The Color Code of Graduation Stoles
Graduation stole colors can have a variety of meanings, such as the academic department, degree level, and other student honors. In this guide, we’ve shared the origins of graduation color coding, why it’s important, and what you should know before donning a stole.
What is an Academic Stole?
Worn around the neck like a draped scarf, an academic stole (or sash) adds color to your graduation garb and may denote a specific educational achievement. Stoles are often embroidered with more details about the student, especially if they’ve received academic honors or a valedictorian award.
Typically, fraternities and sororities give an embroidered stole with traditional colors to their members. Doctoral graduates may wear a special stole with distinct colors and added flair (such as piping). African American graduates will often wear stoles with kente cloth patterns as well, which pay homage to their African roots.
How Should I Wear My Stole?
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Your stole should be the last thing draped over your attire, after donning the gown, cap, and hood. It should hang over your shoulders, with the two ends aligned so they are the same length.
The Academic Costume Code
Every school has unique traditions for academic attire, but there is also a national standard, called the American Academic Costume Code.
Established in 1893 by the American Council on Education, the code has specific rules for the graduation cap, gown, and hood. However, the academic stole is not mentioned, and this allows high schools and universities to establish their own rules for stoles if desired. For example, a school may award a special stole to students for their community service, or sell a decorative stole with the school’s colors.
Common Academic Colors
Graduation stole colors will sometimes follow the traditional costume code, which defines various majors across the color spectrum.
Here are a few colors for the most popular majors:
- English, History: White
- Law: Purple
- Business: Beige
- Mathematics, Science: Yellow
- Philosophy, Political Science: Dark Blue
- Medicine: Green
- Engineering: Orange
What Should I Wear Under My Gown?
There are no strict rules for the garments worn underneath your graduation attire, but we recommend wearing dark clothing. This will ensure that your shirt, pants, leggings, and socks don’t stand out in graduation photos. Essentially, you want your street clothes to blend in as much as possible.