Whether students are currently in high school or college, those who strive for academic excellence likely hope to receive high honors. Of course, high honors have different meanings in high school and college; however, students with high honors in both levels of schooling demonstrate they have put in the hard work to attain high academic achievement.
In both high school and college, earning high honors often provides some benefits that students’ can utilize to get closer to their future goals.
Graduating with high honors in high school usually means qualifying for the honor roll, which can mean earning a certain GPA, usually 3.5 or higher; or you can graduate as the Valedictorian or Salutatorian. These honors often vary from high school to high school. Some high schools only award the top student as Valedictorian and the second-ranked student as Salutatorian, while other high schools require students to achieve a certain grade point average to become one of several Valedictorians.
To receive high honors on a high school diploma, students usually must earn a certain GPA, take all four years of subjects like science, English, math, and social students and three years of a foreign language, and earn a minimum score on the ACT and/or SAT. Again, though, these requirements vary from one state to another, so check with your guidance counselor to find out which requirements you must fill to graduate high school with honors.
You can also graduate with some type of honor or awards as a high school student by being part of an honor society or earning AP credits.
Earning high honors in high school benefits you, since a high honors diploma can earn you more financial aid and scholarship funding for college and also boost your resume for college applications.
In college, students can generally earn three levels of Latin honors in order from the least to the most prestigious: cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude. Though the levels are the same, colleges and universities set their own criteria for how students actually earn these honors, since there is no set national standard.
For instance, some colleges and universities might require a 3.9 GPA or higher for summa cum laude, while others might require only a 3.8 or higher; it just depends on the institution. Summa cum laude at a university known for more STEM-related degrees like Georgia Tech, for example, might require a lower GPA based on the rigor of the classes. Some colleges even award these honors based on class rank instead of grade point average.
At most colleges and universities, earning high honors allows students to wear special tassels or ropes during their graduation ceremony, which is a fun way for students to be recognized for the hard work they put into their schooling to earn high honors.
In terms of other future benefits, receiving high honors in college does allow students to list those honors on their resume, thus demonstrating to future employers or graduate school academic admissions officers that they were able to work hard in their undergraduate studies and persevere through challenges to achieve high enough grades to receive those honors.
Though some employers might not necessarily use honors on a resume to make or break a hiring decision, they certainly will be able to respect any candidate who was able to earn high honors in college.
Cum laude means “with honors” and is the baseline level of academic honor a college graduate can achieve and usually requires students to earn about a 3.4 GPA, but again this can vary from one college or university to another. The cum laude distinction is increasingly becoming less prestigious as more and more students are able to earn these honors in college.
Magna cum laude means “with great praise” or “with high honors” and is the next level of high honors a college student can earn and might mean the student earned a 3.6 or so GPA, depending on the institution. This level of distinction on a resume certainly shows prospective employers that a student has worked hard in college and was able to achieve a degree of academic success.
Summa cum laude means “with highest honors” and is thus predictably the highest level of Latin honors a college student can receive. Some institutions require as high as a perfect 4.0 for students to earn these high honors, while others require a 3.8 or 3.9 or base the honors on class rank. Either way, these honors are an important distinction on a resume for employers who are looking for an especially dedicated individual.
On an important note: after more than a couple of years post-graduation, earning high honors in college will likely no longer benefit a student in terms of job placement. At that point, individuals are judged by their previous work experience, instead.
Whether you are a high school or college student, earning high honors requires hard work, commitment, and the same great study habits you’ve heard about over and over. Students who are interested in becoming honor students should utilize their resources.
For example, consider joining an honor society to gain access to specific tips and tricks, scholarships, and wisdom from fellow students. Keep working hard and enjoying the process of learning, and you will get closer and closer to earning high honors.
Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events, scholarships, college fairs, internships, career and leadership programs, partner discounts, and more. Discover what makes NSHSS worth it to student members and how you can get involved.
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