Updated: Aug 23
How to Plan and Prepare for Graduation Day - a step by step guide
Congratulations on passing your exams!
Graduation day is one of the most memorable and exciting days of your life.
You've worked hard for years to earn your degree and now it's time to celebrate your achievements with your family, friends and classmates. But before you can enjoy the festivities, you need to do some planning and preparation to make sure everything goes smoothly and you can enjoy this memorable day.
The Ultimate Timeline to Plan for Graduation Day in 5 Easy Steps
Once you have been informed of the dates for your graduation ceremony, follow our recommended steps and the free downloadable timeline below to help you get ready for your big day in 5 easy steps.
Step 1: Make travel arrangements well in advance (at least 3-4 months before the event)
How to Plan your Trip
If you are travelling from far away or planning to stay over after the graduation day, you will need to plan your trip carefully.
Book flights well in advance, if flying abroad or cross-country, depending on where you live and graduate. Read our blog on Travel for tips on the best time to book flights.
The next thing to think about is how you are going to get to the graduation ceremony and where you are going to park your car if you are driving. If renting a car, make sure it has enough space for luggage and suit-carriers. Graduation ceremonies can be very busy and crowded, so finding a parking space can be a challenge. You should plan ahead and reserve a parking space in advance if possible, or consider alternative options such as public transport, taxis or car-pooling. You should also check traffic conditions and road closures on the day of the ceremony and allow plenty of time to get there.
Book your hotel accommodation well in advance.
How to Find a Good Hotel
Local hotels 'in the know' (i.e. aware of graduation ceremony dates) will be booked up rapidly and likely be more expensive on and around the graduation date, so shop around and compare different options before you decide.
Look for hotels that are close to the graduation venue, preferably walking distance, to save you taking the car and having to find parking.
They should offer good value for money and make sure you check the ratings and reviews from previous guests.
You should also check the hotel's cancellation policy and amenities before booking, if it requires an upfront deposit or full payment. Make a note of the last possible date for free cancellation in your calendar, as a reminder.
Check the check-in time for your room with the hotel, and request a changing room if you need to freshen up or change into your graduation outfits upon arrival, and your room isn't accessible yet.
If you're going to back late after graduation and a dinner out, check the hotel policy for late entry - are their front doors open 24/7 or do you need to ask for a key (applicable for many boutique hotels).
Step 2: Book a restaurant for dinner (2 months in advance)
How to Find a Good Restaurant
After the ceremony, you will likely want to celebrate with your family and friends over a nice meal. But don't leave it until the last minute, as restaurants can fill up quickly on graduation day.
Book a table at least 1-2 months in advance, or even sooner if you have a large group or a specific location in mind. Like hotels, the good restaurants in the area will book up quickly, knowing that graduation families will all be looking for a table.
If you are a large group, the restaurant may ask you to pay a deposit to secure the booking. This is becoming more and more the norm these days.
You should also check the restaurant's menu, prices and reviews before you book, and you could even choose the menu already if you are a large group to facilitate the service and help get you served and fed quicker.
As a word of caution, it pays to call/email and reconfirm your booking a few days before the event.
Step 3: Order your outfit and accessories (2 months in advance)
How to order your graduation gown
The first thing you need to do is order your graduation gown and accessories from your university or a reputable supplier. You should do this as soon as possible, preferably at least three months before the ceremony, to avoid any delays or disappointment. You will need to provide your height, chest size, head circumference and degree level to ensure the correct fit and style.
You will also need to decide whether you want to buy or hire your gown and accessories. Buying them can be more expensive, but you get to keep them as a souvenir. Borrowing or hiring them may be cheaper, but you will obviously have to return them after the ceremony.
You will also need to know what accessories you will wear with your dress, such as a hood, cap, stole or sash. These vary according to your degree level, faculty and university traditions. Check your university's website or contact your graduation office for more information on what you need to wear.
How to Choose your Outfit and Accessories for Graduation Day
Top Tip: Pick the shoes before your outfit!
One of the most overlooked but important things to think about is what shoes to wear on graduation day. You want to look smart and stylish, but also comfortable and practical. You'll be doing a lot of walking, standing and climbing stairs, so you don't want to wear shoes that are too tight, too high or too slippery.
Trust me - choose your shoes carefully! I deeply regretted wearing high heels to a graduation ceremony where there were cobbled streets and a lot of steps to get to the event!
You also don't want to wear shoes that clash with your outfit, gown, or accessories. Choose shoes that are simple, elegant and neutral in colour, and you can always take a spare pair of shoes, just in case!
Your outfit should be comfortable and the right material according to the season in which you will be attending the graduation. Remember to wear light material and that, if you are the student, the polyester gown you will be wearing over your outfit may make you sweat!
Check the weather forecast before the ceremony and dress accordingly. If you live in the UK, remember to take an umbrella and rain coat to combat the unpredictable weather!
Step 4: Capture the Kodak moment!
How to Create a Memorable Graduation Photo
One of the best ways to remember your graduation day is to "capture the Kodak Moment" and keep a memorable and emotional moment in a photo. To capture the best souvenir of this unique occasion, you need to be prepared, creative and spontaneous. Here are some tips on how to do this:
Before the ceremony, make sure your camera or phone is fully charged, has plenty of memory and is set to the right settings.
Try to explore the area before graduation day to see if there are any picturesque spots on campus or in the local town that will bring back memories when you look back on graduation day. These could also include standard backdrops such as the stage, podium, university entrance, etc.
You should also have a backup plan in case of bad weather, poor lighting or crowded areas.
Try to find unique angles, perspectives and compositions that showcase your personality and style. You can also use props, filters, stickers or frames to add fun and flair to your photos.
Experiment with different poses, expressions and gestures that reflect your mood and emotions.
Don't wait for the perfect moment to take a photo. Sometimes the best moments are the unplanned and unexpected ones.
Be ready to snap a photo whenever you see something interesting, funny or touching.
You never know when you might capture a Kodak moment that will make you smile for years to come.
Step 5: Enjoy your Graduation
How to organise your day
The time will fly by on the day of graduation and, while you don't want to be stressed the entire day, it is important to have a clear schedule and stick to it.
Have a clear itinerary that includes what time you should check in, when to pick up the ceremonial gown and cap, when to line up for your class, when the ceremony starts and ends, a meeting point, photo op location, etc. For best results, have one of your family/group be the timekeeper and keep everyone on schedule. Remember to factor in moving between locations so you're not sprinting from one place to another.
Finally, remember to check in with your graduation office early on the day of the ceremony to collect your gown and accessories, so that you have time to make adjustments and take photos before the ceremony.
Follow the instructions of the staff and marshals, smile for the camera and have fun with your loved ones.
Graduation day is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will cherish forever, so after all the planning and preparation, you can enjoy your graduation day with confidence and joy.
Congratulations - you've earned it! !🎓