Those Graduation Ropes Mean More Than You Think | Colors & MORE

Graduation Cords

Graduating from high school or university is a significant accomplishment and a privilege. The graduation ceremony exists to publicly present those who have achieved this with their diplomas and awards.

Wearing a hat, gown, and other formal accessories is crucial for graduation.

What do the ropes mean at graduation? Universities and high schools give graduates graduation, or honor cords, for several academic and non-academic accomplishments. Graduation ropes may reflect a graduate’s affiliation with honor societies, fraternities, or sororities.

During graduation exercises, one such accessory is the honor cord. It comes in various colors, each of which has a different meaning. Continue reading to learn more about graduation ropes.

Graduation Rope

Although all graduates may be in uniform, this is only true to a certain extent. Look closely at the graduates.

You will notice that students have their versions of the standard cap and gown graduation attire. All of which can have inspiration from their academic successes and achievements.

Some students may have decorative ropes and a drape on each side that looks like two neck links. Also, it may have a decorated graduation cap with rhinestones or fabric paint.

Students have the privilege of wearing these adornments on their gowns. It is either because they have won it or want to express their gratitude.

Honor Cords

An honor cord is a long cord with a tassel on each end made up of twisted or intertwined strands. The honor cords may be a single color or a twisted mix of colors.

Graduates typically wear honor cords in pairs, with the midpoints of the two honor cords bound together.

Graduates wear the cords around their necks, and the ends of the honor cords are hanging down the front side of the gown.

The honor cord symbolizes honor or distinction. Student members of an honor society are often awarded an honor cord.

Students who receive high honors such as cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude receive honor cords from their colleges. Honor cords come in several colors to represent various achievements or affiliations within each college or high school.

The GPA required to wear graduation cords varies depending on the type of honor cord and school specifications.

Some will be given out regardless of academic achievement and signify something else. Graduates can wear honor cords at some schools to emphasize military service.

Honor cords have stringent specifications, and they are typically provided in three tiers, each with its GPA and cord color requirements.

While those criteria and their colors will differ from school to school, most schools will use the same general structure. 

A student with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher is deemed to have graduated Cum laude. Magna cum laude graduates must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Summa cum laude graduates must have a GPA of 4.0 or higher, depending on the degree.

For example, Summa cum laude, Cum laude, and Magna cum laude require GPAs of 3.9, 3.5, and 3.75. They should not have any grades below A.

This example is based on the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. GPAs 3.4, 3.7, and 3.9 are required for the same honors at Montana. 

Some schools use percentiles, faculty reviews, or a combination of those variables. It will be their basis to assess honors criteria instead of or in addition to GPAs.

For example, top students may receive honors to the top 25% of spring quarter graduates at Northwestern, with Summa cum laude. It represents the top 5%, Magna cum laude represents the next 8%.

Cum laude represents the remaining 12%. The spring graduates’ GPAs are then used as unpublished cutoffs for honors graduates over the next three quarters.

How Honor Cords Are Used In High Schools

Honor cords are often used in high school graduation ceremonies. But they are primarily used for different reasons than they are in college.

For example, honor cords of different colors can signify that a graduating student excelled in a particular subject like math or social studies.

Students may earn them for participating in many school activities. They can join a chorus or band.

They can also be members of an honor society or serve on the student council. It is entirely up to the school to determine which colors to use for which accomplishments.

College Color Code

Many colleges have their color scheme for honor cords, but there are already defined color guidelines.

The Association of College Honor Societies has created an honor cord registry in which established societies are assigned unique colors. Universities may choose to use the ACHS framework or create their own.

Beta Kappa Chi, for example, is a single royal blue color. Delta Mu Delta is two colors: purple and gold.

Typical Honor Cord Colors

Graduation cords come in various stunning, vibrant pieces that candidates wear around their necks. Many college organizations and societies give their members cords to show their participation in their activities.

Honor cords come in different colors, representing a different accomplishment.

  • Gold – On graduation day, this is the most common cord color. It can denote Latin honors for a high GPA, membership in the National Honor Society, and other academic achievements.

  • Silver – Graduates in medical science, physics, and agriculture are traditionally awarded these cords.

  • Black – The corporate world is portrayed by these understated honor strings, including accounting, business management, and economics.

  • Red – The red honor cord symbolizes academic achievement in divinity, public health, journalism, canon law, conservation, and music.

  • Purple – The purple color cord is granted to dental and law students to signify royalty. It is also provided to students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture or urban planning.

  • Maroon – Red honor cords reflect achievement in similar organizations, while maroon honor cords represent achievement in different organizations.

Throughout the graduation process, colors have always represented students’ accomplishments and skills. During the graduation ceremonies, all of the certificates are given out.

Some cords, such as kente colors, will honor a graduate’s heritage while acknowledging their accomplishment.

These cords indicate a connection to a social group and recognize the group’s particular difficulties. They also allow groups of graduates to demonstrate unity during the graduation ceremony.

Other Accessories

The honor cord is one of the many pieces that graduates wear with a traditional cap and gown. The graduation cap was initially unadorned, but the tassel was later added, with various colors representing different accomplishments.

Different patterns and colors designate various academic degrees. The hood is a long covering over the shoulders outside the gown, and stoles are long bits of decorative fabric around the neck.

These are usually hanging down the front of the graduation gown.

Getting Your Graduation Cords

1. Check with your department or organization’s representatives to see whether you qualify for cords.

Although some organizations offer cords to all participants, others only provide them to students who have earned the honor.

If you’re not sure you’re qualified to wear graduation cords, consult with your department or organization’s leadership.

Clubs, student councils, school bands, sports teams, and social groups often permit all participants to wear cords at graduation. High honor students wear academic honor cords.

Either they have earned an award or have reached a certain grade point average. Members of the military are often given honor cords at some universities.

2. You can purchase your honor cord from your school or a store affiliated with them.

You can place an order for the required cords once you’ve decided which honor cords you’re eligible to wear at graduation. You may order your honor cords directly from your school’s commencement website.

The school may also provide information about an outside vendor with which the school has partnered to provide graduation supplies.

Ensure that you order the correct color cords to reflect your particular company or academic achievement when ordering your cords.

Some organizations might provide you with cords without requiring you to place an order. Graduation cords range in price from $5 to $50.

3. Pick up or get your honor cords mailed to you.

You must receive information from your school or the store on obtaining your graduation cords. Your cords will usually be available for pick up a few weeks or days before the graduation ceremony. On the other hand, some retailers can give you your cords in the mail.

When you receive or pick up your cords, make sure to hang them up. You don’t want them to get all wrinkly when you wear them on your big day.

How To Wear Graduation Cords

Putting On Your Honor Cords

Put on your graduation cap and gown. It would help to put on your graduation gown before putting on your graduation cords.

Your gown should come with detailed instructions about putting it on and how to wear it. On the other hand, gowns are typically worn by sliding the arms into the armholes and zipping up the front.

When Wearing A Stole, Wrap It Around Your Shoulders

Stoles, like graduation cords, are worn at graduation to indicate a student’s involvement with a specific group or academic department.

If you’re going to graduation with a stole on top of your robe, put it on before your cords. Stoles are worn in various ways, but here is the most common way.

  • Wrap your stole around your shoulders over your gown.
  • Fasten it in the front under your chin.

Wrap The Cord Around Your Neck And Tie It

Keep the middle of the cord with both hands and raise it over your head. The cord’s ends should then fall straight down in front of you. It will drape around your neck and over your shoulders until you’re dressed in your gown and stole.

  • Tuck the cord beneath the collar in the back. At the base of your neck, if your gown has one.
  • Adjust the cord so that it falls uniformly on both sides until it’s wrapped around your neck.

Tie a knot in the middle to shorten it if the cord is too long and hangs below the hem. The knot can then be tucked under your gown’s collar in the back at the base of your neck or protected with your graduation hood.

Use A Safety Pin To Lock The Cord In Place

Pin the cord behind your ear, just under the base of your neck, so the safety pin is hidden. It will secure the honor cord in place and prevent you from moving it during the ceremony.

There is no expectation that you pin the cord in place. But doing so will relieve you of one more worry as you go through this very critical and exciting day.

Put On The Rest Of The Graduation Regalia For The Big Day

After your cords are tightly draped around your waist, you can finish your graduation preparations, and you can start by putting on the rest of your regalia.

  • Hook your tassel on your graduation cap.
  • Place the cap on your head.
  • Shift the tassel to the left side.

When you graduate, you’ll throw your cap in the air and shift the tassel to the right side. This tradition is to honor your achievements. You may have an academic hood instead of a cap if you graduate from a doctorate or other advanced program.

How Can You Graduate With Honors?

To receive a graduation award, you must succeed in one of the following areas: academics, athletics, or leadership. Every university has its traditions, but hundreds of universities share specific honors.

Having a high GPA is perhaps the most common way to graduate with honors. There will be an additional Latin honor to your diploma if your GPA is high enough.

You can also highlight the honor on your resume or graduate school applications, which will make you stand out.


The honor cord system recognizes exceptional students as academic overachievers or club leaders. The sundae is your diploma, and the cherry on top is your honor cord.

Recent Posts