Updated: September 11, 2023

What is the Dean's List?

Female student holding mini laptop with a Deans List Ribbon foreground and chalkboard background

If you’re planning to go to college, or you’ve just started in college, then you may have heard of the dean’s list. Being on the dean’s list can open up a world of opportunities, and this award is a prestigious honor. Many undergraduate students aren’t sure how to get on the dean’s list or what grades they need to achieve this.

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There are many benefits to being on the dean’s list, but how do you get there? We’ve outlined the key things you need to know to make it onto the exclusive list for academic excellence.

What is the Dean’s List?

The dean's list is an award for students in colleges across the United States to recognize the highest level of academic achievement, based on a student's grade point average (GPA).

Being on the dean’s list can be as a distinction or in the form of an academic award. The dean’s list is considered to be one of the highest forms of academic honor at university level, as the percentage of students who make the list each academic term is often so low.

How is the Dean’s List determined?

Making the dean’s list can seem daunting for many college students who want to boost their academic records and career prospects. However, it comes down to a few factors that, with the right amount of hard work and determination, are possible to achieve.

The dean’s list eligibility is based on the grade point average (GPA) of full-time students. The GPA requirements may differ slightly by school depending on the intake of students, but generally, a 3.5 grade point average is required to make the dean’s list. Online students are also eligible for the dean's list if their semester grade point average meets the requirements.

As a full-time student, you must also complete a specific number of credit hours each semester in order to make the list, based on what your school requires. This is usually at least 12 credit hours. Your academic performance is then compared amongst your peers, meaning you have to achieve more highly than them to make the list. During a competitive semester, this makes the dean’s list a highly desirable honor that only the top students will achieve.

Making a 3.5 GPA requires a lot of hard work and focus, but it is achievable if you have high academic standards for yourself. Staying on the dean's list also requires a high-grade point average throughout enrollment at college.

As a result, many students can feel overwhelmed at the thought of achieving a 3.5 GPA and a certain number of credit hours per semester, and although it requires putting your all into your studies, the benefits of being on the dean’s list will make this hard work worthwhile.

What benefits come with making the Dean’s List?

It goes without saying that when an employer sees the dean’s list honor on your resume, they will be impressed. However, this is not purely due to the reputation of the dean’s list honor. There are other benefits, besides adding it to your resume, that being on the dean’s list offers.

Personal Achievement

Getting on the dean’s list is a difficult task that, if achieved, will undoubtedly feel like an incredible accomplishment. The sense of personal achievement in knowing that you are in the top 1-5% of outstanding students in your faculty will be a proud moment that any hard-working student will want to have.

The reputation of students on the dean’s list is that they are the most intelligent members of their cohort. This kind of recognition can earn you a lot of respect around campus, too, and the names of students on the dean's list are well-known throughout the cohort.

Increased Chance of Networking

Being a part of this exclusive selection of students during your undergraduate degree provides you with a wealth of opportunities, including invitations to special events and other exciting activities that your university offers. This could include talks with top companies or business owners, international trips, and exclusive access to career prospects.

Networking with top companies is a great way to build your connections and potentially be offered job roles. Even if networking doesn’t result in a job offer, it is an excellent way to develop confidence when speaking to potential employers in this way. The dean’s list provides you with these kinds of opportunities that other students aren’t given access to.

Make a Big Impact on Your Resume

Every student wants to boost their career prospects, and being on the dean’s list is a guaranteed way to do this. According to a study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, approximately 30% of undergraduate students in the United States make the Dean's List each year. The percentage of students on the Dean's List are more likely to have academic success in their future careers as a result.

Employers will be able to immediately see that you have worked consistently hard throughout your years in college, and companies will often use GPA, along with the dean’s list award, as a way to narrow down the competition during the job application process.

If you have this recognition on your resume, along with a solid overall application, you’re more likely to be shortlisted for job roles against candidates who weren’t on the dean’s list. The truth is, employers do care about your grades, and being on the dean’s list will make you stand out boldly against your competitors.

Frequently asked questions about the Dean’s List

How do I make the Dean's List?

When you begin your undergraduate degree, you should be prepared to work hard if you want to meet the eligibility requirements for the dean's list. However, there are a few specific things you can do to help you increase your semester grade point average:

Choose your classes wisely

When deciding which classes to take, you need to seriously consider if you will perform highly in them. Choose classes that you're genuinely interested in and which will be motivating for you to study. If you know which career you're interested in post-college, then consider classes in a field of study that are suitable for this.

Manage your time

Time management is a skill all undergraduate students should learn, and you will have to develop this skill quicker if you want to be on the dean's list. You may have extracurriculars that require you to attend several hours a week or additional family commitments. Ensure you block out set times dedicated to studying each week to help improve your grade point average.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Be sure not to put yourself under too much pressure. The dean's list is a difficult honor to achieve and requires a lot of time and effort. Seek support from your professors or counselors if necessary to help you manage your time and give you help where needed. Your university may offer tutoring or resources that you can use to your advantage, too.

How do I know if I make the Dean’s List?

After grades have been posted, typically at the end of the spring semester, then the dean’s list will announce their selection of students. If you have made the list, then you’ll be sent a certificate or emailed a letter that notifies you of the award. Some universities will celebrate students who have made the dean’s list with a special event or ceremony.

Is the Dean’s List a universal program in all colleges and universities?

The dean’s list is a program offered by most colleges and universities in the United States. It is less common in other countries, although some institutions in Europe, Asia, and Australia provide a similar program.

You can check your school’s academic honors information on their website if you aren’t sure, but if you’re studying in the US, it’s likely that your college has a dean’s list program.

Online students are typically eligible for the dean's list at most universities. It is important to note, however, that part-time students are rarely eligible for the dean's list, but remember to check your university's specific requirements.

What is the difference between the Dean’s List and the Honor Roll?

Typically, the requirements to make the Honor Roll at university are lower than that of the Dean’s List. Based on the semester, students who have a GPA between 3.00 and 3.499 will make the Honor Roll. This also includes having no grade below a C, and no incomplete grades. Students with GPAs above 3.5 will make the Dean’s List. This can vary from school to school, however.

The Honor Roll is a similar academic award to the Dean’s List. However, the higher grade requirements of the Dean’s List make it a more prestigious and exclusive award.

Aim High and Change Your Future

College can be a stressful time for many students, but prioritizing your studies goes a long way in determining the course of your future. With hard work, determination, and focus, you could make the dean’s list and boost your career prospects. Aim high and see what you can achieve!