Cal Poly


Academic Excellence

Master's degree candidates who are academically in the top 10 percent of their program and are recommended by their Graduate Program Coordinator are eligible to be recognized for Academic Excellence. Nominations must be approved by the appropriate College Dean. If approved, the student will be permitted to wear “honor cords” at commencement.

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Graduation with Distinction

Graduation with Distinction will be determined by the Registrar’s Office after a student’s final Formal Study Plan has been reviewed and approved. It will NOT be awarded at the December or June Commencement Ceremonies. The designation will appear on a student’s final transcript and diploma. The criterion for graduation with distinction is defined on the Office of Registrar’s website and in the Cal Poly catalog: “a student whose grade point average is 3.75 or better, may upon the recommendation of the college dean be designated as ‘Graduating with Distinction’.”

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Graduate Student Awards

Each year, the Graduate Education Office, in conjunction with the Office of Alumni Relations, presents two awards to exceptional graduate students: the Outstanding Graduate Student Award and the Outstanding Thesis Award. The recipients receive special recognition at commencement, including a framed certificate, and are honored at an awards reception. If you feel that you qualify for either award or if you want more information, please contact your graduate coordinator or email us at

Criteria for the Outstanding Graduate Student Award

  • Academic Excellence
  • Creative Achievement
  • Scholarly/Professional Potential
  • Service to the University Community
  • Other notable or outstanding characteristics which make the nominee exceptional

Criteria for the Outstanding Thesis Award

  • Creativity and Originality
  • Depth
  • Significance
  • Clarity of Expression
  • Methodology
  • Overall Quality

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© 2015 California Polytechnic State University Graduate Education
Building 52, Room E47
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Phone: (805) 756-2328