The University of Iowa

Other Academic Recognitions

In addition to earning a degree, many students qualify for other academic recognitions.

These recognitions can impact how your diploma looks, how your name is listed in the program, read at commencement, or what items can be added to your regalia. 


Graduation with Distinction

The Office of the Registrar certifies to the deans of the colleges the names of students eligible to graduate with distinction. To be eligible for consideration, the graduate must complete the final 60 semester hours in residence as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa and at least 45 semester hours must have been completed prior to the final semester or session of registration. The grade-point average (GPA) upon which distinction is determined includes all work undertaken prior to the beginning of the final semester or session.

The University of Iowa designates distinction by gold stars worn on the left sleeve of the student's regalia. 

There are three levels of distinction at Iowa:

  • With Highest Distinction = 3 Stars
  • With High Distinction = 2 Stars
  • With Distinction = 1 Star

Distinction levels will appear on the diploma, the program, and will be read at commencement.

Collegiate Distinction Criteria

Graduates with distinction in the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, and Tippie College of Business rank as follows:

  • With Highest Distinction Highest 2%
  • With High Distinction Next Highest 3%
  • With Distinction Next Highest 5%  

The three levels of distinction in the College of Education, College of Nursing, and College of Public Health:

  • With Highest Distinction 3.90 GPA or above
  • With High Distinction 3.80–3.89 GPA
  • With Distinction 3.75–3.79 GPA

Graduates with distinction in University College must complete a total of 45 semester hours in residence; 30 must be completed prior to final registration. The three levels of distinction in University College:

  • With Highest Distinction 3.90–4.00 GPA
  • With High Distinction 3.80–3.89 GPA
  • With Distinction 3.75–3.79 GPA

The three levels of distinction for the undergraduate programs in the Carver College of Medicine:

  • With Highest Distinction 3.85 GPA or above
  • With High Distinction 3.75–3.84 GPA
  • With Distinction 3.65–3.74 GPA

The three levels of distinction in the College of Pharmacy:

  • With Highest Distinction 4.0 GPA or above
  • With High Distinction 3.75–3.99 GPA
  • With Distinction 3.50–3.74 GPA

Graduation with Honors

Students may graduate with either or both of honors in the major and university honors. 

Honors in the major recognizes excellence in a student’s major area(s) of study, whereas university honors recognizes completion of the UI Honors Program curriculum.

Honors in the Major

Honors in the major requires additional work by the student, commonly a scholarly project or creative piece completed under the mentorship of a single faculty member, that goes beyond the regular requirements for the major.    

Honors in the major is based on the college and department you are earning your degree from. Information for each undergraduate degree granting college can be found at:

Questions about your eligibility to graduate with honors in the major should be directed to your department or college.

University Honors

University honors requires the completion of a flexible curriculum of honors coursework and experiences—such as research, study abroad, or internships—woven into the student’s undergraduate education.

University Honors Information


Cords, Stoles, and More

There are many clubs, groups, and organizations that provide a commemorative graduation item to members. 

Items range from cords, medals, medallions, pins, stoles, and more.

Many of these items can be obtained at the Iowa Hawk Shop or will be provided by the managing unit.

Please Note: The UI Commencement Team and Graduation Services do not manage or maintain a comprehensive list of items.