About Latin Honors

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.

Students at St. Thomas 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. These are the Latin honors we award at St. Thomas:

  • Summa Cum Laude ("with highest honor"): this honor is awarded to students whose GPA is at or above 3.90 and who have successfully completed the Summa oral examination. This honor is indicated by a purple and gray ribbon with medallion.
  • Magna Cum Laude ("with great honor"): this honor is awarded to students whose GPA is between 3.70 and 3.89; it is also awarded to students whose GPA is at 3.90 or above but who did not pass or did not pursue the Summa oral examination. This honor is indicated by a purple ribbon with medallion.
  • Cum Laude ("with honor") at St. Thomas, this honor is awarded to students whose GPA is between 3.50 and 3.69. This honor is indicated by a gray ribbon with medallion.

NOTE that GPA at St. Thomas is truncated (i.e., cut off) to two decimal places. It is not rounded up or down. For example, a GPA of 3.69846 would be truncated to 3.69 and would therefore fall into the Cum Laude range.

When Students Are Notified About Latin Honors

The Office of Academic Affairs sends an email notification to all students with a GPA within the honors range (3.50 and above), notifying them of their potential to be rewarded a Latin honor. This happens in the Spring semester of the expected graduation year.

What it Takes to be Awarded a Latin Honor

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 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).

See the Summa Cum Laude Exam Guidelines and Exam Form documents on the Academic Affairs OneStThomas site.

Changes in Latin Honors - Potential vs Awarded

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, after the May commencement ceremony.

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.

The Difference between Commencement and Graduation

"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.

Which GPA Is Used for Latin Honors

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.

Questions about Latin Honors