It’s a word that you hear thrown around often, but if you don’t know what it means, it can be confusing. The word in question is “valedictorian.” In times where class rank matters to colleges, you’ll want to do everything that you can in high school to stand out from your peers.
One way to do so is to obtain the coveted valedictorian title. This article will explain what a valedictorian is, what you need to do to become one and the responsibilities that come with the title.
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What exactly is a valedictorian?
The word “valedictorian” comes from the Latin phrase “vale dicere.” This translates literally to “to say farewell,” which is important to note, as the valedictorian is the student who delivers the farewell address at commencement or graduation. In the vast majority of cases, a valedictorian is someone who has achieved the highest level of academic accolades possible. It also means that your achievements are greater than those of your classmates.
At some schools, multiple valedictorians are chosen. It’s important to note that what qualifies one student to be named valedictorian at their high school may not qualify a student from another school to be named valedictorian at their school.
A valedictorian is more often than not chosen based on their grade point average (GPA). Some schools use a weighted GPA system or 5-point system. This means that a 5.0 is equal to an A-average. Other schools use the standard 4-point grading system to determine GPA. Weighted GPAs are used to give credit to students who take honors or AP classes, as they’re deemed to be more difficult than standard classes.
When schools use the weighted GPA system, students who take AP or honors classes will most likely beat out students with straight-A’s that didn’t take any advanced courses. When schools use a standard GPA system, students are on a level playing field in terms of who can become valedictorian. In the event of a GPA tie, multiple students can be deemed valedictorian.
The practice of naming multiple students valedictorian has proven effective in reducing academic competition and pressure, but it has its critics. Some believe that this practice devalues the title and hard work that it takes to become a valedictorian. Regardless, everyone agrees on the significance of the title. Colleges highly value the title, too.
It’s important to remember, though, that every school and every class is different, so there’s no way to predict how well you’ll need to do in your classes to be considered for valedictorian. The best advice to give is to always do your best in your courses.
Is valedictorian the only Latin title you can earn?
Although “valedictorian” is one of the most prized Latin titles you can earn, it isn’t the only one that colleges look for when reviewing your application. Some schools will award the second-in-class student the title of “salutatorian.” A salutatorian typically also delivers a speech at commencement or graduation.
In addition, some high schools give out Latin honors based on GPA in a similar fashion to how colleges note academic achievement. These academic marker honors are known as cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude.
As GPA structures vary by school, these markers can mean very different things at each school. Be sure to check with your advisor to learn more about how your school honors academic achievement.
What are the benefits of being a valedictorian?
As previously mentioned, colleges highly value a candidate who was named valedictorian of their high school class. In a word, it communicates your academic excellence, prestige and commitment to excelling.
There are few schools that would turn away a valedictorian, as colleges want the best and the brightest to attend their campus. While it’s true that you might not know if you’re valedictorian at the time of applying for your desired colleges, having the coveted title will qualify you for prestigious societies and scholarships at your university.
In an age where the cost of attending higher education is obscenely expensive, getting your hands on hefty scholarships because of your academic achievements will be greatly beneficial to your pocket.
Another benefit to being named valedictorian is that you’ll more than likely be asked to deliver a speech at graduation or commencement. While this may not be great news for you if you absolutely hate public speaking, it’s a huge opportunity and privilege.
You’ll be able to command the respect of your peers and their families while reflecting on the last four years of your life at your high school. The vast majority of speeches also address hope for the future, which can help calm many anxious students.
So, you’ll get to be remembered as a student who performed well at school and you may also be able to help those who may be anxious about the upcoming transition from high school student to graduated adult.
How can you become valedictorian?
It’s been discussed throughout this article, but there’s no sure-fire way to ensure that you’ll be the top of your class. There are just too many factors at play that will determine if your academic achievements are more prestigious than those of your peers. With that being said, you need to know that grades aren’t everything, and they aren’t worth ruining your mental health.
As long as you’re a good student, you’ll be able to get into the colleges you really want to. Additionally, high school is competitive enough; you don’t need to focus on unhealthy competition to beat out your peers for the coveted title of valedictorian.
A good way to set yourself up for success is to discuss with your advisor or counselor how your high school operates, as a weighted vs. non-weighted GPA system will determine the classes you’ll have to take if your goal is to become valedictorian.
The vast majority of high school valedictorians takes the toughest classes and push themselves to be the best they can be and earn the highest possible grades.