What Is the Dean’s List and How Can You Get on It?

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  • A top percentage of students who finish the term with a high GPA earn a spot on the dean's list.
  • The dean's list is for full-time undergrads, but eligibility will vary by school.
  • Having the award on your transcript will appeal to grad school admissions and employers.
  • Universities also offer academic awards like the president's list and chancellor's list.

Earning a spot on the dean's list at your college is one the highest levels of recognition for scholarly achievement. Every term, the highest-ranked students based on GPA receive this award.

Each institution has slightly different qualifications for the dean's list, as well as different frequencies. Some schools issue a dean's list quarterly, while others may only release a list annually. Making the dean's list is a significant accomplishment that students should be proud of and can display on their resumes.

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What Is the Dean's List?

The dean's list is a scholarly award for students who demonstrate academic excellence. The award is based on GPA, though specific qualifications for making the dean's list will vary by university and can change each semester.

The dean's list is a comparative award at many universities, awarded to the top percentage of students rather than everyone who earns a certain GPA. During a particularly competitive semester, where many students earn high grades, the GPA you need to qualify for the award may be higher.

The dean's list gets released each semester or quarter after final grades have been posted. Some schools also have an annual dean's list that combines your GPA for the entire year.

How to Make the Dean's List

Dean's list requirements will vary by school and can change each award cycle. The award is given to a top percentile of students, like the top 10% or 25%. The exact dean's list GPA requirements will depend on each particular pool of students, but is usually at least a 3.5 GPA.

To be eligible, you'll also need to be a full-time student taking a minimum number of credits (often around 12 credits). Some schools, particularly community colleges, will include part-time students in the dean's list.

Classes graded with pass/fail or S/U don't count toward the GPA calculation. Additionally, you will lose eligibility for the award if you have any incompletes, no shows, or late grades — even if you earned the qualifying GPA.

Sometimes the qualifications will be different depending on your degree program. For example, at the University of Connecticut you need a 3.88 GPA if you're in engineering, but a 4.0 GPA if you're in the social work program.

How Can Making the Dean's List Benefit You?

Earning a spot on the dean's list offers the same benefits that any prestigious recognition of academic excellence does: personal achievement and a gold star on your resume.

Making the dean's list is an excellent way to commemorate your hard work during the semester and have evidence that you were academically ranked in the top percentage of students at the university.

Having the award on your transcript could impress graduate schools. The dean's list recognition can also be great to add to your professional resume, website, or LinkedIn profile. Employers may recognize the award and value the dedication, focus, and hard work it takes to make the dean's list.

What Other Academic Awards Can You Earn in College?

The dean's list isn't the only award college students can win for academic performance. Other common awards that universally distinguish academic excellence include the honors list, the president's list, and the chancellor's list. The availability of these awards and the qualifications for making each list will vary by university.

  • The Honors List

    The honors list is similar to the dean's list but with a lower GPA qualification. For example, a school might award students with a GPA between 3.7 and 4.0 a spot on the dean's list while students with a GPA between 3.3 and 3.6 would make the honors list.

  • The President's List

    The president's list is an award for undergraduates who achieve a 4.0 GPA. Unlike the dean's list, part-time students are eligible for the president's list. The award is issued each semester.

  • The Chancellor's List

    The chancellor's list is less common, but at universities that have this award, it will rank higher than the dean's list. Students who earn a 3.8 or higher may earn the chancellor's list award, while students who earn a 3.5 or higher may get on the dean's list.

We recommend reaching out to an academic advisor or checking your school's website for varying award cycles and specific eligibility requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Dean's List

Can graduate students make the dean's list?

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No, only undergraduate students can make the dean's list. Some universities have an additional graduate dean's list for graduate students who demonstrate academic excellence.

Do online students qualify for the dean's list?

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Yes, online students are eligible for the dean's list at most universities. Online students will still have to meet the same qualifications regarding GPA and credit load.

Do you have to apply to be considered for the dean's list?

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No, universities automatically compile the list and distribute awards. The dean's list is based on student GPAs once final grades for the term have been submitted.

When is the dean's list announced?

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The dean's list is usually announced after all grades have been finalized and posted for the semester or quarter. You should then receive a certificate and letter emailed to your student account notifying you of the award. Some universities hold ceremonies or small events for those who make the dean's list.

Feature Image: Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images News / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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