The Latin Honors System, sometimes called the Laude System, is a proficiency-based learning system in which students are provided the opportunity to achieve a high degree of competence as they excel academically. The Latin Honors System allows students to be recognized based on consistently applied standards, resulting in a designation of Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, or Cum Laude. Traditionally used in colleges and universities, the Latin system has begun to be implemented in American high schools more and more in recent years. Unlike high school grading systems that include class ranking and valedictorian/salutatorian distinctions, the Latin system does not rely on relative measures of academic performance and grade comparisons among peers.




cum laude – “with honor”

magna cum laude – “with great honor”

summa cum laude – “with highest honor”


The Latin Honors System is a fundamentally equitable system that does not require some small number of students to succeed while all others fail. Because it is a proficiency-based system, Latin Honors can be conferred upon a large number of students whose academic accomplishments meet high standards. This is key because high-achieving students often have only minor differences in their overall grades; so instead of only a few students being recognized, the Latin system allows all students whose performance exceeds high academic standards to be recognized. The Latin Honors System’s three levels of Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, and Cum Laude each reflect a certain set of distinct standards to which students can aspire, which gives more students the opportunity to earn recognition for their academic achievements.


The Latin Honors System is used to indicate the level of academic distinction with which a diploma or degree has been earned. Generally, there is a definite set of criteria a student must meet to earn one of the honor designations. These varied standards, determined by individual diploma or degree-granting institutions, often include a specific grade point average requirement, submission of a final project of written report or essay, participation in advanced coursework, etc.


Achieving a Latin Honors designation is an exceptional accomplishment. Each designation of summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude requires a level of dedication to academic success that takes drive, focus, and a commitment to learning that comes ahead of many other things. Earning a Latin Honors distinction can help students stand out as leaders and pioneers and innovators at both a high school and university level. If you are interested in working toward these distinctions, make sure to build an academic plan with goals that align with the standards criteria set by your school.

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