I graduated with honors. Two different ways.
September 25, 2012 7:16 PM   Subscribe

My undergrad degree was with both 'high honors' and 'highest distinction', which are different. How on earth do I put this on my CV?

My transcript says
  • Bachelor of Arts, [date]
  • High honors in [major]
  • Highest distinction in general scholarship
I've never actually seen my diploma, so I don't know what it says.* (It was mailed to my permanent address, i.e. my mother's house, some months after I graduated, but I wasn't living there and I've never thought to find it while visiting.) 'Highest distinction in general scholarship' is, as far as I know, the equivalent of graduating summa cum laude. Getting honors in the major was totally separate (in most majors this meant writing a thesis, but I didn't have to), but still came in three levels and the one you got depended on your GPA within the major.

Right now, my CV says "BA with high honors in [major], [date]", partly because I didn't look at my transcript when I wrote my CV and partly because I figure no one really cares that I got As in the stuff that wasn't my major. Should I mention both forms of honors? How? Will this just create mass confusion among people who expect Latin honors? Does the answer depend on what my diploma actually says?

*I assume all UCs use this system of honors. Anyone got a diploma lying around?
posted by hoyland to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My CV (with a similar situation complicated further by the fact that I got honors in one of my two majors but not the other) says:

B.A. summa cum laude in English (with departmental honors) and Philosophy (2002)

So I think your version would be:

B.A. with highest distinction in general scholarship in MAJOR (with high honors) (20xx)
posted by gerryblog at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Why can't you just use the format you have above?

Bachelor of Arts, [date]
High honors in [major]
Highest distinction in general scholarship

Seems pretty self explanatory to me.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I prefer "B.A. with high honors in Economics (with highest distinction in general scholarship), 2007" or "2007: B.A. with high honors in Economics (with highest distinction in general scholarship)" out of a general wish not to bury the lead.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:46 PM on September 25, 2012

It depends on the job you're applying for. If you're applying for jobs that require expertise in the thing you majored in, make sure to list that you had honors in your major. If you're applying for jobs that just want you to be bright and a quick learner, list the high honors from the university, because people care a lot less that you did well in your major than they do that you did well overall. In other words, the answer to this question depends on what you're trying to show people.

(I have honors. When they're not relevant to the specific jobs I'm applying for, I leave them off my resume. A resume is not a list of every impressive thing you've ever done; it's a list of the things that make you the most appealing candidate for the specific position you're applying for. Be targeted about what you use the space for.)
posted by decathecting at 8:20 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

It doesn't look to me like this is totally consistent across the UC system: UCLA's colleges and schools award Latin honors, while UCBerkeley's colleges and schools usethe Distinctions system. What looks consistent is that it's all about the top percentiles of GPA within schools and colleges. So I'd either go with putting it into the education section, thus:

BA (Highest Distinction in the [$COLLEGE]), Major: [$MAJOR] (High Honors), UC[$CAMPUS], 2012

or I'd just say that I graduated from the Honors program in $MAJOR at $CAMPUS and put the details into the Honors and Awards section and spell out what they mean:

Highest Distinction in General Scholarship (top 3 percent of GPA for the [$COLLEGE] at [$CAMPUS])
High Honors in Major (top 3/10/20 percent of GPA for the [$MAJOR])

Depends on whether you're building an academic CV or a professional resume.
posted by gingerest at 8:48 PM on September 25, 2012

Hi there. I think you were asking what a U.C. (University of California, right?) diploma with these titles looks like.

FWIW, I have U.C. B.A. from May 2008.

At the bottom, under the seal it reads:

Highest Distinction in General Scholarship
posted by Temeraria at 9:44 PM on September 25, 2012

Don't make too much of this. No one really cares.

Summa Cum Laude is fine or Highest Distinction. Go with one and DON'T mention it in any interviews, lest someone hand you a towel to dry behind your ears.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:03 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, what Ruthless Bunny said. The amount that this matters is really really minimal.

In answer to your questions:

Yes, include both both if there's space

No, it doesn't matter what your diploma actually says, define your wording with what's most easily understood. I'd totally be willing to change the college's language into something that's most easily readable [for example, my undergrad does its diplomas in latin, and technically I have an AB (Artus Baccaloritus or some such) instead of a BA (Bachelor of Arts) because the Latin words reverse but no way would I ever try to put that on a resume, because it looks like either (a) an associate's degree or (b) I'm a stuck-up prig, depending on the background of the person who's reading the resume] There's a chance someone will read your resume who went to your school and received comparable honors and remembers what that words were and actually reads closely enough to notice and thinks your choice to standardize the language is odd - in which case you say "wow, what a relief to run into somebody who doesn't need our school's words translated into standard language! If only I'd known it would be you!"

No, it won't create "mass confusion" if you don't use the Latin - but personally, I'd go Latin anyway (though I don't think it matters). "summa" is easily recognized as being a grade-based recognition that is given to a few students at the very top of their class; while "highest distinction" can't really mean anything else but that, if you stop and think about it, nobody is going to stop and think about your resume. (sorry if that's bad news) Or, maybe Latin/English are equally clear. I don't read many resumes.

How = Write it as gerryblog says, and it'll look nice.
Or clarify the multiple prepositional phrases by adding a comma
B.A. with highest distinction in general scholarship, in MAJOR (with high honors) (20xx)
Or shorten and say (comma optional)
B.A. with highest distinction, in MAJOR (with high departmental honors) (20xx)
B.A. summa cum laude in MAJOR (with high departmental honors) (20xx)

To my eye, adding "departmental" clarifies the difference between the two (distinction/honors) more than adding "general scholarship", and has the bonus of being shorter.
And if for some reason that messes up your fonts or line formatting or white space, start ditching stuff, and don't worry about it. "(with high departmental honors)" --> "(departmental honors)" or "(with honors)" or nothing at all.
posted by aimedwander at 6:40 AM on September 26, 2012

I disagree with the above posters. This stuff totally matters. Degree and major honors are high-value / high-impact resume credentials esp. from public universities which are less prone to grade and honors inflation (positive) and at the same time misstatements concerning them can be quickly ascertained (they are public information) and can lead to punitive results (like being fired or suffering discipline from a professional licensing body).

OP, correct your CV to read:

University of X at Y, A.B. 200x with Highest Distinction, [Subject] Major (with High Departmental Honors).

Do not write summa cum laude because unless your school confers Latin Honors you don't have them -- which is annoying.

Do include GPA-based honors societies to which you were elected if the people reading your resume likely would know what they are (Phi Beta Kappa no matter what, other societies that are well known in your industry or specialty). Don't include "honors" societies with no or effectively no exclusive admission criteria -- waste of space.
posted by MattD at 8:40 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The format you've used in your question seems appropriate. But, regardless of how you phrase it, be prepared to have to answer questions. A friend of mine has a Bachelor of Science with a specialization in X. He has actually had HR managers tell him, "You mean 'with a major in X,'" which, no, he doesn't; a specialization and a major are not the same thing. Eventually, he just stopped listing his specialization because most hiring managers didn't seem to care and those who bothered to comment were usually confused by it.
posted by asnider at 9:19 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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