Requirements for Honors Degrees

Summa Cum Laude in a Field

Magna Cum Laude in a Field

Cum Laude in a Field

Cum Laude for the overall record

All degree candidates must satisfy the requirements of an approved field of concentration and meet all other degree requirements. There are two types of honors in the College: English honors (or departmental honors) are determined by the department, committee, school, or program that oversees the relevant concentration and are based solely on work done in the concentration; Latin honors (or College honors) are based on the entirety of the student record, and recommendations for Latin honors are made to the Governing Boards of the University by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences recommends bachelor degrees for presentation to the Governing Boards of the University as follows: regular degree; cum laude on the basis of the student’s overall record; cum laude in a field; magna cum laude in a field; magna cum laude with Highest Honors in a field; or summa cum laude in a field. Faculty and concentration standards for honors may change without notice; both sets of standards must be met.

All candidates for degrees with honors must have satisfactory letter grades (C– or higher) in a minimum of 96 letter-graded credits (prorated appropriately for students graduating with fewer than 128 credits passed at Harvard). Grade point averages are based on all completed letter-graded courses taken while at Harvard including all failed courses, courses taken for credit in Harvard Summer School, and by cross-registration only as appropriate (see Grade Point Averages).

The relevant concentration will determine the level of English honors, if any, for an undergraduate who completes the requirements for honors eligibility in that field. If departmental honors are awarded, the student may then be recommended to the College for a determination of Latin honors. Thus, the awarding of departmental honors for work in a concentration is a precondition for the recommendation by the College of Latin honors in a field. It is possible that a student who has completed the relevant requirements for honors in a concentration will have his or her record judged unworthy of honors in the field but still worthy of a degree; such a student may then be recommended by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for a regular degree, subject to the general regulations, or, if qualified, for the degree cum laude. When applicable, both English honors and Latin honors are noted on the official transcript. Only Latin honors are designated on the diploma.

The Faculty will award degrees with honors based on the criteria below:

Summa Cum Laude in a Field

For the degree summa cum laude the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will consider records of only those students who are designated by their concentration to receive Highest Honors in a field. The determination of Highest Honors is a serious matter requiring the collective consideration of the faculty affiliated with the concentration. In reaching this decision the faculty may choose to evaluate not only the candidate’s grades in concentration courses, but also the level and rigor of those courses, and other indicators of the candidate’s mastery of the field, such as performance on a thesis or comparable piece of independent work and/or on a written or oral general examination.

The degree summa cum laude is given to the top 5 percent of the graduating class, drawn from those designated for Highest Honors. The standards of each May will be applied at subsequent degree meetings until the following May.

Magna Cum Laude in a Field

A candidate may be recommended by the Faculty for the degree magna cum laude in a concentration or joint concentration provided he or she has been designated by the concentration to receive High Honors or Highest Honors. For May degrees, the total number of degrees summa cum laude and magna cum laude combined will be no more than 20 percent of all May degree candidates. The Faculty will recommend for magna cum laude those students with the highest grade point averages who have not already been recommended for the degree summa cum laude. Candidates in this category who received Highest Honors from their concentration but were not awarded summa cum laude will be recommended for the degree magna cum laude with Highest Honors in a Field. The minimum grade point average that is awarded a degree magna cum laude each May will constitute the standard to be applied for that degree at subsequent degree meetings until the following May.

Cum Laude in a Field

A candidate may be recommended by the Faculty for the degree cum laude in a concentration or joint concentration provided he or she has been designated by the concentration to receive Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors. For May degrees, the total number of degrees summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude in field sum to 50 percent of all May degree candidates. The Faculty will recommend for cum laude in field those students with the highest grade point averages who have not already been awarded the degree summa cum laude or magna cum laude. The minimum grade point average that is awarded a degree cum laude in field each May will constitute the standard to be applied for that degree at subsequent degree meetings until the following May.

Cum Laude for the overall record

A candidate not designated to receive honors in a concentration may be recommended by the Faculty for the degree cum laude on the basis of overall grade point average alone if his or her grade point average is at or above the minimum grade point average awarded the degree magna cum laude. In any May, if the number of candidates with a sufficient grade point average exceeds 10 percent of all May degree candidates, only those with the highest grade point averages totaling 10 percent of all May degree candidates will be awarded the degree cum laude on the basis of overall grade point average alone. The minimum grade point average that is awarded a degree cum laude each May will constitute the standard to be applied for that degree at subsequent degree meetings until the following May.