will receive such honors. These decisions can be based on GPA, the rigor of courses, and mastery of their field. Despite meeting other criteria, most institutions will only reward Magna and Summa Cum Laude to a certain percentage of their graduating class each spring, despite other criteria, which typically falls somewhere around 15% of all graduates.

Graduating magna cum laude from a college or university can set you apart in a pool of applicants for a given job. This distinction lets potential employers know that you are academically knowledgeable, dedicated to your studies and field, and have the potential to be a significant asset to the hiring company. It can also speak to other desirable character traits in a potential employee, such as ambition and drive, perseverance, attention to detail, and time management skills.