Being named a valedictorian or salutatorian is a significant achievement. Some students may not fully understand what these titles represent. Every school has its own qualifications, but in general, valedictorians and salutatorians are those individuals who have reached the very highest levels of academic success.
PrepScholar, a standardized testing preparation company, indicates that the valedictorian is the student who graduates with the highest cumulative grade point average of his or her class — the average of every year’s final grades. Grades from advanced placement classes are weighted to account for their rigor and extend extra points toward the GPA. Some schools do not immediately award the title to the highest-ranking student. They may ask students to apply for review and then consider various factors, including grades, level of academic program, essay submission, and even contribution to school and community life.
Certain schools may have one salutatorian, while others may have two or more. The college guidance resource Transizion says the salutatorian is usually the individual ranked second in the graduating class. A salutatorian will deliver the salutation, otherwise known as the opening speech of the graduation ceremony. The valedictorian speaks later in the program.
In addition to valedictorian and salutatorian, students also may become familiar with other terminology, including class rank and “cum laude” recognitions.
Class rank refers to a student’s GPA in relation to other students in the same grade. Class rank may be an actual number, such as ranked 30 out of 900 students, or a percentage like the top 5 percent of the graduating class.
Cum laude is a Latin phrase that means “with praise/honor.” Educational institutions use one of three phrases to signify academic degrees that were awarded with honor. The phrases usually are utilized by colleges and universities. Schools have different criteria that must be met for these honors. Summa cum laude is the highest level of distinction, magna cum laude is next and that is followed by cum laude.
It is a great honor to be named valedictorian or salutatorian, and it is an honor worth celebrating at graduation and beyond.