What Percent of College Students Graduate with Honours?

Each year, college graduates receive prominent academic honours. Graduating with honours depends on a student’s overall academic performance: in terms of cumulative GPA.

Whether you are a college student or intend to apply for college, you probably are goal-driven. Graduating with honours is dreams come true for many college graduates, signifying that you are ambitious, keen on learning, and determined to succeed in life.

Receiving honours is often a result of hard work, persistence, motivation, and attitude towards academic activities. There are three types of honours available to graduating college students, and they are:

  • Cum laude
  • Magna cum laude
  • Summa cum laude

The names of these three honours are of Latin origin, and each has its meaning. Let’s talk about each of them independently.

Cum Laude Honors                     

Cum laude means “with honour,” It serves as a way of distinguishing college graduates with exceptional academic success.

Most colleges in the United States award students these honours based on each college’s unique requirements. The main factor for awarding honours is usually grade point average (GPA). However, the demand for graduating with honours could include; early graduation or completion of “Honors Thesis.”

This is the most common academic award that colleges give to graduating students. The requirements vary with school; Cum Laude is usually awarded to student’s class in the top 25-35% with an average GPA of between 3.5 and 3.7.

Magna Cum Laude Honors

Magna cum laude means “with high honour,” and colleges award this to students that fall within 10 and 15% of their class having an average GPA between 3.8 and 3.9. Magna Cum Laude is higher than Cum Laude in terms of distinction, and in some schools, it is the highest attainable honour.

Summa Cum Laude Honors

Following that trend of the definition of these terms, this translates to “with the highest honour.” College graduates eligible for this honorary award are those in the top 1-5% of their class.

Colleges usually reserve this award for students with exceptional academic performance: students with a GPA of 4.0 or higher. However, this is not uniform for all the colleges in the United States, as different majors may have different GPA requirements. 

Benefits of Graduating With Honors

It is not mandatory to graduate with honours before one can be successful in college or life; however, college honours can be of great importance when trying to secure a job or pursue higher academic qualifications.

How Can You Graduate With Honors?

A college student can graduate with honours by meeting the college’s academic requirements in terms of GPA. For example, at Texas A&M University, students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher earn the Cum Laude honours, those with 3.7 or higher receive the Magna Cum Laude honours, and those with 3.9 or higher receive the prestigious Summa Cum Laude honours.

Like UCLA, some colleges have a continually changing standard based on the average GPA of the entire student body. If a student has a better GPA when compared with other students, he/she qualifies for specific Latin awards.

This means that graduating with honours depends on the benchmark set by that specific college, in which a student is supposed to work towards clinch academic glory.

Requirements for Honors in Some American Colleges

The most common conditions for Latin honours are based on accumulated GPA, as we clearly stated above. However, some colleges do not give these awards based on GPA; instead, they consider a percent of the top students for the honours. 

The best thing to do is to check the school’s requirement for honours before enrolling in.

Below are some schools and their specific needs for celebrations. 

Harvard University

Harvard offers two types of honours; the departmental honours and the College honours (Latin honours). 

At Harvard University, a student must have received departmental honours before he/she can be eligible for the Latin honours. Harvard University does not have a fixed GPA for awarding Latin Honors. Based on students’ records, the school determines those available for Summa Cum Laude honours in their respective fields. 

Only 5% of the graduating class is entitled to the Summa Cum Laude honours. Students with the highest departmental honours who fail to make the summa cum laude honours will be awarded the magna cum laude. The sum of all students in the Summa cum laude and magna cum laude category cannot exceed 20% of all degree candidates. 

The sum of graduating students, who get these three awards, cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude, cannot exceed 50% of all the degree candidates. 

Yale University

Yale University does not use a specific GPA range to offer graduating students Latin honours. Only 30% of graduating students can get Latin awards. This value is lower than that of Harvard University, pegged at 50%. For Yale University only; 

  • 5% of graduating students get the summa cum laude award. 
  • 10% of graduating students get the manga cum laude 
  • 15% of graduating students get the cum laude award

In 2018, Yale University pegged the GPA for summa cum lauded, magna cum laude, and cum laude at 3.95, 3.90, and 3.82, respectively. 

University of California Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA honours students with distinction, high distinction, and highest distinction, similar to the Latin awards. The specific range of GPA for these awards depends on the particular school within the institution.  

This University offers these awards to only 20% of the total graduating class. Based on grade point average, 

  • The top 3 percent of graduating class get the highest distinction. 
  • The next 7% of graduating students get a high difference, and 
  • The remaining 10% of graduating students get an award. 


The percentage of students that end up receiving college honours is relatively small compared to the total number of degree students. However, the rate varies from school to school. Some colleges offer a more significant percentage of their student’s honours, while others set a high benchmark for exceptional academic performance.

Whatever the case may be, adequate preparation and the requisite information can help you know what to do in preparation for graduating with honours. 

Amit Kumar blog is managed by Amit Kumar. He and his team come from the Oxford, Stanford and Harvard. At FreeEducator, we strive to create the best admission platform so that international students can go to the best universities - regardless of financial circumstances. By applying with us, international students get unlimited support and unbiased advice to secure the best college offers overseas.

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