Graduating from high school is an exciting milestone in a student’s life. For top academic performers, the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian represent the pinnacle of academic success and achievement.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The salutatorian is the student who earns the second highest grade point average in their graduating high school class, after the valedictorian who ranks first.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about salutatorians: their role, how they are selected, their responsibilities, and the benefits and honors associated with this prestigious title.

What is a Salutatorian?

A salutatorian is an academic honor bestowed upon a high school student who achieves the second-highest grade point average (GPA) in their graduating class. This recognition is typically given during the graduation ceremony, where the salutatorian delivers a speech to their fellow graduates, families, and faculty.

Being named a salutatorian is a significant achievement and reflects the student’s exceptional academic performance throughout their high school years.

Official Definition and Role

The official definition of a salutatorian may vary from school to school. In general, a salutatorian is determined based on their GPA, which is calculated by considering the grades earned in all subjects throughout high school.

Typically, the salutatorian is required to have a GPA that falls within the top 2-5% of their graduating class. This position carries with it the responsibility of delivering a speech during the graduation ceremony, often reflecting on the accomplishments and experiences of the graduating class.

Distinction From Valedictorian

The salutatorian and the valedictorian are both prestigious honors, but they differ in terms of rank. While the salutatorian holds the second-highest GPA in the graduating class, the valedictorian holds the highest GPA.

The valedictorian is typically the individual with the highest academic achievement, and they also have the honor of delivering a speech during the graduation ceremony. Both the salutatorian and the valedictorian play crucial roles in representing their class and delivering inspiring messages to their peers.

Other Top 10% Honors

In addition to the salutatorian and the valedictorian, some schools may also recognize other students who fall within the top 10% of their graduating class. These honors may include titles such as “Honor Graduates,” “High Honors,” or “Summa Cum Laude.”

While these distinctions may not carry the same level of recognition as the salutatorian or valedictorian, they still acknowledge the outstanding academic achievements of these students.

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How Salutatorians are Selected

Being selected as a salutatorian in high school is a great honor and achievement. It signifies that a student has excelled academically and is among the top performers in their graduating class. The selection process for salutatorians involves several factors, including GPA calculation methods, honors/AP courses, and the class ranking system.

GPA Calculation Method

The GPA calculation method plays a crucial role in determining the salutatorian. Most schools use a weighted GPA system, which takes into account the difficulty level of the courses a student has taken.

This means that honors and AP courses carry more weight and can significantly boost a student’s GPA. It’s important to note that different schools may have variations in their GPA calculation methods, so it’s advisable to check with your school’s administration for specific details.

Honors/AP Courses

One of the key factors that can contribute to becoming a salutatorian is the number of honors and AP courses a student takes. These courses are designed to challenge students academically and provide them with a more rigorous curriculum.

By taking honors and AP courses, students demonstrate their commitment to academic excellence and their willingness to go above and beyond the standard curriculum. These courses not only enhance a student’s knowledge but also help boost their GPA, which is a crucial factor in the selection process.

Class Ranking System

The class ranking system is another essential component in selecting a salutatorian. Class rankings are determined by the overall academic performance of students throughout their high school years. Typically, the student with the second-highest GPA in their graduating class is awarded the title of salutatorian.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the class ranking system can vary from school to school. Some schools may consider additional factors such as extracurricular activities, community service, or leadership roles when determining the salutatorian.

Responsibilities and Privileges

Graduation Speech

One of the major responsibilities of a salutatorian in high school is delivering the graduation speech. This is a great honor and privilege that is bestowed upon the student who achieved the second highest academic rank in their graduating class.

The graduation speech is an opportunity for the salutatorian to reflect on their high school journey, express gratitude to teachers and parents, and inspire their fellow classmates as they embark on their future endeavors.

It requires careful preparation and delivery to ensure that it resonates with the audience and leaves a lasting impact.

Media Representation

As a salutatorian, there is often media attention that comes with the achievement. Local newspapers, television stations, and even online publications may want to interview the salutatorian to learn more about their academic success and future plans.

This kind of media representation can be both exciting and overwhelming for the student, as they become a public figure within their community. It provides them with a platform to share their experiences, accomplishments, and aspirations, and can serve as a source of inspiration for other students.

Scholarship Opportunities

Becoming a salutatorian opens up doors to various scholarship opportunities. Many colleges and universities offer scholarships specifically for high-achieving students, and being a salutatorian increases the chances of receiving these scholarships.

Additionally, there are external scholarships available to salutatorians from organizations and foundations that recognize academic excellence. These scholarships can greatly alleviate the financial burden of pursuing higher education and provide the salutatorian with the means to further their academic and career goals.

Benefits for College and Career

Being a salutatorian in high school comes with a multitude of benefits that can greatly enhance one’s college and career prospects. The dedication and hard work required to achieve this honor often translate into valuable skills and experiences that set salutatorians apart from their peers.

Admissions Edge

Colleges and universities highly value academic excellence, and being a salutatorian can give students a significant advantage in the college admissions process. Admissions officers recognize the commitment and intellectual rigor required to attain such a position, and it can serve as a compelling factor in their decision-making process.

Furthermore, being a salutatorian demonstrates a student’s ability to balance academics with extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and community involvement. This well-roundedness is highly regarded by colleges and can make a candidate stand out among a competitive pool of applicants.

Academic Scholarships

One of the most tangible benefits of being a salutatorian is the potential for academic scholarships. Many colleges and universities offer scholarships specifically for high-achieving students, and being a salutatorian significantly increases the likelihood of receiving such financial aid.

These scholarships can greatly alleviate the financial burden of attending college and provide opportunities for salutatorians to pursue their academic passions without the added stress of student loans.

It is important to research and apply for scholarships early, as many institutions have specific deadlines and criteria for eligibility.

Resume Distinction

Being a salutatorian is a distinction that stands out on a resume. It showcases a student’s exceptional academic performance and work ethic, which are highly valued by employers in various fields. This honor can give job seekers an edge over competing candidates and open doors to exciting career opportunities.

Furthermore, the skills and qualities developed through the journey to becoming a salutatorian, such as discipline, time management, and critical thinking, are transferable and applicable to a wide range of professions.

Employers recognize the dedication and drive required to achieve this honor, making salutatorians attractive candidates for internships and entry-level positions.


Being named salutatorian is a prestigious academic achievement. It recognizes diligence, perseverance, and commitment to excellence over the four years of high school.

Salutatorians have worked hard to earn second-highest grades and class rank. They serve as leaders, role models and speakers for their graduating class.

The title opens doors to top colleges, scholarships, and career opportunities. Salutatorians should be proud of this impressive accomplishment and lifetime honor.

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