What Is Cum Laude?

Cum laude is Latin for "with distinction" or "with honor" and represents an academic level of achievement. Educational institutions use the phrase to signify an academic degree that was received with honor.

Cum laude is one of three commonly used types of Latin honors recognized in the United States, the other two being summa cum laude and magna cum laude. The terms come from Latin, so they often are called Latin honors. They are common in the United States, but very few countries around the world use the system.

Key Takeaways

  • Cum laude is one of three Latin honors that educational institutions bestow for an academic degree that was received with honor.
  • The phrase is Latin for "with distinction," or "with honor," or "with praise."
  • Educational institutions have different criteria that must be met for each honor.
  • Students are never allowed to apply or campaign for Latin honors.

Understanding Cum Laude

Cum laude means "with honor" or "with praise." Even higher is the magna cum laude level of distinction, which means "with high honor" or "with high praise." Summa cum laude bestows the highest honor or praise on its recipient. 

The guidelines by which each level of academic honors is achieved differs among academic institutions. Each university or college typically outlines its own expectations for each honor.

The criteria for earning Latin honors may include grade point average (GPA), class rank, number of hours completed, and academic records and achievements.

Students receiving Latin honors are typically noted as such in graduation programs, and the designation appears on the student's diploma. Students graduating with honors also may be allowed to wear some sort of special insignia at graduation.

The cum laude designation appears on the student's diploma.

Special Considerations

Some universities bestow Latin honors at certain GPA levels. Typically, a GPA of 3.5 or higher is required to receive the cum laude designation, with higher GPAs required for magna cum laude and summa cum laude honors. The designation is based only an individual student's final GPA as of graduation.

Other universities reserve Latin honors for a stated percentage of each graduating class. For example, only the top 25% of a class may receive any honors and smaller percentages may receive the magna cum laude and summa cum laude honors designations. At Ivy League universities and other highly competitive schools, GPA alone may not be enough to earn these honors. Faculty committees also consider students' academic records and achievements and may recommend honors for exceptional students.