I am about to apply for jobs in the USA, with a Canadian B.A. and the French equivalent of an M.Sc. I had a GPA of only 3.1 for my bachelor, but managed to receive a "Mention Très Bien", which is the highest academic distinction in France, obtained with the GPA-equivalent of 16/20 or more.

All grade conversion charts I could find online consider this the equivalent of having a GPA of 4.0, e.g. this one in the USA (must select "France" from dropdown) or that one from McGill University in Canada (PDF, sorry about the inconvenience). How can I highlight this on my résumé in a way that makes sense to American recruiters?

In the current version, I wrote: Mention Très Bien (≈ GPA of 4.0). I also considered replacing "GPA of 4.0" with "summa cum laude", which I believe to be pretty much equivalent.

I am quite convinced though that recruiters will not simply take my word for that, but that I cannot simply write something like "summa cum laude" since that is not actually what is written on my diploma. I could include a footnote with one of the links I gave above, but a résumé with a reference section doesn't sound very appealing.

  • Alternatively, recruiter might not care all that much or even notice at all. – Relaxed Mar 9 '14 at 21:33

I would not assume that anybody will follow a reference provided in a footnote, and probably not even in an embedded link (assuming the document is digital). It's often said that a resume gets under a minute of attention in the first sorting; somebody going through resumes that quickly isn't going to chase references. So if you list it at all, it's important to provide a concise description.

You're on the right track with your parenthetical explanation. Since "summa cum laude" is a formal designation at most institutions and this isn't what you got, don't say that -- it's technically misrepresentation. But why not just explain it as "highest honors"? That phrase isn't reserved the way "summa cum laude" is, and it concisely describes what the honor means.

  • 1
    To make it more accurate, if the honor is the equivalent of a 4.0, then as 'highest honors' (summa cum laude) would be more accurate than 'high honors' (magna cum laude, kind of) (by tranlating the latin phrases: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_honors) – thursdaysgeek Mar 7 '14 at 22:14
  • @thursdaysgeek good point - edited. – Monica Cellio Mar 7 '14 at 22:18

The clearest and most honest way to explain what this honor is: describe, on your resume, what number or percentage of students at your school received it. You could explicitly write, as well, that it is the highest academic honor. If explained properly, the prestige would clearly come through. Since it is NOT the same as "summa cum laude" or GPA 4.0, you probably shouldn't write that it is in case someone else was reading another article or another footnote.

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