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So you think you are done with Uni. But beware, University is not done with you. At some point, they will invite you to a graduation ceremony. What is it? Why does it exist? What do I do? Do not fear, let us tell you all you need to know to survive your graduation ceremony.

What is a Graduation Ceremony

The graduation ceremony, or convocation, is a relatively long celebration in which the official representatives of a university hand out the diplomas to the University, Masters or Doctorate students (hopefully, after all the exams are over, and they are finishing their degrees). Although American high schools also celebrate it, convocation is strictly a University celebration that dates from the medieval era in Europe.

Now… Saying that a graduation ceremony is just a boring event will make you miss some of the detail and fun that you can have there. But also, it is quite a complex manoeuvre itself. We are therefore going to describe the steps of any graduation ceremony for you to be ready to survive the last step of Uni.

Steps of any Graduation

  • Introduction – Just like anywhere else, things start in the beginning. Someone important (or, hopefully, a funny showman) will open the event that is devoted to students, their parents, and the university.
  • Speeches – Now, several people will get everyone´s attention. From the deans and professors to an especially renowned invitee, and even the students! This is a great opportunity to tone down the evening, with some student inside jokes or even criticism.
  • Diplomas – If you though the speeches were boring, beware: now every single student will be called up to walk through the stage and pick up the diploma. As you can guess, this can take up to two hours. This part of the ceremony, though, is famous for the pranks some students decide to play. But we´ll talk about those in a minute.
  • Farewell – this is probably the most emotional moment of the whole event. Not just because it´s finally over, but because you realize you are saying goodbye to the uni, the campus, the teachers, and many of your friends. Ultimately, you might be saying goodbye to your student life, which is -for many, the best period you get in life.

Now that you understand the steps of the graduation, let us point out what you should not miss!

Gaudeamus Igitur

Gaudeamus is a song (in Latin!) traditionally sang in graduations. Although it is the “official” anthem of universities (with its medieval origin and all), it is just an old drinking song that invites you to “enjoy life because it is too short” -or if you were paying attention in lit class, carpe diem. Some graduation ceremonies play it through the speakers while others hire choirs or ask the teachers and students to sing it. In my promotion, we were well aware of the origins and meaning and decided to sing it. It was a bit ridiculous and very fun for us. And professors were quite surprised.


Do not be discouraged by speeches: for some are actually very interesting. When the university invites a professional or academic to give the honorific speech, it is not about their achievements, but about life lessons. People go crazy about YouTube videos of celebrities and geniuses on graduation speeches, well go figure… you can attend one live!

Academic Regalia

As you probably know, the dressing code of a graduation ceremony is quite awkward… since it also dates from the medieval time. It is all about uniforming all students to give a clear message of “democracy and equality”.

So be aware, this is not about being the prom queen, but about showing belonging to your university, discipline and educational level. As a side note, you should contact older students to try to buy their used graduation clothes, because you can spend a lot of money on this otherwise. This is what you need to know!

Graduation Outfit

  • Grown/toga – is a large tunic you wear over your regular suit or dress. Be aware: OVER your suit. You will also have to look for a serious blazer jacket or nice dress and pair of shoes for the ceremony. This is normally black or blue, and the university will direct you to the proper model of the gown (the sleeves are different for bachelor, masters or doctorate students).
  • Hood or cowl – Goes over the grown and might show the distinct colours of the discipline you studied. If like me, you get lucky, you just get to wear your cowl over your suit and no grown (quite convenient). This is the colour code you must follow:
graduation ceremony
  • Caps, tassels and medals – Other accessories are the caps, medieval-like hats which also vary depending on hierarchy and discipline. We all know the stereotypical image of students tossing them in the air after graduation, and that is completely true. Even the tassel, or the “rivety” thread that hangs from the cap, must have its correct placement. Also, medals or other accessories might be worn.
  • Pranks – It has become quite normal to see students prank the teachers or the entire crowd while picking up their diploma. Everything from doing a backflip to revealing a fancy dress underneath the toga. Some universities embrace these practices, but most will take serious measures against this. Far from putting yourself in danger, while you perform your stunt you are clouding the next fellow´s minute of glory. As I explained before, this ceremony is all about equality. So if you want to be brave about it, I will not take responsibility! -but I hope you have fun.

But take a moment to think of what it means for you, and how proud you should be of yourself. If you managed to survive uni, it means our guide was helpful!

graduation ceremony

Do not forget to check our recommended Online Open Days or the other blogs in the series that you might have missed.

Check out our other blogs in the series “Surviving Uni” Volume one, two and three!