Columbia College

Academic Honors

College (Latin) Honors

The Bachelor of Arts degree is awarded with honors in three categories (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) to no more than 25 percent of the graduating class, with no more than 5 percent summa cum laude, and the total of summa and magna cum laude not exceeding 15 percent. College honors is the highest academic recognition awarded by the College. The Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes reviews the academic records of the top 35% of the graduating class. Selection is based not on GPA alone, but on the breadth, depth and high quality of academic achievement, departmental recommendations, and outstanding academic work beyond that which is required for the degree. Students may not apply for honors nor may they solicit faculty for recommendations in this process.

There is no separate consideration of honors for October or February graduates. Each spring the Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes considers the October and February graduates along with those who are degree candidates for May. The report of those graduating with honors is in the May Class Day program. The honor is noted on the diploma and transcript. October and February graduates may ask the Registrar to add an honors notation to an already issued diploma.

College (Latin) Honors FAQs

College (Latin) Honors are bestowed by the faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes and given to those students who, in the assessment of the faculty, have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in their academic programs. Specifically, College Honors rewards breadth, depth and rigor of academic program, high academic achievement, and outstanding work beyond that which is required for the degree.

All Columbia College students work extremely hard throughout their four years and some students may be disappointed to learn that they have not earned College Honors. However, no more than 25% of the graduating class may be awarded summa cum laudemagna cum laude, and cum laude. Not being the recipient of College Honors in no way undermines the intellectual commitment and curiosity that a student has demonstrated while in the College.

That said, some students can be particularly disappointed to learn that they did not receive College Honors. Here is a selection of questions typically asked each year:

What is the GPA cut-off for College Honors?

There is no specific GPA cut-off for College Honors. Each year 35% of the graduating class, those with the highest GPAs, are identified as eligible for College Honors. The faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes then reviews these students' transcripts and faculty recommendations to determine which of the top 25% will actually receive honors. As elucidated below, this determination will take into account a number of factors, only one of which is GPA.

What was the specific reason I didn’t get honors, as I meet all of the criteria in the Bulletin?

Many students meet all of the criteria identified in the College Bulletin, however because only 25% of all graduating seniors can receive College Honors it is always the case that not all students who meet the criteria will receive Honors. The faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes takes great care to fully assess the transcripts and faculty recommendations of all eligible students but, with a specific limit on the number of students who can receive Honors, some students will not be as competitive as others.

Do my senior grades matter?

Yes, your senior grades matter greatly. The faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes reviews your transcript and grades earned prior to the senior spring semester. While the Committee therefore does not see your senior spring grades, faculty recommenders will include information regarding your current performance in your spring classes. Moreover, the committee will examine the selection of courses in which you are enrolled during your senior spring.

Which professors recommended me?

Faculty members in the department in which you are majoring are asked to provide an assessment of your academic performance. Each department will organize this differently, but all relevant faculty members are consulted. In addition, faculty members of other departments are invited to add comments in the online recommendation system regarding any student if it is their opinion that this information will be of assistance to the Committee.

My GPA was affected because I took advanced classes, is that taken into account?

Yes. The faculty Committee reviews all transcripts and takes particular note of those academic records which suggest that the students were intellectually adventurous. Adventurousness might mean students who took a range of electives outside of their major and/or students who have taken more advanced classes in their field.

I transferred from another school, are those grades taken into account?

Because ensuring equity in the process is vital, the faculty Committee reviews all transfer grades and may recalibrate students' cumulative GPAs.

I studied abroad while a Columbia College student, are those grades taken into account?

Again, because equity is important, the faculty Committee also reviews study abroad transcripts and may recalibrate students' cumulative GPAs.

I have a disciplinary record, is that taken into account?

Yes. The faculty committee takes very seriously students' conduct, for it reflects on the integrity of the entire class and school. Students who have disciplinary record, either academic or behavioral, can expect to receive no College Honors.

I applied for the degree after the December 1st deadline. Was I considered for honors?

College Honors are determined in late April or early May. The list of eligible students is drawn in February from those students who graduated in the previous October and February, and those students who intend to graduate in May. Intention to graduate can only be determined by application for the degree, the deadline for which is December 1st. Students who do not apply for the degree by this deadline cannot expect to be considered for College Honors.

Do extracurricular activities affect the decision?

Because College Honors is an academic award, selection does not take into account the many campus life undertakings in which students engage in. However, any student found responsible for a disciplinary matter – whether or not it was of an academic nature – might not be included for review.

Do I have to do a thesis to get honors?

Students are not required to do a thesis in order to earn honors. However, it is the case that most recipients of College Honors have conducted a senior thesis, a senior project, or independent research. This is because such work enables a student to demonstrate the intellectual curiosity and rigor of academic undertaking that College Honors seek to reward.

How do I find out whether or not I received College Honors?

Students who receive College Honors will be informed sometime in the middle of May. The list of students receiving honors is then published and is also noted in the Columbia College Class Day program.

Can I appeal?

There is no appeal of the decisions made by the faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes. Should you believe there to have been a procedural error you may contact Lisa Hollibaugh, Dean of Academic Planning and Administration.

Dean’s List

During each academic term, students who have earned a minimum GPA of 3.6 or better in 12 or more points of letter credit in the preceding term are placed on the Dean’s List.

The grade P is considered neutral when the averages are figured, and the dividing factor is reduced by the number of points taken for Pass credit. Students who have received grades of D, F, or UW during the term are not eligible for consideration. Students who receive the grade of INC, approved in advance by the Committee on Academic Standing, are eligible for Dean’s List only after all INC grades are changed to letter grades.

Departmental Honors

Departmental Honors may be established and awarded by any Columbia College department or academic program, and is recorded on a student’s final transcript.  Students should consult with their director of undergraduate studies no later than the beginning of the first term of their senior year if they wish to be considered for Departmental Honors. Students who are awarded Departmental Honors are notified by their department in mid-May. Not all departments and programs offer Departmental Honors.  College guidelines for Departmental Honors include the following three criteria:

  1. Departmental Honors are awarded to no more than 10 percent, or, in small departments, one member of the graduating majors (including all October, February, and May degrees);
  2. a grade point average of at least 3.6 in major courses is expected for a student to be considered for Departmental Honors;
  3. an honors thesis or equivalent project of high quality should be required by each department or academic program in order to receive Departmental Honors.

Phi Beta Kappa

This academic society was founded in 1776 to recognize and celebrate friendship, morality, and learning. The Columbia College Delta chapter was formed in 1869. Each year 10 percent of the senior class is inducted into Phi Beta Kappa by faculty who are members of the society. Two percent is elected in November and the other eight percent is elected in the spring. Selection is based not only on academic achievement, but also on evidence of intellectual promise, character, and achievement outside the classroom. Academic achievement is measured by strength and rigor of program as well as by grades and faculty recommendations. Students may not apply for Phi Beta Kappa nor may they solicit faculty for recommendations in this process.

As with graduation honors, October and February graduates are considered along with students graduating in May. Election to Phi Beta Kappa is noted on a student’s transcript.

Phi Beta Kappa FAQs

Phi Beta Kappa is an honor society which was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.  Its original goal was the pursuit of “friendship, morality, and literature”  and it was the earliest campus group to adopt Greek letters (standing for the Greek words philosophies bios kubernetes - “love of wisdom, the guide of life.”) The society exists now to promote high standards of scholarship and to celebrate the liberal arts.

The honor of Phi Beta Kappa induction is awarded to students who have, in the assessment of the Columbia University faculty members of Phi Beta Kappa, demonstrated both intellectual ambition and academic achievement.

No more than 10% of the graduating class may be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, 2% in the fall and 8% in the spring. All Columbia College students work extremely hard throughout their four years and some students may be disappointed to learn that they have not been elected for induction and not being the recipient of College Honors in no way undermines the intellectual commitment and curiosity that a student has demonstrated while in the College.
 
That said, some students can be particularly disappointed to learn that they were not awarded Phi Beta Kappa. Here is a selection of questions typically asked each year:

What is the GPA cut-off for Phi Beta Kappa?

There is no specific GPA cut-off for Phi Beta Kappa. Each year 15% of the graduating class, those with the highest GPAs, are identified as eligible. The faculty selection committee then reviews these students’ transcripts and faculty recommendations to determine which 10% will actually receive Phi Beta Kappa. As elucidated below, this determination will take into account a number of factors, only one of which is GPA.

What was the specific reason I didn’t get PBK, as I meet all of the criteria in the Bulletin?

Many students meet all of the criteria identified in the College Bulletin, however because only 10% of all graduating seniors can receive Phi Beta Kappa it is always the case that not all students who meet the criteria will receive the honor. The faculty selection committee takes great care to fully assess the transcripts and faculty recommendations of all eligible students but, with a specific limit on the number of students who can be inducted, some students will not be as competitive as others.

Do my senior grades matter?

Yes, your senior grades matter greatly. The faculty selection committee reviews transcripts and grades earned prior to the senior spring semester. While the Committee therefore does not see your senior spring grades, faculty recommenders will include information regarding your current performance in your spring classes. Moreover, the committee will examine the selection of courses in which you are enrolled during your senior spring.

Which professors recommended me?

Faculty members in the department in which you are majoring are asked to provide an assessment of your academic performance. Each department will organize this differently, but all relevant faculty members are consulted.

My GPA was affected because I took advanced classes, is that taken into account?

Yes. The faculty committee reviews all transcripts and takes particular note of those academic records which suggest that the students were intellectually adventurous. Adventurousness might mean students who took a range of electives outside of their major and/or students who have taken more advanced classes in their field.

I transferred from another school, are those grades taken into account?

Because ensuring equity in the process is vital, the faculty committee reviews all transfer grades and may recalibrate students’ cumulative GPAs.

I studied abroad while a Columbia College student, are those grades taken into account?

Again, because equity is important, the faculty committee also reviews study abroad transcripts and may recalibrate students’ cumulative GPAs.

I have a disciplinary record, is that taken into account?

Yes. The faculty committee takes very seriously students’ conduct, for it reflects on the integrity of the entire class and school. Students who have disciplinary record, whether or not it is of an academic nature, can expect to be excluded from Phi Beta Kappa.

Do extracurricular activities affect the decision?

Because Phi Beta Kappa is an academic award, selection does not take into account the many campus life undertakings in which students engage in.

Do I have to do a thesis to get honors?

Students are not required to do a thesis in order to be awarded Phi Beta Kappa. However, it is the case that most recipients of PBK have conducted a senior thesis, a senior project, or independent research. This is because such work enables a student to demonstrate the intellectual curiosity and rigor of academic undertaking that PBK seeks to reward.

Can I appeal?

There is no appeal of the decisions made by the Phi Beta Kappa faculty selection committee. Should you believe there to have been a procedural error you may contact Lisa Hollibaugh, Dean of Academic Planning and Administration

Valedictorian and Salutatorian

The Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes reviews the academic records of the most exceptional students nominated by the faculty for Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Selections is based not on GPA alone, but on the breadth, depth, and high quality of academic achievement, departmental recommendations, and outstanding academic work beyond that which is required for the degree.