• Abbie Tibbott

All About Your Graduation

It may seem a bit early to be thinking about putting on your cap and gown, but the end is in sight for final years, and I thought it would be helpful to offer some advice on what to expect at your graduation ceremony. I still haven’t properly graduated from my MA, so I have another chance to do that this summer. I’ve had my certificate since August, but it's an event that I really enjoyed the first time around, so I’m looking forward to doing it all again. In this post, I’ll go through some things to consider if you’re planning your graduation.


1. You don’t actually have to go

Although at many universities this will be the only chance to dress up in formal university attire, there’s no-one forcing you to attend your own graduation. If you can’t spare the time, you’re now living abroad or you simply don’t want to pay (more on that later) you can apply to ‘graduate in absence’. This means that you’ll still get your certificate and transcript posted to you, but there’s no pressure to attend.

I would encourage everyone to attend their graduation, as for me it was the last time I got to see people from my course before we all went our separate ways. I had to travel up for the day, hire robes and take holiday time from my job, but it was ultimately worth it to spend the day with my friends.


2. It’s a long day

Graduations will either take place on your university campus, or at a large enough venue nearby. You’ll need to be there several hours before your ceremony to collect tickets, robes and then line up before the procession. This could mean staying overnight in a hotel the day before or the night after, and you’ll be on your feet most of the day.

I’d recommend wearing a pair of shoes that’s suitable for walking on grass in, as well as bringing a raincoat to leave with people attending your graduation with you, just in case it rains. Also, the people you’re bringing along will most likely have to do some hanging around, so make sure you either bring some lunch, or point them in the direction of the nearest pub.


3. Who to bring

Each university has different arrangements for graduation. At mine, I was given two tickets as standard, and then I had the option to queue up for leftover tickets if I needed them. This added to the hanging around, but the first-come-first-served arrangement seemed the fairest way to organise things. My ceremony was also livestreamed to lecture theatres on campus for people to watch, meaning that more people could have attended if I had wished.

I ended up bringing four people, and I thought that was a nice number to spend time with.

If your family is unavailable, it can be tempting not to bother with graduation. For me, I’m not sure that I would spend the money if no-one was coming to support me. However, bringing friends is totally okay too, so ask your best pals to come and support your day.


4. The cost

Again, this varies. I didn’t have to pay for tickets (some of my friends at other universities did), but I did have to pay for robe hire. There’s nothing to stop you from buying your own, but there’s honestly no point, as if you get all the way to PhD you’ll have completely different robes to what you wore at undergraduate! Your university will have links with companies that provide robe hire, and all you have to do is fill out an online form with some measurements, pay and pick them up on the day. It was all very easy, but it wasn’t cheap! I remember paying £45 for my robes, and I wore them for about 4 hours. It’s a bit of a rip-off, so this time I’m planning to source my robes from another company that will deliver them to me before the ceremony, and provide me with a bag to mail them back in. I am hoping to get a package that lets me hold onto them for a few days, as I’d like to go out and take some photos.

It's worth shopping around for a better deal, but it’s worth factoring in the cost of robes into your graduation budget. If it’s a make or break situation, getting in contact with your university to see if there’s any financial support on offer is worth a try.


5. What to expect

You’ll be allocated a timeslot for your graduation, with guidance on when you should arrive. Booking robes and graduation photos will be available online to sort before the day, and you’ll probably be given a reference number for your booking. Get any extra tickets sorted, pick out your outfit and simply turn up!

There will be staff and stewards working at the event to direct you to all the places you’ll need to go, so just give yourself plenty of time to get organised. You’ll have to leave any bags with your guests, so try and pick and outfit with a pocket somewhere so you can take your phone if you wish. Lining up in alphabetical order will happen just before the ceremony, and then you’ll progress into the venue and collect your degree when you’re called forwards.

Afterwards, enjoy the photos, champagne, and socialising, and you’re free to leave whenever you like. I lingered for an hour or so after the ceremony to spend time with my friends before we headed into town to grab a meal. I’d recommend booking a table as graduation week(s) will be really busy.


Ultimately, the university will provide you with all the details you should need, so keep an eye on your emails. It’ll probably take you less than an hour to organise the finer details, and it will be a great day when you get there and put your robes on!

Happy studying!