Latin honors cutoffs rise

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.


  • phantomllama

    GPAs assume that an A on an Intro course is of more value than an A- in an advanced seminar. There has to be a greater recognition on the transcript of what level a student is operating at – perhaps a departmental difficulty scale for courses would help.

  • 1234qwer

    Ugh the poli sci majors ruining the curve for everyone else

  • JEThirteen

    Awarding Latin honors solely on the basis of GPA also fails to take into account how many courses a student has taken, or whether any courses were taken Credit/D/Fail. Compare a student who gets 32 A’s and 4 Credits at the grade of B+ (GPA = 4.0) with a student who gets 37 A’s and 12 A-‘s (GPA = 3.92). Ceteris paribus, the latter student seems much more impressive; but the first student graduates ‘summa cum laude’, while the second is relegated to ‘magna cum laude’.

    • River_Tam

      Do you know anyone who took 49 courses in undergrad? That is impressive.

      • penny_lane

        You’d have to do nothing but take classes. It’s 5-6 classes every semester, plus at least one summer session course.

  • Morse09

    Are you guys seriously spelling out .01 as one tenth of a point? How did that make it past the editor? If cutoffs really did rise by increments of tenths, that would be dramatic. Hundredths, not so much.

    • penny_lane

      This is why I was confused. .01 is definitely a hundredth. And I was an English major!!

    • bfa123

      This was the current copy editors’ last night ever. They probably weren’t too focused. Give them a break!

  • River_Tam

    The math fail in this column is overwhelming.

    Also, can we stop saying “latin honors cutoffs rise” and say “grade inflation”?

  • 81

    They’re really not going to do anything about the glaringly wrong math here?