The Ceremony: Rich in style and tradition
The ceremony itself dates back to England’s Oxford University in 1432, and while the makeup of modern graduating classes is far more diverse today, the experience remains an honoured rite of passage for all students.
Diplomas are “conferred” or handed out to graduates at an official ceremony called commencement, convocation or invocation. Schools have different traditions associated with the graduation ceremony, including the tossing of the graduation hat (mortarboards) into the air and flipping the tassel from the right to the left upon receiving the diploma.
All students who participate in the graduation ceremony are required to wear the appropriate commencement attire.
Guidelines for the graduate on how to wear a cap and gown
- The cap is worn flat on the head.
- The gown should fall midway between the knee and ankle.
- Men should remove their caps during the school song and the National Anthem.
- Tassels are usually worn on the right side and shifted to the left when graduates receive their diplomas.
- Men generally choose to wear dark dress pants, a dress shirt and tie under their gowns.
- Women generally wear a lightweight dress or a blouse and a skirt that is shorter than the gown so it does not hang below the gown.
Helpful hints for the ceremony
At many large institutions, where hundreds of degrees are being granted at once, the main ceremony is sometimes followed by smaller ceremonies at sites around campus where faculty members from each department distribute diplomas to their graduates. Another means of handling very large numbers of graduates is to have several ceremonies, divided by field of study, at a central site over the course of a weekend instead of one single ceremony.
In any case, typically each candidate is given a diploma by an academic administrator or official such as the dean or department head. It is also common for graduates not to receive their actual diploma at the ceremony but instead a certificate indicating that they participated in the ceremony or a booklet to hold the diploma in. This allows students who need an extra quarter or semester to participate in the official ceremony with their classmates.
At most colleges and universities, the faculty will recommend that each candidate be given a degree, which is then formally conferred by the president or other institutional official.
When is the tassel flipped from right to left?
Some schools prefer to do this right after the handshake upon receipt of the diploma. Others prefer that it be done just before walking off the stage. It all depends on your school’s traditions or preferences.