Magna cum laude is a Latin phrase meaning “with great praise” or “with great honor” and is a title awarded to students when they graduate to recognize sustained academic achievement. It is the second of three different Latin honors awarded to graduates.
While there is no universal standard for assessing who should receive honors and who should not, the average magna cum laude GPA requirement ranges from 3.75 to 3.99. However, different schools have different methods of determining the qualifications for magna cum laude status.
What is the Highest “Laude” or Level of Honor?
Latin honors are typically only used for undergraduate university degrees, although they sometimes appear in high schools and at the graduate level. The distinction is most common in the United States, but occasionally appears in other countries, as well, such as parts of Europe, Israel, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic.
There are typically three levels of Latin honors:
- The first and most basic is cum laude, which means “with praise” or “with honor,” and the average GPA to qualify is 3.5 to 3.74
- The “magna” distinction comes next, with an average GPA of 3.75 to 3.99
- And finally, the prestigious summa cum laude — “with highest praise” or “honor,” which is often reserved for 4.0 students
How are Honors Students Recognized?
Many institutions hold an annual, formal event called an honors convocation to celebrate graduating students with high academic achievements. Graduating honors students usually don cap and gown to walk across a stage, accept an award, and have a photo taken. Students and faculty speak at the event, and families may gather for a reception afterward.
The magna cum laude honor is also typically announced at graduation alongside other honors and awards. Students wear a special rope or cord on their graduation gown to signal their achievement to others.
How are Latin Honors Calculated?
Latin honors are typically awarded based on cumulative grade point average, though different schools are free to set their own standards. Some schools may not use GPA at all to determine eligibility. They may choose, instead, to award honors based on students’ rank within the graduating class. New York University, for example, honors the top 5% of the class with summa cum laude, the next 10% with magna cum laude, and the next 15% with cum laude.
Some departments will offer separate honors within a degree program. A chemistry student who had excellent grades in required science classes might be awarded a chemistry degree “magna cum laude” by her department even if her grades on the whole were not high enough to qualify her for that honor at the larger university level. Much of this depends on individual university policy.
There may be additional requirements for students to earn a magna cum laude distinction, such as the following:
- Take an honors course
- Write an honors thesis
- Be nominated by professors or fellow students
- Demonstrate well-roundedness with extracurricular activities
Strong grades are almost always a prerequisite—they just may not be the final means of calculation.
When and How to Put Magna Cum Laude on a Resume
Achieving magna cum laude status (or any Latin honors) is a huge accomplishment to strive for and feel proud of. It can push you to perform your best, and can bring great personal satisfaction from all your scholarly efforts. But does it have application in the “real world” after graduation?
The answer is, it depends. A 2017 study from the University of Illinois found that achieving Latin honors did prove to give students an advantage in the job market, but typically only for about two years after graduating. The distinction seems to stand out more if it is from a prestigious school. Latin honors also can be more or less relevant depending on the career field the student hopes to enter.
Here are just a few examples of industries that may be more concerned with whether or not a job candidate achieved academic honors:
If you plan to pursue a field that is highly dependent on superior academic skills, being able to notate an honors status on your resume might be worth the effort.
To include magna cum laude (or other honors) on your resume, you can list it in the education section on the same line as your degree, or you can write it as a bullet point in an “honors and awards” section.
Academic honors help to distinguish especially high performing students from the rest of their graduating class and to recognize them for their work. They provide one way to demonstrate a scholar’s intelligence, discipline, and growth in learning. Graduating magna cum laude is also a lifetime distinction that can attract attention on resumes and graduate school applications, opening you up to a variety of opportunities in your future career.
What Does Magna Cum Laude Mean?
The Latin phrase, magna cum laude, means with great praise or by means of extensive merit or glory, depending on which translation suits you best. For the most part, the Anglicized version has come to define a university honor that celebrates the accomplishments of students who have achieved more than the average scholar. The exceptional students receive a degree of distinction when graduating.
What GPA Is Magna Cum Laude?
Not all schools define and delineate their cum laudes by grade point average. However, for the schools that do, the defining GPA for magna cum laude is generally 3.75 to 3.99. Many schools use GPA as only a part of the decision-making process. Other requirements may include:
- Faculty recommendation
- Advanced courses
- Honors thesis
- Volunteer service
- Seminar participation
- Exemplary behavior
What Do You Get for Magna Cum Laude?
In addition to your foot in the door at a few elite colleges and universities, not too much but an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment is what you will get. Some colleges recognize it and soem do not. Some recruiters will be delighted that you share the same alumnus, while others will set you aside for it. College allegiance is a very polarizing arena.
At the most celebratory schools, you receive special honors for magna cum laude. Graduation season might begin with a celebratory luncheon with families and faculty. You could receive a special degree that lists your honors in a different color degree holder. You might also receive different graduate cords to display during the ceremony. Many colleges reserve a few moments of praise during the commencement for you and your fellow students’ accomplishments over the years. Some administrators lead the graduation ceremony by reading the magna cum laude students’ names to walk the stage first in a separate list rather than in straight alphabetical order.
Is Magna Cum Laude on Resume Good?
Magna cum laude does indicate an additional level of academic achievement. Advanced academic accomplishments can be a good sign for many job recruiters that you are a reliable employee who will complete tasks on time and with sustained effort.
However, listing your magna cum laude on your resume any longer than five years after graduation is a mostly fruitless task. If you insist on keeping your academic honors on your resume, then relegate your distinctions to an awards and accomplishments section, wherein you can include other information that speaks to your character and your sense of dedication and commitment that is more relevant to the career you are seeking currently.
Other notable accomplishments to put on your resume include a detailed work history. Soft and hard skills are also excellent information that helps hiring teams to make informed decisions between candidates. More practical items than including your magna cum laude include:
- Volunteer work
- Leadership positions
- Organizational roles
- Event planning
What Can I Use Magna Cum Laude For?
Magna cum laude and any other academic distinction, scholarship, or award will definitely help you get into another school. If you plan for graduate school or to continue your education to advance your current career, colleges and universities often refer back to your prior schooling performance.
Who Looks at Magna Cum Laude?
While hiring specialists may take a peek now and again, primarily to see if you share a spot on an alumni list, it is chiefly other schools that look at distinctions. When applying for entrance or funding at the schools, admissions officers view your application and academic honors.
Financial aid will view your academic performance to see if you are a safety risk to lend money to or eligible for grants based on your distinctions. If you are applying for prestigious programs, entrance officers will view your application and your past work as a student to determine if you are an ideal candidate. If you apply for graduate programs where securing funding is part of the process, having the distinction of magna cum laude is a good sign that you might be accepted with full funding.
Is Compensation Different With Magna Cum Laude?
Some studies have returned results that suggest that magna cum laude and other distinctions come with higher pay in the workforce. However, this news has mixed findings. The initial information indicates that graduates with honors receive notably higher compensation than their inexperienced colleagues when first hired. As time passed, the pay flatlined, and there was no longer an identifiable difference in compensation between degree distinctions at about the five-year mark.