Latin Honors FAQ
Below are some of the most common questions students have about Latin honors. If your question is not on the list, you can e-mail the office of Undergraduate Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latin honors are Latin phrases used to indicate the level of distinction with which an academic degree has been earned. They are used at institutions of higher learning the world over, though they are primarily used in the United States.
- Summa Cum Laude - "with highest honor" - at St. Thomas, this honor is awarded to students whose GPA is at or above 3.90 and who have successfully completed the Summa oral examination
- Magna Cum Laude - "with great honor" - at St. Thomas, this honor is awarded to students whose GPA is between 3.70 and 3.89 (and to students whose GPA is at 3.90 or above but who did not pass or did not pursue the Summa oral examination)
- Cum Laude - "with honor" - at St. Thomas, this honor is awarded to students whose GPA is between 3.50 and 3.69
Students who have earned Latin honors status are listed as such in the commencement program and wear a medallion and ribbon at the ceremony to mark their achievement.
- Summa Cum Laude - purple and gray ribbon with medallion
- Magna Cum Laude - purple ribbon with medallion
- Cum Laude - gray ribbon with medallion
The Office of Academic Affairs errs on the side of early notification, since it can often be unclear exactly when a student is planning to complete their degree requirements. Regardless, the notification is simply that - a notification only, to let students know of their potential (and to encourage students to keep up the good work in their final semester!). Being on the list of potential Latin honors recipients does not put you in danger of accidentally being put on the graduation list.
If you receive such an early notification, simply respond to that message (or e-mail Undergraduate Studies directly) to let them know. Should you remain eligible for Latin honors in later semesters, you will receive another notification at that time.
Cum Laude (3.50-3.69 GPA) and Magna Cum Laude (3.70-3.89 GPA) honors are based on GPA only and require nothing further (e.g., no application) from the student. These students should simply work diligently in their final semester to keep up their GPA levels (see the FAQ about "potential" Latin honors) and watch their St. Thomas e-mail inbox for announcements regarding picking up their medallion and ribbon the week before commencement.
For Summa Cum Laude honors (3.90 and above), students must pursue an additional oral examination process on top of having an Institutional and Overall GPA at 3.90 or above. Summa-potential students who do not pass the exam or who choose not to pursue the exam will receive Magna Cum Laude honors instead (assuming their GPA remains at 3.70 or above).
Yes, it is possible for a student's Latin honor to change during the semester or after commencement.
Ultimately, a student's official Latin honors level - that is, what will be printed on official transcripts, degrees, etc. - is determined by their final GPA. This final GPA can only be calculated after all coursework and degree requirements are fully completed and final grades are processed. Until the degree is officially awarded, Latin honors status must be considered "potential" only.
Therefore, Latin honors for commencement purposes assume students' highest potential honor. In essence, our calculations are run under the assumption that students will earn a 4.0 GPA in all remaining Spring semester courses. It is necessary to do this because final grades for Spring semester are not fully processed until mid-June.
Therefore, if a student's final Spring grades are not high enough to achieve the potential that was assumed for commencement, it is possible for the student's GPA to drop low enough to change Latin honors level, or to lose Latin honors status completely.
For example, a "borderline" student might have the potential to achieve an Institutional and Overall GPA of 3.50 as a result of their Spring classes, and so they would be listed with Cum Laude honors (3.50-3.69 GPA) for commencement. However, if that student did not achieve that potential in their Spring classes, then when final grades were processed in mid-June, their final Institutional or Overall GPA might end up being 3.49, and so they would no longer be eligible for Latin honors.
Students whose Latin honors level changes after commencement are notified of the change via letter, usually in late June or early July.
Potential Latin honors status can change during the semester, too, as students bring in transfer courses, process substitutions, and finish Incomplete grades.
"Commencement" is the ceremony, held in May each year, at which students celebrate the accomplishment of earning their degrees from St. Thomas. It is possible to participate in commencement without having yet officially earned a St. Thomas degree.
"Graduation" refers to the completion of all coursework and degree requirements (and processing of final grades), after which a student is officially awarded a degree from St. Thomas.
Latin honors for commencement are determined by students' highest potential honor. Final Latin honors status is determined only after a student's graduation.
There are three kinds of Grade Point Averages (GPA): Institutional, Transfer, and Overall.
- Your Institutional GPA only counts your St. Thomas courses.
- Your Transfer GPA only counts your transfer courses.
- Your Overall GPA counts both your St. Thomas and your transfer courses.
Latin honors only focuses on two of those: your Institutional GPA and your Overall GPA. Both of them must be within a certain Latin honors "tier" in order to qualify for that Latin honor. If one is in a lower tier than the other, your Latin honor defaults to the lower of the two.
For example, a student with an Institutional GPA of 3.76 and an Overall GPA of 3.68 would receive Cum Laude honors (3.50-3.69 GPA). A student with an Institutional GPA of 3.93 and an Overall GPA of 3.85 would receive Magna Cum Laude honors (3.70-3.89 GPA). A student with an Institutional GPA of 3.47 and an Overall GPA of 3.56 would receive no Latin honors.
Students with the potential to earn Summa Cum Laude honors (3.90 GPA or above) are invited to pursue that honor by taking the Summa Cum Laude oral examination. But, as with all Latin honors, this GPA level is "potential" only (see the FAQ about "potential" honors), and if a student's final grades result in an Institutional or Overall GPA below 3.90, then their Latin honor is revised to Magna Cum Laude appropriately (assuming both GPA levels are still above 3.70).
This does mean, unfortunately, that it is possible to go through the extra work of the Summa Cum Laude examination process, walk in commencement with Summa honors, and then "lose" that status later on once all degree requirements have been completed and final grades have been processed. Therefore, students whose Institutional and Overall GPA levels are "borderline" 3.90 should carefully consider if they want to pursue the Summa examination.
Please see the FAQ about "potential" Latin honors and the FAQ about the difference between "commencement" and "graduation."
A student's Latin honors status for commencement will be determined based on the potential GPA resulting from the student's Spring courses. Subsequent courses (summer, etc.), even if the student is already registered for them, are not factored into this.
Students who have coursework and degree requirements left to complete after the Spring semester in which they participated in commencement are expected to be aware of their potential Latin honors status and to take responsibility for their work accordingly. Regardless of what level of Latin honor they earned for commencement purposes, their final Latin honor will only be determined after all coursework, degree requirements, and final grades have been processed.
Latin honors students will be e-mailed with the pickup dates, times, and locations for receiving their medallions and ribbons. They will receive this e-mail near the beginning of May, and the pickup dates/times will be during the week before commencement in Academic Affairs.
There are no cords for Latin honors. Some departmental honors societies have cords, but students must contact that department or organization separately for that information.
Exception #1: Academic Affairs also handles the distribution of cords (silver) for the Delta Epsilon Sigma honors society. DES students will be able to pick up their cords during Latin honors distribution and will receive a similar e-mail message.
Exception #2: The Aquinas Scholars Honors Program is under the umbrella of Academic Affairs. Graduating Aquinas Scholars will receive their cords (purple) and certificates at their annual convocation in early May. Scholars who cannot attend the convocation may pick up their cords and certificate during Latin honors distribution.
Unfortunately, Latin honors medallions and ribbons are unavailable outside of the listed pickup times during the week before commencement. Please contact Undergraduate Studies as soon as possible if you know you will be unable to pick up your honors during the listed times.