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    What Is the Dean’s List in College?

    By Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 6th, 2024
    What Is the Dean’s List in College?

    What is the dean’s list? Most people know that it’s a prestigious award, but they don’t always know why that is so or how you get it. Well, the dean’s list is more than just an award and we promise you, you can achieve it. So, keep reading to find out how to make the dean’s list and all of its benefits!

    What is the dean’s list?

    The Dean’s list is an award bestowed on undergraduate college students who demonstrate academic excellence through their grade point average (GPA) for the semester. While most colleges and universities have a dean’s list, the requirements to make the dean’s list may vary. A student typically needs to be enrolled full-time as an undergraduate student. Because this award is based on GPA, only classes where you receive a grade count. Pass/fail courses do not count towards a student’s GPA or this award. 

    How to get on the dean’s list

    In order to make the dean’s list, you do not have to do anything special (aside from earn stellar grades!). Every college sets its own rules regarding the GPA requirements. Some schools confer this award to the top twenty percent of students, while others may give it to the top ten percent. GPA requirements may vary as well, ranging anywhere from 3.5-3.8.  

    Your college or university will have your GPA on file and let you know whether you rank in the top percentage of students. Because many students achieve high GPAs in college, requirements can sometimes change regarding the dean’s list. While your GPA may be good enough for one semester, it is possible for it to change and for you to not qualify the next semester. 

    If you are interested in finding out what your college’s requirements are, they can typically be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website of your college or university.  

    Benefits of being on the dean’s list

    Being on the dean’s list is a great way to show how hard you’ve been working in college! It makes a great addition to professional and academic resumes, which can be very beneficial when applying to internships and graduate programs. Making the dean’s list is a great goal to set for yourself. If you don’t make it on your first try, that’s okay. Your GPA can change every semester, which means you can always improve. 

    Being on the dean’s list may also make you eligible for certain scholarships that may have more strict academic requirements, such as being on the dean’s list.

    Tips for making the dean’s list

    This is a common scenario: It’s your first semester of college. Your classes are mostly general education courses that you find are fairly easy. You make the dean’s list without even thinking about it. However, the next semester, you’re taking classes with labs and topics you’ve never heard of before. You find yourself working as hard as you can and not even coming close to making your goal GPA. What happened? 

    The situation above may be one that you are familiar with. It might be obvious what happened. You started taking harder courses, and they got on top of you. But, what if it didn’t have to happen that way? What if there were ways you could go about each semester that would help put you on track for making the dean’s list? Below are some tips for how you can do just that!

    Choosing your classes

    The dean’s list is all about personal achievement, which means the biggest obstacle to getting on it is you! This award is GPA based. So, how you perform in classes is going to be the biggest determinate for if you make it or not. Which means when you pick out classes, you need to know what you’re picking and have an honest conversation with yourself about how you think those classes are going to go. This doesn’t mean that you should pick only easy classes, but simply that if you have a semester you know is going to be difficult, you can prepare yourself for the extra load. 

    Seek support when needed

    Once you know your schedule, you should plan out what classes are going to need more time than others. If there are particular classes that you think you will need additional help with, familiarize yourself with the resources your college offers. Is there tutoring at the library you can attend? Does your professor have office hours that you are able to attend? 

    Proper time management

    Finally, consider how outside stressors might affect your academics. Sometimes students forget that they are more than just students. You might have a job as an RA, a family nearby that you have to help take care of, or be involved in a local organization giving away 5-10 hours of your time each week. Whatever the case is, there are things beyond academics that will affect your GPA. 

    Don’t miss: How to choose a major

    Remember, you are not a number!

    At the end of the day, while this achievement is something to be proud of, remind yourself that this award doesn’t define you. Sometimes you work your hardest and take advantage of additional resources, but you do not receive the results you hoped for. You should still be satisfied with the effort you put forth when you know you did your best. While recognition feels great, that recognition doesn’t have to come from a list. You did your best, and for that, you should be proud (we know we are!).

    Also see: How to save money in college

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • The dean’s list is a great goal to strive for each semester that you are in college
    • Some semesters may be more challenging than others in regards to the courses you are enrolled in, which means your GPA may be lower during some semesters than others 
    • Consider other factors that might affect your GPA as well, such as jobs, family obligations and other time consuming commitments
    • Remember at the end of the day that your college experience is what you make it, so try your best, but also don’t beat yourself up if you do not make the dean’s list every semester

    Frequently asked questions about the dean’s list

    What if I don’t make the dean's list one semester?

    Making the dean’s list is based on your GPA. Your GPA is recalculated at the end of each semester when your final grades are submitted by professors. Because of this, there may be some semesters where you don’t make it, but that’s okay! You can always try again next semester!

    What if I have a high enough GPA, but I’m still not put on the dean’s list?

    You may find that your GPA was high enough one semester, but you didn’t make the dean’s list. Occasionally, colleges will alter their requirements. If your class is particularly competitive, you may find that the GPA requirement jumps from 3.5 to 3.7. This is because, while making the dean’s list is based on your performance, it’s also based on your classmates’ performance. During a semester where everyone achieved high marks, it will be more difficult to gain a spot on that list.

    How do I know if I made the Dean’s list?

    Most colleges will email the students who have made it on the dean’s list directly. If you are unsure if you made it, the list of students who achieve this award are typically compiled into a document which is made public to all students. If you plan to use this achievement on a resume, it’s always good to download a copy of the official list or flag the email you receive. Most people will not doubt that you have achieved this award, but it’s a good thing to have.

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