Do Colleges Have Valedictorians?

Do Colleges Have Valedictorians?

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Being valedictorian is an honor many young students seek, especially those still in high school. However, after leaving that phase and heading for college, is that title still an elusive achievement many would burn the midnight lamp for? 

In general, colleges do not have valedictorians. Instead, special awards like cum laude and most outstanding students are granted. This is to combat the unhealthy competition and pressure that affects many students. However, there are still a few institutions that bestow the honor.

Keep reading this article to know more about what and how awards are granted in college and whether they are relevant for employment. 

What Is A Valedictorian? 

In countries like the United States and the Philippines, academic achievers are recognized with formal titles like valedictorian, salutatorian, and honor roll graduates. The distinction is often based on the grade point average (GPA).

The valedictorian is usually the student who was able to have the highest final cumulative GPA. These individuals are often given the honor of delivering the graduation speech. However, valedictorians may also be chosen based on other merits, as decided by a graduation committee.

Valedictorians are more frequent in high schools than they are in colleges. However, more schools are starting to scrap such honorifics, preferring to endow a more inclusive awarding system that recognizes all outstanding students without highlighting a particular student. 

Why Do Colleges Not Have Valedictorians?

It is hard to single out one person who is the best of all in a class composed of hundreds, even thousands of students. Academic achievements and GPA are not enough criteria for selection as individuals who excel in multiple areas may also be worthy of the title. 

Also, the existence of an exclusive award has perpetuated fierce and unhealthy competition within academia. Many students sacrifice adequate rest and nutrition to keep their track record stellar. Most suffer from breakdowns as their mental health is neglected in pursuit of ‘excellence.’ 

Most valedictorian announcements are riddled with controversies, with the decisions being challenged by parents, as what happened with the 2021 top students of a Mississippi high school. Even worse, some students cling to desperate tactics to maintain their rank. Some would cheat to avoid getting poor grades. Others would even go as far as harming competitors, as was the case of mercury poisoning in a Filipino high school last 2006. 

Making the valedictorian title obsolete allows recognition for more deserving students. They also hope to lessen pressure and competition by having more inclusive awards. This reduces the unhealthy burden that negatively impacts students and lets them focus on other opportunities beyond academics. 

By setting GPA ranges or thresholds instead of slots for awards, we can ensure that all outstanding students get acknowledged. Often, the point differences between honor students are very minimal – one point, two points, even half a point. These minor differences had kept many from getting into the top ten or top three students, even when, relatively, they performed just as well. 

What Colleges Have Valedictorians?

Despite more institutions moving towards removing the valedictorian title, institutions still implement it. However, unlike the usual lone awardee, some colleges can have multiple valedictorians. 

The Class 2021 of Roanoke College in Virginia had a total of four valedictorians. This is a record for the said institution as its previous two batches only had three awardees each. 

Meanwhile, the top 2 students of John Jay College of Criminal Justice earn the valedictorian and salutatorian titles. If these students have the same number of credits and GPA earned, they may become co-valedictorians. If there are more than three candidates, a committee will select them. 

On the other hand, ABM College opens the valedictorian title for application to all students, so long as they meet the requirements. Instructors may also recommend students. To determine the valedictorian, the committee will choose three finalists to present a speech. The winner will then be notified of the decision. 

What Awards Are Given To College Graduates?

What awards are given if there are no valedictorians or salutatorians in colleges? 

A typical system used is the Latin honors system. Depending on their GPA, students are awarded cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude honors. Colleges also recognize honors students, the best research/thesis, leadership awardees, outstanding students, and other unique awards. 

For the University of Scranton, graduates with a GPA of 3.85 and above earn the summa cum laude title or with the highest honors. Those with a GPA of 3.65 and above but less than 3.85 are awarded magna cum laude graduates. Cum laude awardees are those who do not qualify for summa or magna cum laude but have a GPA of at least 3.50. 

In the Philippines, it is common to award students with the best thesis papers since it is a graduation requirement. For the University of the Philippines, the Leticia Shahani Award is bestowed upon the student with outstanding research in molecular biology and biotechnology. Besides the thesis awards, most exceptional students within the college are also recognized. 

Is Graduating With Honors Easy? 

Finishing college is not an easy feat, more so with flying colors. Many honor students have shared that the burden of being an academic achiever has taken so much toll upon them during their college years. It takes extraordinary grit and effort to meet the threshold. 

Maria Pascucci, a life coach and writer, shared that her journey to becoming a summa cum laude was an arduous experience that led to her breaking down during the last finals exams of her college life. Instead of the expected satisfaction and pride as her diploma was being handed to her, all she could think was how she had pushed herself to her breaking point just for a title that could not have mattered less to future employers. 

Striking a balance between being an academic achiever and living life is a challenge many college students have trouble with. There is often a stereotype that honor students, especially valedictorians, are nerds with no social life and no sleep to maintain straight As or a 4.0 GPA. Many have felt that staying the best (academically) among peers has kept them from exploring other interests and opportunities. 

But does your sanity always have to be the trade-off for excellence? Not really, especially if you follow these tips. 

Tips To Graduate College With Honors

Here are some tips you can think of and follow as you walk down your college road:

1. Know your priorities and limits. 

Get to know yourself more before you burn yourself out for your exams and courses. Is being an honor student your ultimate goal for college? Are there other things you would rather do? Are there things you would not want to do? 

Often, many kill themselves studying for fear of letting down others’ expectations. Doing things solely for others and not for yourself can lead to feeling unmotivated for the long term. Not knowing your limits can also lead you to surpass them unwittingly, and you will break down and feel lost before you know it. 

By knowing your priorities and limits, you can guide yourself better towards your dreams. There will be fewer moments of doubt. 

2. Manage your time well. 

Your schedule can feel congested and overwhelming when not managed well. Time management is one of the essential skills to earn while in college. It helps you get through your classes while having time to enjoy life. 

Set a schedule and prioritize the most important tasks. It takes discipline to stick to it, but it becomes a habit after a while.

3. Stay committed, but be kind to yourself. 

Most dedicated students forget to give themselves a break, resulting in physical and mental meltdowns. Commitment is essential to becoming an honors student, but taking care of oneself is crucial to achieving your goals. Reward yourself every time you finish a big project or get a high score. Life is not all about hustling and grinding. 

Do College Awards Give You An Edge?

Most wonder how advantageous Latin honors and other awards are in practical life, such as employment.

According to most graduates, college awards are not as advantageous in employment as presumed. Many employers value experience, like internships, over academic merit. However, it can help you stand out among entry-level candidates and get better opportunities. 

A combination of awards and experience is optimal if you want to be distinct among peers. As such, allow yourself to explore beyond academics, especially when it’s relevant to your target field. 

Final Thoughts

Colleges may not have valedictorians, but that does not mean you should stop aiming for the best. There are still awards, like Latin honors, granted to exceptional students, which may help boost your career during your entry-level employment years. 

However, make sure to prioritize your wellbeing and avoid straining too much just to be among the best. Try a hand at other opportunities that come your way, as they may also be helpful in the long run.