Though cross-enrollment and intercollegiate departments are common at the 5Cs, the schools’ academic practices and philosophies differ in many respects. Dean’s List honors—or similar distinctions—are granted at every college except Pitzer, but the logistics of the awards and the competition surrounding them vary from campus to campus.
To qualify for Claremont McKenna’s Dean’s List, students must have a grade point average in the top 15 percent of all students at the college. They must take and pass at least four classes each semester. Unlike several of the other colleges, CMC awards this honor yearly, instead of each semester.
“I think that, because it’s by year, people aren’t as competitive about it,” said Nina Walker CM ’13. “Everyone’s on summer break when it comes out, and I haven’t seen it published anywhere.”
At Scripps, however, students are typically more conscious of the award, said Alexa Kopelman SC ’13.
“It’s posted near the admissions office and online,” she said. “You need to be taking four classes, so I’ve heard of people basing how many credits they’re taking off of that, so they can be on the list.”
Scripps students must have an A average to qualify for the semesterly award. In spring 2010, 58 of the 232 graduating seniors—the top 25 percent of the class—received the honor.
Among the five colleges, there is debate about whether a Dean’s List award creates unnecessary competition and feelings of inadequacy, or whether it inspires and rewards academic excellence.
Harvey Mudd’s Dean of Students Guy Gerbick said he believes such a distinction can boost a student’s self-esteem.
“I think [the Dean’s List] is a good idea, because at Harvey Mudd there’s a real cultural feeling on campus that all students are the same, and that you’re not going to do well here—that you were in the top of your class in high school but now you’ll be mediocre,” he said. “It can be intimidating or demoralizing when everyone’s outstanding. We need to do more celebration of the fact that students are outstanding and doing well.”
At HMC, Dean’s List honors are awarded to students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. To qualify, students must take at least 15 credit units.
According to Gerbick, an HMC student who takes less than 15 credits each semester due to a learning disability recently approached the administration, frustrated that he was not eligible for the distinction.
“We’re still discussing the issue,” Gerbick said. “But he does have a point.”
Pitzer is the only Claremont College that forgoes such academic honors entirely.
Lily Lousada PZ ’14 said she believes academic ranking goes against Pitzer’s philosophy.
A dean’s list “can be a positive influence, and can inspire higher academic standards,” Lousada said. “But generally Pitzer recognizes that education is for oneself. It’s not something for outside judgment.”
“It deosn’t really matter how other people are doing,” said Lara Hughes PZ ’11. “Your GPA is your GPA, and if you have a high one, you’ll graduate cum laude anyway.”
The Pomona College Scholars honor is awarded each semester but, unlike the Dean’s Lists at some of the other schools, is not included on a student’s official transcript.
“The practice of not reflecting the honor on the official transcript goes back very far, and the origin just may have been a sense that grades should stand on their own, that we don’t put extra ‘stars’ on the transcript, so to speak,” said Registrar Margaret Adorno.
She explained that the title of the honor is long-standing as well.
“Probably when the honor was adopted there was a desire to use a term that emphasized what the honor stands for—scholarship—rather than something less expressive,” she said.
To be eligible for the award, a Pomona student must be in the top 25 percent of his or her class. In spring 2010, the cut-off for the senior class was a grade point average of 11.7, and for the first-year class, 11.4.