Graduation cords explained

Draped in cords of many colors, students display their UP achievements

By Noah Carandanis | May 4, 2023 4:00pm
The Beacon breaks down what the various graduation cords look like and what students had to do to earn them.
Media Credit: Emma Sells / The Beacon

The season of graduation brings about both tears and cheers. As graduating seniors take their next steps into life, many of them will be adorned in cords of many colors. This colorful parade may beg the question, what do these graduation vestments mean? Although the program key can be helpful, some may be wondering more about what the graduates had to do to earn these cords.

These senior accessories are more than just colorful additions for photos. UP students' accomplishments on campus and involvement in the community are stitched into these cords and stoles. The time, commitment and passion of students’ work on The Bluff is recognized through this graduation tradition.

As a spectator, the amount of cords, stoles, medallions and other academic regalia can be dizzying. Rather than thumbing through the program key, The Beacon has compiled a list of graduation cords and stoles for reference. 

Although this is not an exhaustive list, the various departments and organizations included below will help spectators navigate the wonderfully colorful world of graduation apparel. 

Academic Honor Societies


Students who are part of Tri Beta Honor Society are juniors and seniors who earned a B- or higher in BIO 208, 207, 278 and 277. They also earned a B- or higher in at least one upper division biology course. Their overall cumulative and biology GPA must be a 3.0 or higher.


The criteria required to join Lambda Pi Eta (LPE) include having a 3.25 GPA and participating in on-campus activities devoted to academic excellence and the study of communication. 


In order to be a Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) member, students must meet the national and local GPA requirements. During the final year in their program, they must meet the chapter’s requirements in order to earn their cords. Undergraduate students must earn five credits per semester and graduate students must earn three credits per semester. Some ways to earn credits is to attend KDP’s professional development events, complete community service hours, participate in a professional webinar or volunteer to work at the annual Reading Fair. 


All History students who earn a 3.5 gpa in the major and overall are eligible to be inducted into the Phi Alpha Theta honor society.


Within nursing, there is the School of Nursing and Health Innovations (SONHI) Sigma Honor Society.

Sigma Honor Society accepts seniors and graduate students who have demonstrated superior academic achievement in nursing.

Under the school, there is also a cord for Integrative Health and Wellness. The IHW cords are given to graduating IHW students. 


Philosophy majors can be invited into Phi Sigma Tau (PST) if they have completed at least four philosophy classes, have a GPA of 3.5 in philosophy and an overall GPA of 3.3.

Political Science

Political science majors are invited to join Pi Sigma Alpha (PSA) who are in the top third in GPA in their class in junior or senior year. 


Membership in Psi Chi depends upon being a major or minor in psychology, completion of three semesters of college, completion of nine credit hours of psychology courses, an overall GPA of at least 3.0, with rank in the upper 35% of your class.


Student Athletes

The student-athlete stoles are worn by all graduating varsity student-athletes who finished their playing careers in good team standing.

The student athlete stole. Photo courtesy of the athletics department.


A Moment of Magic

A Moment of Magic club members must complete 10 hours of active service with the organization during the academic year that they graduate.

A Moment of Magic cords for club members. Photo courtesy of Maria Smith.

First Generation College Students

Each FGEN student that graduates from UP is able to receive both a stole and pin.

The First Generation stole. Photo courtesy of Cara O'Sullivan.

Cultural Clubs

Black Student Union

The BSU provides cords for BSU members who are graduating seniors. 

Japanese Student Association

To earn this cord, JSA members had to get a total of 14 points. Points can be earned by going to club events and volunteering.

Latinx Student Union

To receive an LSU graduation stole, you must have been an active member of the club throughout your time at UP.

Honor Programs 

Alpha Lambda Delta

To be invited into ALD, you must be in the top 20% of the freshman class. To receive a graduation cord, members must have acquired 20 points which are earned from attending various ALD events.

Blue Key Honor Society

To be invited to Blue Key you must be in the top third of the junior class and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Delta Epsilon Sigma

To be invited to DES you must be in the top

20% of the junior class and have a minimum 3.5 GPA. To receive the graduation cord, members must have attended various cultural, academic and UP-sponsored events.

UP Honors Program

Students who are part of the honors program at UP receive a hood and medallion that they wear at graduation. This means that these students completed all requirements of being a member of the UP Honors Program. 

From left to right, the Blue Key Honor Society cord, UP Honors Program Medallion and Delta Epsilon Sigma cord. Photo courtesy of

Language Honor Societies


English majors and minors who are in the academic top third of their UP group and have at least a 3.5 GPA are tapped to join the society, Sigma Tau Delta, for lifelong membership.


Each year up to six students who meet Delta Phi Alpha’s requirements along with the program requirements are initiated. Delta Phi Alpha’s requirements include a minimum of two years of college or university German or their equivalent, a minimum average of B+ (3.3GPA) or its equivalent in German courses, a minimum cumulative average of B- (2.7GPA) or its equivalent and indication of continued interest in the study of German language and literature.

Studying abroad, becoming a language tutor, writing a thesis, organizing extra-curricular events — something that is above and beyond the requirements needed to get the major or minor are also taken into consideration. 


This year the majors inducted in Sigma Delta Pi (SDP) were those with a GPA of 4.8 or higher in their courses of Spanish.

Noah Crandanis is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at