Graduation & Academic Honors

Graduation Requirements

A student is graduated upon successful completion of the curriculum as outlined in this handbook.  A student must have 40.5 course units (class of 2025 and prior) or 39 course units (class of 2026 and beyond) of earned, transferred, or challenged credit. Twenty course units must be earned at the University of Pennsylvania. If a required course is failed (F), it must be re-taken for a passing grade. All Incompletes (I), No Reports (NR), and No Grade Records (GR) must be completed or cleared by graduation day, or the student’s name will be removed from that term’s graduation list. A cumulative GPA of 2.0 is required, and all University financial balances must be paid in full.

Students who have completed a minimum of 20 course units at the University are eligible for honors at graduation.  Graduation honors are noted on both the student’s transcript and diploma.  Graduation honors are as follows:

Cum Laude                          GPA of 3.40 or above

Magna Cum Laude            GPA of 3.60 or above

Summa Cum Laude           GPA of 3.80 or above

A student who has received a sanction of probation or greater for a violation of the Code of Academic Integrity, the Code of Student Conduct, or the Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, and Stalking Policy is not eligible for Graduation Honors.* Notation of Graduation Honors will be removed from the transcript if the finding occurs after this honor has been posted.

*The level of sanction rendering a student ineligible was revised effective April 26, 2016. Sanctions imposed prior to that date are evaluated based on the policy in effect at that time. 

The School of Nursing holds one graduation ceremony in May. All students graduating in December or August are encouraged to attend the University and the School of Nursing May Commencement exercises. 

A student who has not completed all degree requirements may participate in commencement exercises if they:

  • Are in good academic standing
  • Have completed NURS 3900
  • Have no more than two free elective/sector requirements or one non-clinical course remaining
  • Have received approval from the Associate Dean for Academic Programs to march in the ceremony

Dean’s List

Academic honors are awarded annually to any student who, during a particular academic year from September to May, achieves an academic average of 3.70 or higher, provided they has completed six or more courses for letter grades, has received no incompletes during those two semesters, and has not been subject to disciplinary action.  Students receiving this honor are placed on the Dean’s List, with a special notation made on their transcripts approximately three weeks after the close of the semester. Internal transfer students are also eligible for Dean’s List honors.

University Honors Programs

The University of Pennsylvania offers opportunities for advanced scholarship and research with some of the institution’s top scholars. All programs are prestigious and competitive; Nursing students are welcome and encouraged to apply.

Benjamin Franklin Scholars Program - Nursing (BFS-N)

Benjamin Franklin Scholars are undergraduates committed to performing at the highest level of intellectualism. By participating in BFS and pursuing research projects of their own creation, BFS, with the help of an advising team, plan and participate in a total education that is both exceptionally challenging and rewarding.

By taking control of their education, BFS are able to expand their learning in those areas in which they are most keenly interested. The exploration-based education of the BFS program naturally positions students to win prestigious grants for independent study and some of the nation’s most recognizable fellowships like the Rhodes, Mellon, Truman, and Fulbright.

Students can be admitted as incoming freshmen, but may also apply to the program after one semester at Penn. For more information about the Program and application process, please visit: and the Benjamin Franklin Scholars - Nursing website.


  • BFS-N Scholars need to complete 3 BFS Courses and a Senior Capstone Project (Fall and Spring of senior year),
  • BFS-N Scholars may not take honors courses pass/fail,
  • BFS-N Scholars are expected to meet the BFS minimum GPA requirements (first year=3.1; second year=3.2; third year=3.3; fourth year=3.4),
  • BFS-N Scholars are expected to adhere to the School of Nursing and University policies regarding academic integrity and professional conduct. Violations of academic integrity and/or professional comportment will be reviewed by the BFS-N directors and the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Academic Affairs, and may result in dismissal from BFS-N.


University Scholars Program

The University Scholars program provides an unusual academic environment for intellectually dynamic students who have already demonstrated their commitment and dedication to research. Through mentoring, research funding and scholarly events, the program encourages and supports students to make the most of their undergraduate years, not only with in-depth research, but also by making an early start in graduate and professional courses, ranging widely, or in some cases focusing narrowly, on their curricular choices.

Each University Scholar has a special mentor from the distinguished faculty who serve on the Council of University Scholars. With the help of this mentor, University Scholars become members of an intellectual network of individuals who help the students explore tailor-made education programs that permit them to progress at their own rate. Council mentors play a supporting role in finding appropriate opportunities with which the Scholars may begin their independent research work.

The focus of the University Scholars program is undergraduate research. In order to aid students in doing creative and in-depth research, the University Scholars has a fund with which to help students defray research expenses. Funding is meant to cover the expense of the research itself; this most often pertains to room and board costs over the summer months. Occasionally, students’ research will take them away from Penn.  In those instances, the University Scholars program may be able to fund travel expenses as well.

The University Scholars meet weekly for lunches at which they present and discuss their research. Because University Scholars attend all four undergraduate schools, the presentations come from a range of disciplines, and they illustrate a variety of research techniques. University Scholars learn how to approach and conduct effective research projects by participating in the greater community of researchers.

Students can apply to the University Scholars program from the end of their first year through the first semester of their junior year. Click here for more information.

Honor Societies

Sigma Theta Tau

Membership in Sigma Theta Tau implies outstanding leadership and achievement in nursing. Some of the purposes of this society include the fostering of high professional standards, encouraging creative work, promoting the maximum development of the individual, and developing interest in the advancement of nursing. In accomplishing these goals, Sigma Theta Tau increases one’s capacity to serve the profession and, through it, society. Membership in the University of Pennsylvania’s XI Chapter is by invitation from the chapter. Click here for more information.

Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa is a prestigious university honor society honoring exceptional students in the liberal arts and sciences.  Those juniors with a 3.85 GPA or higher and seniors with a 3.7 GPA or higher by the end of the fall semester are automatically considered and their transcripts are evaluated by the Board, which also solicits letters of recommendation for eligible students.  Students may not apply for Phi Beta Kappa.  In addition to grades, the committee looks for independent research, participation in honors programs, advanced work in the major and in cognate disciplines, and evidence of intellectual rigor in an undergraduate program. Click here for more information.

School of Nursing Awards

Students are encouraged to nominate themselves or others for Penn Nursing Student Awards.

More information about the nomination process will be disseminated to students during the academic year.

University of Pennsylvania Awards

The University of Pennsylvania grants numerous undergraduate awards to outstanding graduating seniors, in addition to some sophomores and juniors. Click here for more information.