GPA cutoffs to achieve Latin honors rose slightly for the class of 2011, marking the first time since 2007 that the standard has increased.
Cutoffs for cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude honors all rose by at least one-hundredth of a point between 2010 and 2011. The highest of the three distinctions, summa cum laude, saw the smallest increase, with the necessary GPA rising from 3.93 to 3.94. Magna cum laude and cum laude cutoffs each increased two-hundredths of a point, the former rising from 3.85 to 3.87 and the latter from 3.76 to 3.78.
Since 1988, University regulations have capped the number of students permitted to graduate with Latin honors at 30 percent: 5 percent may graduate with summa cum laude distinction, 10 percent with magna cum laude and 15 percent with cum laude. Members of the class of 2012 will not learn if they have made the cutoffs until just before commencement exercises begin in May, the University Dean’s Office said.
Yale awards Latin honors to fewer graduates than do other Ivy League universities. Up to 50 percent of Harvard students are permitted to graduate cum laude or above, while Princeton typically allows at least 40 percent to achieve honors.
Of 12 seniors interviewed, only two were aware of University regulations regarding cum laude honors. None believed that the information was common knowledge among their peers.
“I think that by the time we graduate, we are most interested in looking back at our experiences at Yale and forward to wherever we are going next,” said Kate Carter ’12. “Grading is opaque in college. I don’t know my closest friends’ academic standing for the most part, and I don’t really care.”
Will Koh ’12 said he does not think most of his peers are concerned with Latin honors, adding that other aspects of the student experience are more significant.
Honors matter primarily to those students applying to graduate programs, Samantha Dixon ’12 said. Students planning on entering the workforce after graduation will not change their actions in their senior years to attempt to make the cut, she said, because most have already begun the job application process.
Two seniors said they feel that GPAs are not the best way of deciding eligibility for honors.
“GPA is one way of looking at how you’ve done at Yale, but a lot of information is left out of them,” said Alexandra Dennett ’12. “They aren’t the most thorough mechanism by which to recognize outstanding students at Yale.”
But Steven Banks ’12 said that GPAs are essentially the only way such honors can be measured at all. Such numbers are objective, he said, and coming up with a fairer system would be difficult in light of the myriad accomplishments most Elis can claim.
GPA cutoffs fell slightly in 2010 after staying constant in 2008 and 2009.
CORRECTION: Oct. 23, 2011
A previous version of this article confused “tenths” of a point with “hundredths” of a point.