Understanding Graduation Cords: What Do Graduation Cords Symbolize?

Graduation season is upon us, and soon, thousands of students across the country will be donning their caps and gowns to receive their respective diplomas. If you’ve ever been to one of these ceremonies, you may have noticed a colorful and distinctive accessory worn by some of the graduates – graduation cords. But what exactly do these cords symbolize, and why are they significant on graduation day?

The tradition of graduation cords dates back to the 1800s when they were first introduced in the United States. These cords, made of twisted and braided fabric, were originally used as a means to distinguish between students graduating with different honors. Today, graduation cords are still used to signify academic distinction, but they have also evolved to represent different achievements, affiliations, and accomplishments of the graduate.

From the classic academic honor cords to the bright, multi-colored cords representing organizations or causes, each graduation cord tells a unique story. They represent the hard work, dedication, and pride that the graduate embodies as they move into the next chapter of their lives. So, as you attend your next graduation ceremony, take a moment to appreciate these colorful cords and the meaning they hold for each graduate proudly wearing them.

History of Graduation Cords

Graduation cords have been worn for centuries to honor academic achievements. The tradition of wearing cords during graduation ceremonies can be traced back to medieval Europe, where universities started using cords and robes as symbols of academic achievement. The color of the cords signified a graduate’s field of study, and some universities even had specific colors for different degrees.

As the academic traditions spread from Europe to the United States, graduation cords became a standard part of the graduation regalia. The modern graduation cords are used to represent the academic achievements of the graduates in both high school and college. The cords, also known as honor cords, are usually worn around the neck and over the graduation gown during the commencement ceremony.

Here are some of the popular colors of graduation cords and what they symbolize:

  • Gold: Symbolizes excellence in academic achievement.
  • Silver: Represents excellence in all fields of achievement.
  • White: Represents purity of thought and high academic achievement.
  • Red: Represents a high level of achievement in any discipline.
  • Blue: Represents excellence in communication and performing arts.
  • Green: Represents achievement in business or accounting.
  • Purple: Represents achievement in law or education.

Colors of Graduation Cords

Graduation cords are among the most recognizable and significant accessories worn by students on commencement day. Each cord represents a unique achievement, accomplishment, or discipline the student has mastered during their academic journey. One way that these achievements are represented is through the colors of graduation cords.

  • Gold: This color typically symbolizes academic excellence and achievement. Students who have graduated with honors, cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude often don gold cords around their necks on commencement day.
  • Blue: Blue cords are often used to symbolize achievements in the arts, such as music, theater, or dance. These cords may also be given to students who have demonstrated excellence in journalism or creative writing.
  • White: Students who have achieved academic excellence and who are studying the health sciences may wear white cords on commencement day. This color also symbolizes the purity of knowledge and dedication to the field.

In addition to these standard colors, some schools may have their unique color scheme for graduation cords. For example, a university may use red cords to symbolize achievement in social work, green cords to represent achievement in environmental studies, or black cords for achievement in business.

If you’re unsure of what each color symbolizes at your school, it’s essential to reach out to your advisor or the graduation committee to find out what kind of honors and academic distinctions are represented through the cords. Understanding what these colors mean can make commencement day even more meaningful and special.

Cord colorMeaning
GoldAcademic excellence and achievement
BlueAchievements in the arts or journalism
WhiteAcademic excellence and achievement in health sciences
Red, green, black, or other colorsSchool-specific meanings

Overall, the colors of graduation cords are a symbol of hard work, dedication, and achievement. Whether you’re wearing one cord or several, they are tangible reminders of the commitment you’ve made to your education and the recognition of your academic success.

Types of Graduation Cords

Graduation cords are a common graduation accessory that signify academic achievements, leadership roles, and cultural heritage. They are worn by graduates to demonstrate their achievements and to stand out during the graduation ceremony. There are different types of graduation cords that have different meanings and are awarded for different achievements. In this article, we will explore the different types of graduation cords that are commonly worn.

  • Honor Cords: These cords are commonly awarded to students who have excelled academically. They are typically available in gold, silver, and white colors, with gold being the most common color for honor cords. to be given to graduates who have maintained a high grade point average or have made significant contributions to their academic field. They signify the effort and dedication that the student has put into their studies.
  • Leadership Cords: These cords are given to students who held leadership positions in their school or community organizations. They signify the student’s commitment to serving others and taking on important roles of responsibility. The cords may be available in a variety of colors depending on the organization that awarded them.
  • Service Cords: These cords are awarded to students who have completed a certain amount of community service or volunteer work during their academic career. The cords may be available in a variety of colors depending on the organization that awarded them. Service cords signify the student’s commitment to the community and the value they place on giving back.

Cultural Graduation Cords

Cultural cords are worn by students who wish to represent their heritage and culture during the graduation ceremony. These cords are typically available in a variety of colors depending on the student’s heritage. Some common cultural graduation cords are:

CultureCord Color
African-AmericanRed, Black, and Green
HispanicRed, White, and Green
AsianGold and Red

Cultural cords signify the student’s pride in their cultural roots and their appreciation for the diverse student body that they have been a part of during their academic journey.

How to Wear Graduation Cords

Graduation cords are a symbol of achievement and honor, representing the academic accomplishments of the wearer. To properly wear graduation cords, it is important to understand the meaning behind the different colors and number of cords.

  • Understand the Meaning of the Cords – Graduation cords come in different colors, each symbolizing a different academic achievement. For example, gold cords typically symbolize a student’s academic achievement, while blue cords represent an achievement in service or extracurricular activities.
  • Wear the Cords on the Right Side – Graduation cords should be worn on the right side of the graduation gown. This is to ensure the cords do not overlap with the graduation stole, which should be worn on the left side.
  • Arrange the Cords Properly – The cords should be arranged from the shortest on top to the longest on the bottom. This means if a graduate is wearing more than one cord, the shortest one should be closest to the neck, and the longest should be closest to the hem of the gown.

It is important to note that while there are standard colors for graduation cords, some universities and colleges have their own colors, which students should verify with their academic institution prior to graduation day.

Cord ColorMeaning
GoldAcademic Achievement
BlueService or Extracurricular Achievement
PurpleLaw & Government
WhiteMedical & Health Sciences

By following these guidelines, graduates can proudly wear their graduation cords, showing off the hard work and achievement that went into earning them.

Graduation Cord Etiquette

Graduation cords are a common sight in graduation ceremonies. They are often worn by students to symbolize their academic achievements, affiliations, and accomplishments. These cords come in different colors, and the color of the cord usually represents a specific academic major or discipline.

The Number 5

The number 5 is also a significant symbol in graduation cords. In many universities and colleges, the number 5 symbolizes a student’s achievement of Latin honors. Latin honors are given to students who have demonstrated exceptional academic performance. In the United States, Latin honors are typically assigned based on a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA).

The number 5 in a cord signifies that the student has achieved Cum Laude status, which means “with honors.” Cum Laude is typically given to students who have a GPA of 3.5 to 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. However, the specific GPA required for Cum Laude varies from one institution to another, and students should confirm this with their school’s policies.

Both Magna Cum Laude and Summa Cum Laude honors also use cords with the number 5. Magna Cum Laude honors are given to students with a GPA between 3.7 and 3.9, while Summa Cum Laude honors are reserved for students with a GPA of 3.9 or above. These levels of achievement are an impressive feat and are indicative of a student’s academic excellence.

Additional Graduation Cord Etiquette Tips

  • Graduation cords should be worn over the gown, not tucked underneath it.
  • When wearing multiple cords, ensure that they are arranged in order of precedence.
  • Some institutions may require students to wear specific cords or limit the number of cords that they can wear.


Graduation cords are a tangible symbol of a student’s academic accomplishments and are highly valued by graduates. Understanding their significance and proper etiquette can help students and their families make the most of their commencement ceremony. Congratulations to all graduates on their achievements!

Latin HonorsGPA Range
Cum Laude3.5 – 3.7
Magna Cum Laude3.7 – 3.9
Summa Cum Laude3.9 – 4.0

Popular Graduation Cords

Graduating from any institution is undoubtedly an accomplishment, and it deserves to be celebrated. Regalia is generally utilized to signify a milestone in the life of a graduate, and cords are a vital component of that. Graduation cords are typically worn to signify a graduate’s academic or non-academic achievement, such as selflessness, community service, leadership skills, and much more. There are a variety of graduation cords available to students; in this guide, we will go through the most popular cords and what they represent.

  • Honors – students who have received academic honors, such as Magna Cum Laude, Summa Cum Laude, or Cum Laude, will normally wear honor cords. These cords are generally comprised of twisted double cords in school colors, although the design may vary.
  • Community Service – graduates who contributed to their community or participated in voluntary work may earn a community service cord. The color and design of the cord vary depending on the institution, but it is usually a single cord.
  • Leadership – leadership cords indicate that the graduate was an effective leader on campus, such as being a student council member. These cords are often braided, with the color and design representing the organization or position held.
  • Military Service – graduates who have served in the military will wear a military service cord. The cord will have the colors of the military branch and may include a medallion or other decorations.

The Number 6 Graduation Cord

The number 6 is utilized to signify honors societies that are less common or not universal across institutions. Phi Kappa Phi, for example, employs the number 6 because it is the highest integer used in the Greek alphabet, indicating the society’s elite status. In most instances, the number 6 cord signifies that the student was a member of an academic honor society or completed a unique academic program.

MaroonHonor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
BurgundyDelta Mu Delta
Gold/BlackAlpha Chi
Dark GreenOmicron Delta Kappa

In conclusion, graduation cords are a symbol of dedication, hard work, and pride. They are a tangible reminder for graduates of their achievements and successes. Each cord represents a different accomplishment, and wearing them on graduation day is an excellent way to recognize the student’s achievements and contributions to the community.

Custom Graduation Cords

Custom graduation cords have become a popular accessory in recent years to make a statement or symbolize achievements, degrees, or organizations. The cords are typically worn around the neck and shoulders, with each cord having a particular color or combination of colors that convey a message.

  • Academic Achievements: Custom graduation cords are often used to signify academic achievements, such as honors or academic excellence. For instance, a gold cord is commonly associated with summa cum laude distinction, while silver cords symbolize magna cum laude or cum laude.
  • Organizations: Many students wear custom cords that represent the organizations they were part of during their academic careers. These organizations include fraternities, sororities, honor societies, and clubs.
  • Personalization: Some students choose to personalize their cords with different colors, charms, or symbols to reflect their interests or personal style. For example, a student who is passionate about environmental protection might opt for a green cord, while someone who loves music might add a treble clef charm.

Custom graduation cords come in various sizes, colors, and materials to match the different needs of graduates. They can also be bought in bulk or customized to produce a unique look.

Regardless of the customizations, graduation cords remain an essential element of the graduation attire, representing not only the achievements of the students but also their dedication and hard work throughout their academic journey.

Graduation Cords for Different Academic Majors

In the US, graduation cords are worn during the graduation ceremony to symbolize academic achievement. These cords come in different colors which represent different academic majors. The color of each cord is assigned based on the respective academic major, and it is a great way to differentiate and recognize the achievements of students in different academic fields.

  • White Cords: Symbolizing Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree for those who studied English, Literature, or Arts and Humanities subjects.
  • Blue Cords: Signifying Bachelor of Science (BS) degree for students studying scientific fields such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics.
  • Gold Cords: Recognizing students who have achieved their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
  • Gray Cords: Reserved for students who completed a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree in Business and Accounting.
  • Purple Cords: Reserved for graduates in Law, including the Juris Doctor (JD) degree.
  • Maroon Cords: Symbolizing graduates in Human Services, Social Work, and other related fields.
  • Yellow Cords: Representing the fields of Computer Science, Information Technology, and Engineering.
  • Olive Green Cords: Recognizing graduates in Health Science majors such as Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy.

The Number 8

Another interesting aspect of graduation cords is the use of the number 8, which is sometimes displayed on the cord itself. This represents achieving the GPA of 3.8 or higher, which requires hard work, dedication, and commitment from the student throughout their academic journey. This is a significant accomplishment, and many schools recognize achievers with special cords that bear the number 8.

Gold with 3.8Achievement of GPA 3.8 or higher in Business and Administration
Taupe with 3.8Achievement of GPA 3.8 or higher in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy fields
Orange with 3.8Achievement of GPA 3.8 or higher in Engineering and Computing fields
White with 3.8Achievement of GPA 3.8 or higher in English and Literature

Overall, graduation cords are not only used to add color to the graduation regalia, but they also denote excellent academic performance. These cords hold significant meaning for the recipient, and it is a great way for academic institutions to recognize and appreciate students’ hard work and dedication to their areas of study.

Graduation Cords for Honors and Achievements

Graduation cords are a common accessory to the graduation ensemble that hold a great deal of symbolism. Different colored cords represent various honors and achievements, distinguishing graduates who excelled academically, in extracurriculars, and in leadership roles.

One particular cord that stands out is the cord with the number 9. Here’s what it signifies:

  • Summa Cum Laude: The number 9 cord is typically worn by graduates who achieve the highest academic honors, graduating with a cumulative GPA of 3.9 or higher on a 4.0 scale. These students have not only shown a dedication to their course work, but also a strong work ethic and a desire to excel in all areas of their academic career.

Graduating with Summa Cum Laude is not an easy feat to accomplish. It requires mastering challenging courses, earning consistently high grades, and demonstrating a deep understanding of the material. It takes dedication, hard work, and a passion for learning to earn the number 9 graduation cord and stand out from the rest of the graduating class.

Graduation Cords for Extracurricular Activities

Graduation cords are not just limited to academics and honors. Many schools award graduation cords to students who have actively participated in extracurricular activities. It can be a symbol of recognition and a display of their achievements beyond the academic realm.

Here are some of the extracurricular activities that commonly award graduation cords:

  • Music: Students who are actively involved in their school’s music program can receive a graduation cord. These cords can represent various musical achievements, such as competing in state or national festivals or serving as a section leader or drum major. Gold cords are often awarded to choir members, while silver cords are given to band members.
  • Visual Arts: Students who excel in visual arts, such as painting, drawing, or sculpting, can receive graduation cords. These cords can symbolize their artistic achievements, such as winning contests or participating in showcases. Often, art cords are given in a color that corresponds to the type of art the student is involved in.
  • Athletics: Students who have played for their school’s varsity team and have made significant contributions can receive a graduation cord. These cords can represent various accolades, such as winning a championship, being an all-conference athlete, or receiving a sportsmanship award. Typically, the cords are in the school’s colors or the colors of the sport.
  • Community Service: Students who have volunteered their time extensively in their community can receive a graduation cord. These cords can represent the number of volunteer hours completed, serving as a reminder of the student’s selfless contributions. Typically, these cords are in a distinct color, such as silver or green.
  • Theater/Drama: Students who have been active in their school’s theater or drama club can receive a graduation cord. These cords can represent different theater or drama achievements, such as starring in a production, directing a play, or winning an award. Theater cords are often adorned in gold or black.

If you’re curious to know more about the graduation cords for extracurricular activities, here’s a table summarizing some of the colors and symbols:

ActivityCord ColorCord Symbol
MusicGold or SilverNote or Instrument
Visual ArtsVarious ColorsPalette or Brush
AthleticsSchool or Sport ColorsSilhouette of Sport or Trophy
Community ServiceSilver or GreenHands or Globe
Theater/DramaGold or BlackDrama Mask or Spotlight

Graduating with a cord for extracurricular activities is a fantastic achievement and a testament to the student’s hard work and dedication outside of their studies. Recognizing their participation in extracurricular activities helps to foster a well-rounded student with a variety of skills and experiences under their belt.

What Do Graduation Cords Symbolize

Here are some common questions about graduation cords and what they symbolize:

1. What are graduation cords made of?

Graduation cords are typically made of rayon, silk, or a combination of both materials.

2. What colors do graduation cords come in?

Graduation cords come in a variety of colors, each of which has a specific meaning. Common colors include gold for excellence, silver for honors, and purple for achievement.

3. What do double graduation cords mean?

Double graduation cords are often worn by students who have achieved high honors or performed multiple academic achievements.

4. What does it mean to wear a stole and cords at graduation?

Wearing a stole and cords at graduation typically means you have achieved a high level of academic excellence. The stole represents an academic honor or membership in an academic organization, while the cords represent a specific academic accomplishment.

5. Can you wear multiple graduation cords?

Yes, students can wear multiple graduation cords to represent their academic achievements. However, it’s important to note that some schools or organizations may have specific rules regarding the number of cords that can be worn.

6. Can you keep your graduation cords?

Yes, students are typically allowed to keep their graduation cords as a symbol of their academic achievements.

7. What should I do if I don’t receive a graduation cord?

If you don’t receive a graduation cord, you should speak with your school’s administration or your academic advisor to determine why and if there is any way to obtain one.


Now that you know what graduation cords symbolize, you can wear them with pride at your graduation ceremony. Remember to check with your school or academic organization for any specific rules or regulations regarding the number or types of cords that can be worn. Thank you for reading and we hope to see you back here soon for more helpful articles.