Academic Honors

College (Latin) Honors

The Bachelor of Arts degree will be awarded with honors in three categories (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) to the top 25 percent of the graduating class. Honors are determined by an undergraduate student's cumulative GPA for all work at Columbia, with the top 5 percent of the graduating class being awarded summa cum laude, the next 10 percent being awarded magna cum laude, and the remaining 10 percent awarded cum laude

Since each student's cumulative GPA must include the results of the final semester's coursework, Latin Honors awards will be determined approximately two weeks after the end of the Spring term (the end of the term being the Friday at the end of the Spring term final exam period), in order to allow all final grades for graduating seniors to be reported. This means that Latin Honors awards will be announced after graduation exercises have taken place. Students who have earned Latin Honors will be notified through an email from the Dean of the College.

College honors are the highest academic recognition awarded by the College. There is no separate consideration of honors for October or February graduates.  The honor is officially noted on the diploma and transcript of students who have graduated. October and February graduates may ask the Registrar to add an honors notation to an already issued diploma.

College (Latin) Honors FAQs

Have a question about Latin Honors? See below for additional information about the selection process.

What is the GPA cut-off for College Honors?

Latin Honors are awarded to the top 25% of the graduating class in any given year.  There is no predetermined numerical GPA cutoff. 

Do my senior grades matter?

Yes, your senior grades matter greatly! All of your grades, including those from your senior year, will be included in the cumulative GPA calculation that will be used to determine Latin Honors. 

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

Students who receive Latin Honors will be informed following graduation. The honor is noted on the diploma and transcript, but will not be announced before graduation because students' final semester grades are included in the GPA calculation. 

I transferred from another school. Are those grades taken into account?

Your cumulative GPA includes Columbia courses. Grades that you received at another institution are not included in your cumulative GPA.

I studied abroad while enrolled at Columbia College. Are those grades taken into account?

If you attended a Columbia-led study-abroad program, the courses and grades appear on your academic transcript and are included in the calculation of your GPA. If you attended a program at another institution that is approved by Columbia for credit, the grades for courses in those program are not factored into your Columbia GPA.

I have a disciplinary record. Is that taken into account?

Yes. Disciplinary records are taken into account when College Honors are awarded, and it is likely that a student wo has a record of violating academic and community standards will not receive College Honors.

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

College Honors are determined in late May of each year. The list of eligible students includes those students who graduated in the previous October and February, and those students who graduate in May. Honors are announced in late May. For Spring graduates, the honor will be noted on the diploma and transcript; October and February graduates may ask the Registrar to add an honors notation to an already issued diploma.

Do I have to do a thesis to get honors?

Students are not required to do a thesis in order to earn honors. 

Can I appeal?

There is no appeal process for College (Latin) Honors. Should you believe there to have been a procedural error, you may contact Ariella Lang, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

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 credit taken for letter grades (i.e., not including courses passed with a grade of "P") in the preceding term are placed on the Dean’s List for that term.

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, W (or UW pre-Spring 2014) during the term are not eligible for consideration.  In any given semester, the mark of YC (year course) precludes the attainment of Dean's List status until the grade for the entire year's coursework is awarded. Students who receive the grade of IN (incomplete), approved in advance by the Committee on Academic Standing, are eligible for Dean’s List only after all IN grades are changed to letter grades. Students who have been found responsible by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards for a violation of academic integrity will not be eligible for the Dean’s List during the term of the sanction.

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 courses in the major is expected for a student to be considered for Departmental Honors.
  3. An honors thesis or equivalent project of high quality may 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. 2 percent is elected in November, and the other 8 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. Below is a selection of questions typically asked regarding the selection process for Phi Beta Kappa:

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 receive Phi Beta Kappa. This determination will take into account a number of factors, only one of which is GPA.

Do my senior grades matter?

Yes, your senior grades matter. 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.

I meet all of the criteria listed in the Bulletin, but I wasn't awarded PBK. Why?

Only 10% of graduating seniors can receive Phi Beta Kappa, and thus it is always the case that not all students who meet the criteria will receive this honor. The faculty selection committee takes great care to fully assess the transcripts and faculty recommendations of all eligible students, and selects those they believe to be particularly compelling candidates.  All Columbia College students work extremely hard throughout their four years, and not being selected for induction in no way undermines the intellectual commitment and curiosity that a student has demonstrated while in the College.

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 Ariella Lang, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

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. Selection is based not on GPA alone, but on the breadth, depth, and high quality of academic achievement, faculty recommendations, and outstanding academic work beyond that which is required for the degree.