For the second year in a row, the minimum GPA required for Yale College graduates to earn Latin honors increased in the spring.
Members of the class of 2012 needed a 3.95 GPA to graduate summa cum laude, a 3.89 to graduate magna cum laude and a 3.80 to graduate cum laude, according to data from the Yale College Dean’s Office. Those figures marked the highest GPA requirements for Latin honors in recent years — up slightly from the previous spring’s numbers of 3.94, 3.87 and 3.78, respectively.
Since 1988, the University has limited the students receiving Latin honors to those in the top 30 percent of the graduating class: 5 percent graduate summa cum laude, 10 percent graduate magna cum laude and 15 percent graduate cum laude. Seniors do not learn if they have made Latin honors cutoffs until just before commencement exercises begin in May, according to the Dean’s Office.
Several 2012 graduates and current seniors interviewed said they do not feel like Latin honors are a major focus for students at Yale. Three of the 2012 graduates interviewed — none of whom graduated with Latin honors — were also unaware of the GPA cutoffs for their class, though they estimated the figures were around 3.8.
“People want to make good grades generally, but they don’t think about Latin honors that much,” Jason Douglass ’13 said. He added that students tend to be more competitive about distinctions such as Phi Beta Kappa.
While Yale strictly limits the number of graduates who receive Latin honors, other Ivy League schools are more lenient. Up to 50 percent of Harvard students are permitted to graduate with Latin honors, and Princeton usually allows around 40 percent to graduate cum laude or above.
Most students interviewed praised Yale’s rigorous standards, saying they make the distinctions more meaningful than at peer institutions.
“We have to actually work hard to receive these honors,” Andrea Ramos ’13 said. “At Yale, it’s not just a title that you get.”
Andres Fuentes-Afflick ’13 said he feels that a lower GPA cutoff for Latin honors would dilute the sense of achievement attached to these awards. When 50 percent of a class receives the distinctions they seem less significant, he said.
But Paige Fedon ’12, who graduated with a GPA higher than 3.7 but missed the cum laude cutoff, said she thinks the 30 percent cap is excessive and diminishes the importance of Latin honors at Yale since so few students receive them.
Ramos and Douglass suggested that the system for awarding Latin honors be amended to take into account courseload, with more lenient requirements for students who graduate with more than the required 36 credits. They also speculated that current competition over Latin honors may increase as graduation approaches.
Fuentes-Afflick said Yale seniors do not need Latin honors to feel a sense of academic achievement.
“Regardless of whether you graduate with honors, it’s what you make of your Yale education that counts,” he said.
The cutoffs for Latin honors held fairly steady between 2007 and 2010: the summa cum laude and magna cum laude cutoffs remained at 3.93 and 3.85, while the cum laude cutoff fluctuated between 3.75 and 3.77.