Student life

10 tips to prepare for your graduation ceremony


After three or more years at university, endless hours of studying and hundreds of crazy nights out, it’s finally time to graduate and enter the world of work as a fully-fledged adult. But beforehand, you have to get through your graduation ceremony, as this is an important rite of passage before you obtain your degree.

But while you’re undoubtedly be excited about storming that stage to collect your certificate, there are also a few things you should do to prepare for your big day.

1. Hit the ground running

As with any important event, make sure you’re physically prepared before you head off to your graduation ceremony. Make sure you have a hearty breakfast before you get to the venue, as the ceremonies tend to be quite long and you may not get an opportunity to eat again until after it’s finished.

It’s also a good idea to find out exactly what you need to do and where you need to go before you get there. You don’t want to miss your chance to have some professional photos taken, so it’s always better to be early, than late. You’ll also want to collect your rental cap and gown before you do anything else, so make sure you turn up in plenty of time to avoid the long queues – you don’t want to be stressing on a day where you should be feeling relaxed and enjoying yourself.

2. Figure out where you’re going to park beforehand

Hundreds of students and their families are going to be travelling from far and wide to attend the graduation ceremony, and it’s likely that they’re all going to want to park in the near vicinity – so there’s a chance that, if you turn up slightly later, you might not find a spot.

Have a look into other travel options, such as the local park and ride or public transport. Half an hour spent trying to find a parking space could be the difference between being at the front or back of the queue for your cap and gown.

3. Take plenty of hair pins

Graduation caps are notoriously difficult to keep in place - and, let’s face it, it’s no-one’s most flattering look. That’s why it’s a good idea to take plenty of bobby pins with you to keep your cap in position, as they will not usually be provided by the hire company. Although if you ask nicely, they might still help you pin your cap properly so it doesn’t fall off, as there’s definitely a knack to doing this correctly.

You may also want to prepare yourself for a day of hat hair, as it’s pretty much unavoidable when it comes to graduation caps. Style your hair around the cap, rather than trying to wrestle it over a particularly intricate up-do – but don’t worry too much, as everyone else will be in exactly the same position.

4. Think about what you’re going to wear

As well as considering how you’ll style your hair under your lovely graduation cap, have a think about what you’re going to wear to the ceremony. Graduation ceremonies usually take place over the summer, so make sure to dress for the weather as it can get pretty hot under that cap and gown. Avoid dark colours - not only does this absorb the heat, but it may look a little sombre once you add your black graduation gown. Be wary of collared shirts as well, as the gowns do tend to slip a little throughout the day and might end up choking you during the ceremony!

It’s also important to remember that most universities will insist on smart attire for graduation ceremonies, so it’s usually better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Consider which shoes you’re going to wear as well – you’ll be walking across the stage in front of a considerable amount of people to collect your certificate, so if your shoes are likely to trip you up (or are just plain uncomfortable), you might want to think twice before wearing your highest heels.

5. Consider the cost

Students are used to a lot of expenses at university, and graduation day is no different. Not only will you need to pre-book your cap and gown (usually at a cost of around £40 or more for a day’s hire), but you’ll also need to purchase additional tickets for any friends and family that would like to attend your graduation ceremony.

You will also be given the opportunity to have some professional photos taken in your cap and gown, which means you will need to pay extra if you would like any prints. While this may seem like a big expenditure, it may also be the last time you ever attend a graduation ceremony (unless you embark on post-graduate education).

Set aside a pot of money for your graduation day so that you can buy a few extra photographs or drinks at the event without worrying about your finances.

6. Prepare for A LOT of clapping

It’s no secret that graduation day will perhaps not be the most riveting day of your life - but nothing can prepare you for the hours of incessant clapping as hundreds of students’ names are read out one by one to go up on stage to collect their degree certificate.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to avoid this, so you may just have the work through the pain as you smash your hands together for hours on end. A bit of hand cream should help to soothe your chapped palms, but you may also want to consider being tactical with your clapping and pacing yourself throughout the ceremony so your hands don’t fatigue too quickly.

7. Try not to be disappointed when they hand you a fake certificate

Most universities won’t send your real degree certificate until a few weeks after your graduation ceremony, so it can come as a bit of a surprise when you ascend the stage for your proud moment, only to be handed a fake certificate. But try not to be too disappointed, as it’s probably for the best – graduation day can be a bit of a hectic one, and your degree certificate is one item you don’t want to damage or misplace. It is a pretty expensive piece of paper, after all.

8. Get snapping

Although it’s a good idea to get at least one professional photo of your graduation, take a camera with you to make sure you get plenty of your own snaps. Take photos of everything, including the university, your old accommodation and all of your closest friends, as, sadly, this could be the last time you see them.

Even with the best of intentions, when your group of friends is dispersed all over the country, it can be difficult to find the time to visit when you’re working every day – so be sure to make plenty of memories before you leave. And remember, no-one is going to judge you for taking the classic cap-throwing photo!

9. Make time for your family

As much as this is your big day, remember that your family have also invested a lot of time, emotion and potentially even money into your education, so make sure you share the day with them as much as you can, rather than spending all of your time with your friends. Humour them if they want to wolf-whistle you across the stage as you collect your certificate, or take a million and one photographs of you and your friends – they’re just proud and want to show it. Besides, it’s likely that all of your friends’ families will be doing the exact same thing.

10. Get the most out of your graduation day

It’s been a long and expensive road to graduation. Even if you enjoyed every minute of your time at university, you’ll also have spent a lot of money and completed a massive amount of assignments to make it to your graduation ceremony. So why not make the most of it? It’s easy to be cynical about the ‘motivational’ speeches at the ceremony, but listen to their words of advice – these people are usually successful for a reason.

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