Graduating from high school or a university is an achievement and an honor. To recognize those who achieve this, the graduation ceremony is held to publicly present them with their diplomas and awards. Part of the observance of graduation involves the wearing of the cap, gown and other ceremonial accessories. The honor cord is one such accessory worn during graduation exercises. It comes in different colors, with each color having a different significance.
An honor cord is a long cord made up of twisted or intertwined strands with a tassel on each end. The cords can be a single color or a combination of colors twisted together. Honor cords are usually worn in pairs, with the two cords tied together at their midpoints. The cords are worn around the neck with the ends of the cords hanging down the front side of the graduate's gown and two tassels on each side.
Purpose of Honor Cords
The honor cord is used to signify that the wearer has attained some specific honor or distinction, academic or otherwise. An honor cord is often bestowed on students who are members of a specific honor society. Colleges may award honor cords to students who graduate with honors, such as cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude. Different colors of honor cords can be used to signify different accomplishments or affiliations within each specific college or high school.
College Color Code
Many universities have adopted their own color code for the use of honor cords, but there are color guidelines already established. The Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) has established an honor cord registry that assigns specific colors to established societies. For example, Beta Kappa Chi is assigned the single color of royal blue, while Delta Mu Delta is given two colors: purple and gold. Universities have the freedom to use the ACHS system or establish their own.
High School Usage
High schools also use honor cords during graduation ceremonies, although they often stand for different things than they do in college. For example, different colored cords can denote that the graduating student achieved excellence in a certain subject such as mathematics or social studies. They can be awarded to students for being in chorus or band, being a member of the honor society, or for serving on the student council. It is strictly up to the school involved to decide what colors to use for what achievements.
The honor cord is just one accessory that can be worn with the basic cap and gown. The cap was originally an unadorned piece of headwear, but the tassel was later added to it, with different colors signifying specific achievements. The hood is a long covering worn over the shoulders outside the gown, with different styles and colors designating different academic degrees. Stoles are a wide piece of decorative cloth worn around the neck so that the ends hang loose down the front of the gown.