What Side Does the Tassel Go On? A Guide to Graduation Etiquette: Part 1

Graduation season is right around the corner, which means it’s time to brush up on your commencement etiquette. As it turns out, there are many formal and informal rules with regard to graduation ceremonies, from how to wear your graduation apparel to when is appropriate to cheer and what is and isn’t allowed in the venue. Fortunately, our team at Class Act Graduation is full of graduation experts who have gone through the process many times in the past and are here to share their expertise with you. That being said, here is your guide to graduation etiquette!

Graduation Apparel

First and foremost, your graduation apparel should be spick and span on your graduation day, from your academic robes and grad cords to your cap and tassel. Teachers, professors, and advisors typically lecture their students throughout the semester about keeping their graduation apparel nice and clean until the big day, but many students still show up with wrinkled or dirty robes. Trust us when we say that you don’t want to be that person — especially when it comes time to walk across the stage in front of thousands of people or take photos with your friends.

The best way to avoid showing up looking messy is to put a little extra thought into your preparation a few days before the ceremony. While this might sound like a no brainer, many students fail to take their academic robes out of the package until the day of and don’t leave time to iron or steam out the wrinkles. Or, even worse, they unwrap their grad gown way too soon and head out to take photos, unknowingly dragging it on the ground, spilling makeup on it, or forgetting to take it off before biting into a big slice of greasy pizza.

It goes without saying that the best way to avoid this is to unwrap your grad cap and gown a few days before the ceremony (assuming you’ve already triple-checked that it’s the right size), steam it, and hang it up somewhere safe until the big day. That way, you won’t risk tripping over it or causing any other kind of damage, which can add even more stress to what might already be a chaotic and nerve-wracking, yet exciting time in your life.

Under-Gown Attire

Another major component of graduation etiquette students often forget is to wear something appropriate under their academic robes. And by appropriate, we aren’t necessarily talking about coverage (although that can also be an issue) — rather, the level of professionalism it brings to the stage. Appropriate graduation outfits for guys include a button-up shirt, dress pants, a tie, and dress shoes, while graduation outfits for ladies can include a nice dress, a blouse and skirt combo, or something similar. Of course, this varies by the season, but the general rule is the more sophisticated, the better.

Now, we aren’t saying you have to go buy an expensive dress or suit and tie to wear on your graduation day, but you’d be surprised how many guys show up in T-shirts and tennis shoes. If you’re wondering what to wear to a graduation ceremony, whether it be your own or a loved one’s, do a quick search online to see what others are wearing. This will give you some ideas about what’s appropriate and what isn’t. After all, this is one of the most monumental days of your life, so why not make an effort to look your best?


The Cap and Tassel

Then, of course, there’s the graduation cap and tassel. As with the rest of your graduation apparel, it’s a good idea to keep your cap and tassel stowed somewhere your puppy won’t get to them or food won’t get spilled on them until you take them out on your graduation day. But what about decorating your grad cap? This is a fun tradition that has stood the test of time, however, some schools have been cracking down in the last few years. That being said, make sure you are allowed to decorate your cap before you do so, and make sure to choose a tasteful design that you won’t regret once it’s permanent. If you like planning ahead and are looking for inspiration, create a Pinterest board of all your favorite ideas and designs — that way, you’ll be far less likely to regret your decision once the pink sparkly paint hits the fabric of your mortar board cap.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “What side does the tassel go on?” If so, you’re not alone — lots of students have to Google this before their commencement program. To save you the stress and extra time, we’ll be the first to tell you that a grad tassel is mandatory, and that you should arrive at the ceremony with it on the right side of your grad cap. Then, after you and your classmates walk across the stage and accept your diplomas, you will all be asked to turn the tassel to the left to officially become an alum. To make this extra fun, you can even add a tassel charm with your graduation year in shiny gold or silver numbers — you’ll get to keep it forever!

Order Your Grad Gown, Cap, And Tassel From Class Act

We hope that you’ve found this post helpful as you prepare for your graduation day, and that you will return for part two of this blog series to read about other aspects of graduation etiquette. Until then, be sure to check out all the graduation gear we’ve got in store at Class Act Graduation, from academic robes, caps, and tassels to honor cords, diploma covers, graduation invitations, and more. No matter whether you’re graduating from kindergarten, high school, college, or a master’s or PhD program, we look forward to helping you make the most of your graduation day!

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