Magna Cum Laude vs Summa Cum Laude, And Their Career Benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 1, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Magna cum laude and summa cum laude are terms used to describe the level of achievement students attain when graduating from a post-secondary institution. Graduating with these honours can be beneficial to your growth as a professional. Employers often use them as a means of assessing your level of ability, excellence, and commitment. In this article, we describe the terms magna cum laude and summa cum laude, their career benefits, some tips to help you graduate with academic honours, and how to list them on your resume.

Magna cum laude vs summa cum laude

Magna cum laude is a distinguished academic honour typically conferred upon a student who graduates in the top 10 per cent or 15 per cent of their class. It receives the second-highest honourable mention, behind summa cum laude. The Latin phrase, which means "with great honour," is usually most relevant for undergraduates in a few countries, including Canada, the United States, and Indonesia.

Summa cum laude is an honorary title used by educational institutions to denote a degree earned "with distinction." A student who has achieved summa cum laude has attained "the highest distinction." This student has earned grades in the top five per cent or 10 per cent of their school or department, or has achieved some other metric that the school considers deserving of special recognition.

Additional academic honours

The following are various other academic honours apart from magna cum laude and summa cum laude:

Honours students

Students who graduate from an honours degree program may be awarded an honours degree. The honours degree program is often a variant of the undergraduate bachelor's degree. Graduating from an honours program demonstrates that you were willing and able to achieve excellence in your field of study. You may matriculate with an honours-only class or convert regular classes into honours classes by taking on a more advanced workload than your peers. Graduating as an honour student can be beneficial to your career growth because most employers believe you are a professional who has the ability to strive for excellence at the highest levels.

Chancellor's scholars

Being recognized as a chancellor's scholar is also one of the widely used academic honours, reputable for excellence. This award is given to a small percentage of students who apply for it. The criteria for being a chancellor's scholar include your commitment to leadership, excellent character, academic achievement, and articulation. These are marketable professional qualities that can help you get and keep your first professional internships and first few jobs. This award is given to incoming students with academic excellence rather than graduating students.

Dean's list

Getting on the dean's list means you earned a certain GPA for a set period of time, typically one semester. The requirement is usually the same level as it is for cum laude, often a 3.5 GPA. Professionals may include dean's list distinctions on their resume if they held this position for their entire collegiate experience.

Criteria for awarding academic honours

The Canadian grading systems are a combination of percentages, grade point averages (GPAs), and letter grades depending on the region or university. The criteria for achieving the magna cum laude level of distinction differ from one institution to the next.

Cum laude academic honours are often awarded at graduation to students who have earned a certain cumulative grade point average in all degree-applicable coursework, including transfer coursework. Magna cum laude honours are usually given to students who have a relatively high GPA, and summa cum laude honours are given to students who have an even higher GPA, often a 4.0. Other requirements may include submitting an honours thesis for evaluation or participating in an honours program.

The following are some examples of criteria and GPA thresholds used for awarding academic honours:

  • Cum laude: 3.5 – 3.7GPA and a 75th percentile or higher class rank in the student's school or college

  • Magna cum laude: 3.8 – 3.9 GPA and a class rank in the 85th percentile or higher at the student's high school or college

  • Summa cum laude: 4.0 or higher and a 95th percentile or higher class rank in the student's school or college

Career benefits of academic honours

The following are some career benefits of graduating with academic honours or having them on your resume:

Unique opportunities

Honours students may enjoy certain advantages within their educational institution and in other external academic communities. These benefits can include the opportunity to study abroad, sponsored honours programs, research grants, and club memberships. Honours students may also have the opportunity to join relevant organizations.

Increased chances of getting a job

When a recruiter is reviewing resumes, they may discover candidates are nearly equally suitable for a specific job. If you submit an excellent resume and perform well in your interview, graduating with an honours degree on your resume can be influential in distinguishing you from the other candidates. Graduating with honours can be beneficial in increasing your chances of getting a job.

Read more: Guide: How To Get a Job Quickly

Merit-based scholarships

Graduating with honours may qualify you for scholarships at your next level of study. This may be valuable if you are interested in pursuing advanced degrees such as a master's degree or even a PhD. Some of these merit-based scholarships may be specifically awarded to students who have received specific honours, while others may require general evidence of academic achievement.

Related: Finding Internships and Internship Alternatives During COVID-19

Personal fulfilment

An academic honour is a noteworthy achievement. As such, having an academic honour can contribute to a sense of personal fulfilment or pride for some people. Graduating with honours may serve as a recognition and reward for your hard work, discipline, and commitment to your studies. Having a sense of fulfilment, in turn, can be useful in giving you the confidence boost you need to advance your career and achieve your goals.

Related: 5 Personal Development Tips to Progress Your Career

Tips to help you graduate with honours in college

Getting high grades is an important factor in obtaining an honours distinction. Here are some tips you can use to help achieve high marks in your post-secondary coursework:

  • Establish meaningful goals. Try setting intermediary goals for each quarter or semester to help you stay focused on your overall goal of graduating with honours. Try using the SMART goal framework, in which you establish goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Related: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

  • Reflect often. Periodically evaluate your learning strategies and determine how well they are supporting your progress toward your goals. Adjust your study habits if necessary.

  • Find a mentor. Find an academic mentor to help provide guidance in your pursuit of an honours distinction. Depending on your college or university, you may be assigned an advisor or mentor who can fill this role.

Related: How to Find a Mentor Step by Step

  • Study effectively. Explore study strategies to help you learn and retain information as effectively as possible. Remember to try new methods if and when necessary.

You may also be considered for the award for the following reasons:

  • Your involvement in a variety of activities

  • Membership in a club

  • Excellent research programs

  • Significant achievements in sports or studies

If earning one of these designations is important to you, and you want to include summa cum laude or magna cum laude on your resume, it could prove beneficial to talk to a school guidance counsellor or an academic advisor early in your college career. They can help you get a quality start in your studies and choose classes that will give you advanced credits toward your GPA.

How to list your academic honours on your resume

If you earned academic honours, it can be beneficial for you to list them on your resume using the following tips and guidelines:

1. Create an education section

It is important for you to create an educational section in your resume to list out your academic achievements and milestones. Having academic honours can be beneficial to helping you get your desired job. Create a specific education section so that interviewers can easily identify them.

Related: How to Include Magna Cum Laude on a Resume (With Examples)

2. List your honours in the education section

Carefully list your academic honours in the education section of your resume. It is important for you to make an effort to ensure they are easily observable. For instance, you can create a subsection for relevant degrees and honours awards to further increase their visibility on your resume. You can also help employers and recruiters easily identify your academic honours by clearly stating which degrees you received academic honours for, if you have many degrees in that section.

Read more: How to List Education on Your Resume (With Examples)

3. Follow standard formatting guidelines

List your honours awards immediately after your degree, separated by a comma. It could come after that if you include your major or field of study. For example, B. Tech in Anatomy, magna cum laude. If the title is Latin, such as summa cum laude, the honours degree should be written in lowercase letters and italics on your resume.

Related: What Is the Standard Canadian Resume Format? (With 7 Tips)

We hope this article provided insightful information on the difference of magna cum laude vs. summa cum laude, as well as how you can showcase any honours distinctions on your resume.

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