The Latin honors GPA cutoffs for the class of 2018 are roughly consistent with those of recent years, despite faculty consensus that grade inflation abounds at Yale.
Per Yale College guidelines, no more than the top five percent of seniors graduate summa cum laude, the next ten percent graduate magna cum laude and the fifteen percent after that graduate cum laude. This year, a GPA of 3.95 warranted the honor of summa cum laude, while a 3.90 and 3.82 merited magna cum laude and cum laude, respectively, according to Yale College Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker.
The cutoffs for Latin honors are distinct from the requirements necessary for induction into Yale’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society for liberal arts and sciences. While Latin honors is awarded based on cumulative GPA, election to Phi Beta Kappa is based on the percentage of straight A grades received.
Schenker did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the cutoffs for Phi Beta Kappa. But last year, Associate Dean of Yale College and Graduate Secretary of the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa George Levesque told the News that the University does not publicly release percentage cutoffs for the honor society.
“We do not publish the percentage cutoffs for [Phi Beta Kappa] because the cutoffs can range widely from year to year and can be misleading,” Levesque said.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.”
Despite minor fluctuations, the cutoffs for Latin honors have remained mostly constant over the past seven years. In 2013, the GPA cutoffs were 3.96, 3.88 and 3.80 respectively, and in 2012 they were 3.95, 3.89 and 3.80.
This year’s cutoffs are almost identical to last year’s: the class of 2017 cutoffs were 3.95, 3.89 and 3.81.
According to a News survey in fall 2017, the majority of faculty members think that grade inflation is a problem at Yale — 62 percent of faculty respondents said it is too easy to get a grade of A. Virtually all faculty respondents — 92 percent — said that grade inflation exists at the University.
Over the past five years, the college administration has also shown concern about grade inflation. In 2012, then-Yale College Dean Mary Miller convened the Committee on Grading in response to rising grade-point average cutoffs for Latin honors. According to the committee’s 2013 report, the mean GPA rose from 3.42 in 1998–99 to 3.58 in 2011–12.
Erika Lynn-Green ’18, who graduated summa cum laude, declined to comment on grade inflation at Yale because of its “context- and department-dependent” nature. But she advised underclass Yalies to focus on “the medium picture” during their time at Yale.
“Take classes you love, work hard semester by semester, and relax as much as possible about individual grades on tests or assignments and about your overall honors standing,” Lynn-Green said. “That last bit I’m still working on!”