Grades and Academic Prizes
Grade Point Average (GPA)
Yale GPAs are calculated as averages of grades out of 4. A = 4, A- = 3.66, B+ = 3.33, B = 3, B- = 2.66, C+ = 2.33, C = 2, C- = 1.66, D+ = 1.33, D = 1, F = 0.
It's tempting to think "there's no downside to taking a tougher/unfamiliar/just for fun class credit/D/fail; if I'm not doing well I'll leave it that way, and if I am doing well I can switch it to a grade." This mentality is fatal almost every time. If you go into a class you'd like to do well in and care about with the option of not having a grade for it, your dedication to the class will be the very first thing to go as soon as the midterm crunch goes around. Best case scenario, you lose one of your four Credit/D's and regret not trying harder. Worst case scenario, you remove the Credit/D label and keep the bad study habits you formed early in the semester for that class, resulting in an unsatisfying grade.
Latin Honors are academic distinctions given to seniors upon graduation. Yale awards the following three honors to fixed percentages of each graduating class: summa cum laude (top 5%), magna cum laude (top 5-15%), and cum laude (top 15-30%). These percentages are determined by GPA cutoff (2011 cutoffs in parentheses): summa cum laude (3.94), magna cum laude (3.87), and cum laude 3.78). These honors are calculated irrespective of major.
Although relatively high by national standards, less Yale has a lower cap on latin honors than its peer institutions. Harvard allows up to 50% of its students to graduate with latin honors, while Princeton at least 40% to do the same.
Rhodes, Marshall and Fulbright Scholarships
On average, two Yalies win a Rhodes Scholarship every year.