The Founder's Medal, signifying first honors, was endowed by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt as one of his gifts to the University. The recipient is named by the dean after consideration of faculty recommendations and overall academic achievements, as well as grade point averages of the year's highest ranking graduates.
Honors noted on diplomas and published in the Commencement Program are earned as follows:
- Summa Cum Laude. Students whose grade point average equals or exceeds that of the top 5 percent of the previous year's Vanderbilt graduating seniors.
- Magna Cum Laude. Students whose grade point average equals or exceeds that of the next 8 percent of the previous year's Vanderbilt graduating seniors.
- Cum Laude. Students whose grade point average equals or exceeds that of the next 12 percent of the previous year's Vanderbilt graduating seniors.
For students graduating Summer 2016, Fall 2016, and Spring 2017, those who earn grade point averages of 3.732 or higher will graduate cum laude; 3.837 or higher, magna cum laude; 3.924 or higher, summa cum laude.
College Scholars Program
Entering freshmen with outstanding academic records and freshmen who achieve academic distinction during their first semester at Vanderbilt are invited to participate in the College Scholars program. These students have the exclusive opportunity to pursue advanced scholarly work in honors seminars and enriched courses or independent-studies projects.
College Scholars may earn the designation "Honors in the College of Arts and Science" on their diplomas through the accumulation of fifteen "honors points." Students earn points by achieving the grade B or better in approved courses and projects. A maximum of thirteen of these honors points may be earned in honors seminars. Honors seminars in the humanities, natural sciences, and the social sciences serve toward satisfaction of AXLE requirements in these areas.
College Scholars are not required—although many will choose—to earn Honors in the College of Arts and Science; all, however, may enroll in as many honors seminars as they want. To remain in good standing in the program, students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.000. Further information on the College Scholars program and Honors in the College of Arts and Science may be obtained from the Office of the Dean.
To encourage individual development and independent study in a special field of interest, many departments offer honors programs for selected, superior candidates. Students normally begin departmental honors work in the junior year, but exceptions may be made in the case of outstanding seniors. To qualify for consideration, students must have (a) attained a minimum grade point average of 3.000 in all work previously taken for credit and in the program of concentration, and (b) exhibited to the department(s) concerned such other evidence as may be required to indicate a capacity for independent study. Some departments require higher grade point averages in the major. Formal admission is by the Office of the Dean after election by the department(s) concerned, with the approval of the director of honors study, who supervises the program with the aid of the Committee on the Honors Program.
The Dean's List recognizes outstanding academic performance in a semester. Students are named to the Dean's List when they earn a grade point average of at least 3.500 while carrying 12 or more graded hours, not receive a grade of F, and not have any temporary or missing grades.
Phi Beta Kappa
The Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in the state of Tennessee honors scholarly attainments in the liberal arts and sciences and annually elects seniors and juniors to membership during the spring semester.
Seniors who have completed at least 60 semester hours in the College of Arts and Science and earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.65 or higher are eligible for consideration, as are juniors who have completed at least 70 semester hours at Vanderbilt with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.90. Juniors must have completed most AXLE requirements by the end of their junior year.
Attainment of the minimum required grade point average does not guarantee election. Membership in Phi Beta Kappa is based on a demonstration of scholarly achievements, broad cultural interests, and high moral character. The breadth of a candidate's program, as shown by the number and variety of courses taken outside the major, is also considered.
Phi Beta Kappa has long emphasized the importance of mathematics and foreign language study. Proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking a foreign language is typically demonstrated by passing a course in a language at a level at least one semester beyond the AXLE requirements. Mathematics proficiency may be demonstrated by taking at least one semester of calculus and a second mathematics, statistics, or formal logic course which has calculus as a prerequisite. The mathematics and foreign language requirements may be satisfied via test scores.
In no event may the total number of persons elected from any senior class exceed 10 percent of the class, and from any junior class exceed six persons. Eligible juniors who are not elected are reconsidered for membership in their senior year.
Refer to the chapter Web site www.vanderbilt.edu/pbk for additional information.
Honor Societies for Freshmen
Freshmen who earn a grade point average of 3.500 or better for their first semester are eligible for membership in the Vanderbilt chapters of Phi Eta Sigma and Alpha Lambda Delta.