What Is Cum Laude?

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

Key Takeaways

  • Cum laude is one of three "Latin honors" that educational institutions bestow on someone's academic degree.
  • 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

While cum laude signifies a distinguished level of academic achievement, an even higher distinction is magna cum laude, 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 honor is achieved differ at 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 ranking, the number of credit hours completed, and other academic achievements.

Students receiving Latin honors are typically recognized during graduation ceremonies, 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. The designation is based only an individual student's final GPA.

Other universities reserve Latin honors for a stated percentage of each graduating class. That means only a top percentage 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is cum laude?

Cum laude refers to a high level of academic achievement. In Latin, it means “with honor” or “with praise”. Cum laude is one of three Latin terms of academic excellence used in the United States, following summa cum laude and magna cum laude. While there is no universal benchmark that determines cum laude, often it occurs above a final GPA of 3.5.

What is the difference between cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude?

While cum laude represents a distinguished level of achievement, magna cum laude is one level above. Meaning “with great praise” in Latin, magna cum laude differs from summa cum laude, which in turn means “highest praise” or “highest honor” representing the highest level of academic distinction. These designations may be awarded on different factors such as GPA, class ranking, or outside academic achievements. 

What is an example of cum laude?

Consider the University of Pennsylvania, where students must have a GPA of 3.4 to graduate cum laude. By contrast, New York University awards students cum laude if students fall within the top 30% of the graduating class. Ultimately, these designations can vary widely across academic institutions, and are evaluated across differing metrics.