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What is 'Magna Cum Laude'

Magna cum laude is a term used by educational institutions to signify an academic degree that was earned "with great honor." It is one of three commonly used types of Latin honors recognized in the United States. The other two levels of distinction are summa cum laude and cum laude

The terms come from Latin, so they often are called Latin honors. Magna cum laude is typically more prestigious than cum laude honors but less prestigious than summa cum laude. Latin honors are common in the United States, but very few countries around the world use the system.

BREAKING DOWN 'Magna Cum Laude'

Magna cum laude is one of the three ranks awarded only for bachelor's degrees. Students who graduate with honors may wear colored stoles or other designation during commencement ceremonies, and that person's honor is read aloud along with his or her name. Latin honors generally appear on a student's official transcript and diploma after graduating. The criteria for earning Latin honors may include grade point average (GPA), class rank, number of hours completed and honors designations from an academic department.

GPA-Based Requirements

The guidelines by which each level of academic honors is achieved differs at academic institutions. Every university or college outlines its own expectations for each program. Colleges and universities follow one of a few standards to determine a student's status as magna cum laude upon graduation. Texas A&M graduates must complete 60 credit hours of work toward a degree while earning a GPA of 3.70 to 3.89. Latin honors at Texas A&M include the student's final grades of the last semester before graduation.

Magna Cum Laude and Class Rank

At some universities, the GPA requirements for Latin honors change every academic year because they are based on a percentage of the student's class rank. For example, a student who graduates magna cum laude from the University of California Los Angeles engineering department must finish in the top 5% to 10% of the class after completing 90 credits. For the 2016-2017 academic year, UCLA engineering students needed a GPA of 3.802 to 3.884 to qualify as magna cum laude. In contrast, during the 2005-2006 academic year, students needed a GPA of 3.728 to 3.834.

Brown University

At Brown University, students receive just one Latin honor, magna cum laude, upon graduation. A student achieves the honor after earning a certain percentage of distinguished marks along with an "A" grade in a course. Brown University does not calculate GPA, and no more than 20% of a graduating class can earn magna cum laude honors.

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