For graduates and audience members alike, many of the details of graduation ceremonies can seem strange and leave us wondering about their meaning or purpose.
In this blog post, we'll get to the bottom of some of the most frequently asked graduation day questions.
What do the different color cords at graduation mean?
If you’ve ever attended a high school or college graduation, you’ve likely seen graduates wearing some colorful accessories draped around their necks. The Association of College Honor Societies and many institutions have their own codes that determine the specific meaning of each of the colors.
In general, graduation cords usually signify things like schools and degrees, honors, and clubs. Here are some of the common meanings behind some graduation cord colors:
- Silver – Medical and veterinary science degrees, agriculture, business, physics. A symbol of sensitivity, kindness, and hope.
- Gold – Spanish National Honor Society and Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. A symbol of wisdom and prosperity.
- Red – Degrees in journalism, music, or public health. Red is a popular color for various honor societies, fraternities, and sororities. A symbol of courage and strength.
- White – Arts and humanities, French National Honor Society, and The Music Honor Society. A symbol of purity and possibility.
- Black – Business and accounting. Black signifies power, prestige, and authority.
Why does every graduation play 'Pomp and Circumstance?'
No matter where in America a student graduates, it’s a pretty safe bet that their walk across the stage will be set to “Pomp and Circumstance.” This tune has become synonymous with graduation. But where does it come from and why is it played?
“Pomp and Circumstance” was composed by Edward Elgar in 1901 for the coronation of Edward VII of Britain. In 1903, Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University, and the tune was played for him as he exited the stage after receiving his diploma.
After Yale used the tune, other universities like Princeton and Columbia started using it too and it just caught on as the “graduation song.”
What does the ‘turning of the tassel’ mean?
One of the most common traditions used in graduation ceremonies is the “turning of the tassel,” or the moving of the tassel on the graduated mortar board cap from one side to the other. This tradition is often treated with great significance, but what exactly does it mean?
Most commonly, graduates wear the tassel on the right side of the cap before the ceremony and move the tassel to the other side after receiving their degree or diploma. This clear and simple gesture is meant to demonstrate the student’s passing from one level of learning to another.