Because the Brown curriculum has traditionally placed greater weight on the act of learning than on external marks of success, the University grants only one honor at commencement: magna cum laude. Brown's Faculty Rules stipulate that this distinction should be awarded to no more than 20% of the graduating class each year.
Note that Brown does not calculate a grade point average nor a class rank. Instead, magna cum laude is determined based on the percentage of ‘A’ grades and marks of ‘S with distinction’ that a student receives in courses taken at Brown. The “distinction” mark does not appear on a student’s internal academic record or official transcript; however, it is taken into account when determining the recipients of magna cum laude each year.
The website of the University Registrar contains more information about computing Honors at graduation.
Honors in the Concentration
Eligible students may pursue Honors in their respective concentration. Students usually apply for Honors in the junior year, although deadlines and requirements vary by concentration. Admission into Honors is usually based on grades (although use of a grade point average is not permitted) and an Honors thesis proposal that has been approved by at least one faculty member serving in the role of thesis advisor. Concentration Honors are awarded to students whose theses meet the criteria established by the academic program or department. Academic units are encouraged to review the College Curriculum Council's best practices and the guidelines for the consideration of grades in determining Honors eligibility.
A student's concentration only appears on the diploma if the student has earned Honors in the concentration. As such, the most important deadline is the date by which academic departments must submit the names of their Honors Candidates to the Registrar's Office for approval by the Faculty and for printing on students' diplomas in time for the University Commencement, where diplomas are conferred. This deadline is published in the Academic Calendar. Each concentration's deadlines for preliminary and final drafts of student theses must allow for departmental review and the timely submission of the names of Honors' candidates by the deadline set in the Academic Calendar.
In 2020-21, the University has instituted a three-term academic calendar in order to allow for a de-densified campus. As such, University Commencement, as well as the corresponding deadline for academic programs and departments, is earlier than in typical years. In this context, academic programs and departments are advised to consider how their review processes and timelines might be adapted in order to provide students with as much flexibility as possible.
Concentrations typically establish deadlines for students completing degree requirements in December ("midyear completers," often referred to colloquially as ".5ers") that are distinct from those for students completing in May -- this is also a best practice. Because undergraduate degrees are conferred only once annually -- each May -- academic programs and departments are held to a single deadline for reporting their Honors' candidates, typically a few weeks prior to Commencement. Each year, academic programs and departments are expected to provide the names of Honors candidates who completed degree requirements in the summer, fall, and spring semester by the published deadline prior to May Commencement. More information about midyear completers is available on this website.