Requirements for Honors Degrees

All degree candidates must satisfy the requirements of an approved field of concentration and meet all other degree requirements. 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 twenty-four letter-graded half-courses (prorated appropriately for students graduating with fewer than sixteen full courses 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), as described in “Grade Point Averages” (see above).

An undergraduate who completes the requirements for honors eligibility in his or her field of concentration may be recommended by the concentration for the degree with Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors in the field. It is possible that a student in an honors program will have his or her record judged unworthy of honors in the field but 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. Both the degree recommendation of the student’s concentration as well as the final honors awarded by the Faculty (if any) are noted on the official transcript.

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

Summa Cum Laude in a Field: The candidate must be recommended for Highest Honors by a school, department, or special committee appointed by the Faculty for this purpose. Highest Honors recommendations are serious matters requiring the collective consideration of the faculty affiliated with the concentration. In making these decisions, consideration is given not only to the candidate’s grades in concentration courses, but also to the level and rigor of those courses, and to other indicators of the candidate’s mastery of the field, such as performance on a substantial piece of independent work or on a written or oral general examination.

The candidate’s total record must demonstrate outstanding work across a range of fields. In making judgments about outstanding work across a range of fields, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will consider such evidence as a very high grade point average, outstanding performance across various components of non-concentration requirements, and outstanding performance in upper-level courses not directly related to the concentration. Ordinarily, the Faculty has expected to see A or A– work in any two half-courses in each of the broad curricular areas (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences). Historically, the Faculty has recommended between 4 percent and 5 percent of May degree candidates for the degree summa cum laude. 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 recommended to the Faculty for High Honors or Highest Honors by a school, department, or special committee appointed by the Faculty for this purpose. For May degrees, the Faculty will recommend those students with the highest grade point averages who have not already been recommended for the degree summa cum laude, so that the total number of degrees summa cum laude and magna cum laude sum to 20 percent of all May degree candidates. 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 recommended to the Faculty for Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors by a school, department, or special committee appointed by the Faculty for this purpose. For May degrees, the Faculty will recommend those students with the highest grade point averages who have not already been awarded the degree summa cum laude or magna cum laude, so that 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 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:
A candidate not recommended for honors in a concentration or joint 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.