The GPA cutoffs for latin honors for the class of 2017 remain roughly the same as those of previous years, with the standard top 30% of the graduating class receiving general honors.
According to Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker, no more than five percent of seniors graduate summa cum laude, the next ten percent magna cum laude and the following fifteen percent cum laude. This year, a GPA of 3.95 merited summa cum laude, 3.89 magna cum laude and 3.81 cum laude, he said.
In 2013, the GPA cutoffs for the three levels of distinction were 3.96, 3.88 and 3.80 respectively; while in 2012 they were 3.95, 3.89 and 3.80.
Select students from this year’s graduating class also entered into Yale’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society for liberal arts and sciences.
“The by-laws of the national Phi Beta Kappa Society permit a local chapter to elect to membership no more than ten percent of a class,” Schenker said.
George Levesque, Associate Dean of Yale College and Graduate Secretary of the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, said there is no correlation between latin honors and admission into the honor society. He said that election to Phi Beta Kappa at Yale is based on students’ percentages of straight A grades, not GPA.
For example, Levesque said, a student can graduate summa cum laude but not receive election to the society if he or she has a relatively high number of grades that are A- or CR.
“We do not publish the percentage cutoffs for [Phi Beta Kappa] because the cutoffs can range widely from year to year and can be misleading,” Levesque said. “Instead, if any particular student has a question, I invite them to speak with me.”
Kevin Wang ‘17, Phi Beta Kappa Vice President for the 2016-2017 academic year and a former staff reporter for the News, said that each regional chapter selects its members differently. For example, he said, Harvard conducts an application process that requires students to submit academic records and faculty letters of recommendation, a process potentially more prone to bias than Yale’s.
Wang added that while Yale’s selection methodology is imperfect — citing how students looking to gain entry into the society may “cherry pick” classes based on their probability of academic success or avoid credit/D/fail courses — it rewards students’ “excellence and dedication.”
“I think the idea behind how the Yale chapter selects its members is to identify students who are not only smart but also very serious about their studies,” Wang said. “By basing the selection on the raw percentage of As, I think the Yale chapter is looking not for students who can do a mediocre job in every course they take but for students who go the extra mile in most if not all of their classes.”
Yale’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter was founded in 1780.