There are lots of reasons to work hard in high school: you gain important knowledge and skills, your grades help you get into great universities, and your dedication can even earn you scholarship money for tuition!
But your hard work can also help you become valedictorian or salutatorian, which are awards given to the top two students in your graduating class. But what does it mean to be a valedictorian vs. a salutatorian? Don’t worry: you’ve come to the right place! Not only will we explain what a valedictorian and salutatorian is, we’ll also dig into the similarities and differences between the two awards and what they mean for the college admissions process.
What is a Salutarorian – this is a new stage that helps you reach adulthood. Just like a valedictorian, salutatorians are students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement during their four years in high school. Traditionally, the title of salutatorian is given to the second highest-ranking student in a graduating class. Just like the valedictorian, this is determined by a student’s cumulative, weighted GPA. If you want to become your school’s salutatorian, you’ll want to use the same strategy as valedictorians. Not only should you take AP and IB courses, you need to make sure you’re making great grades in them! After all, the higher your cumulative GPA, the more likely you are to become your school’s salutatorian. Furthermore, becoming salutatorian comes with many of the same perks as valedictorian. Like the valedictorian, the salutatorian often gets special graduation regalia to recognize their achievement. These are usually similar to the valedictorian regalia with minor adjustments. For example, if your school gives out special stoles, the stoles may be the same style but different colors! But at the end of the day, the goal is the same: unique regalia helps you stand out from the crowd while honoring your incredible achievement.
Additionally, the salutatorian also plays a pivotal role in the graduation ceremony. Like the valedictorian, the salutatorian is tasked with delivering a speech on stage during the ceremony itself. The salutatorian’s speech serves a different purpose than the valedictorian’s speech—which we’ll talk about in the next section!—but it also serves as a special reward for the salutatorian’s hard work.
So if a valedictorian and a salutatorian both graduate at the top of the class, get fancy regalia, and give speeches during the graduation ceremony, what makes the awards different from one another?
The biggest distinction between a valedictorian and salutatorian comes in the content of their speeches!
The term “valedictorian” actually comes from the Latin phrase vale dicere, which means to say farewell. In other words, despite coming in first in the rankings, the valedictorian’s speech often comes toward the end of the graduation ceremony. That means the valedictorian’s job is to put a capstone on their classmates’ high school experience. It’s a chance for students to say goodbye to high school while looking forward to their next adventures. Because of that, a valedictory speech often has two parts. The first part looks back at the memories and lessons of high school, and the second part talks about how students can carry what they’ve learned into the future. In other words, think of the valedictorian’s speech as wishing everyone a fond arewell while looking forward to the next step in life’s journey!
If the valedictorian’s job is to deliver a farewell address, then the salutatorian’s job is to welcome everyone to the ceremony! (The term “salutatorian” comes from the word “salutatory,” which means “of the nature of a salutation.”)
Unlike the valedictorian, who often speaks to their fellow students, the salutatorian speaks on behalf of the graduating class in welcoming friends, family, and other loved ones to the ceremony. They also introduce any other speakers and representatives to the audience.
After the official welcome, the salutatorian also has the chance to offer a few remarks to kick off the graduation ceremony. If the valedictorian’s speech about how to take high school’s lessons and experiences into the future, then the salutatorian’s speech is a celebration of the moment. After all, you only graduate from high school once! Salutatorian is the most important stage in the life of a young person.