What happens at a graduation ceremony?

Oct 16, 2019

If you are due to graduate soon, you’re probably wondering what happens at a graduation ceremony. 

We’ve put together this post to explain what you can expect on your graduation day. 

Before your graduation ceremony 

Leading up to your graduation day, your university will get in touch with you usually via email or your universities student portal. 

You’ll be informed of the ceremony details such as when and where it will be held. 

Applying for your guest tickets.

Your university will want to know how many guests you wish to bring with you. 

The number of guests you can bring will depend on your university’s policy and the size of the venue. Generally, universities will try to make it fair so that every student can bring roughly the same number of guests. 

It is best that you apply for your guest’s tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. 

Gown hire 

What happens at a graduation ceremony?

Your university will also encourage you to hire your gown. 

They will usually state where to hire your gown from as the specific gown that you will wear will be unique to your university and your course. 

Whilst most people hire their gown and graduation cap, some people opt to buy their graduation attire to keep for memories. 

In order to hire your gown, you may need to provide the measurements of your head and your gown size. This is so that the gown hire company can reserve the right size gown for you. 

What happens at a graduation ceremony? 

This will differ slightly across universities. However, here’s what you can expect: 

Putting on your graduation gown and cap 

Generally, you’ll start the day by getting dressed up in your graduation gown and hat. 

There will be members of staff available on the day to help you to put on your robe and graduation cap and make sure that you are comfortable. 

If you realise that you’ve hired the wrong size robe or hat, don’t worry as the gown hire company will often have spares in different sizes. They will be there on hand to help you. 

Once everyone has put on their graduation attire, you’ll usually walk to the graduation ceremony location with your peers and guests. 

after graduation ceremony banner

Getting seated in the venue 

Once you arrive at the venue you’ll separate from your guests and enter the venue with your peers. 

All of the graduands (people who are about to receive their academic degree) will sit together. 

The graduate ceremony planners will have devised a plan to get everyone into the ceremony room quickly and efficiently. There will be staff members who are on hand to help you to find your seat. 

Depending on your university you’ll be sitting with your fellow course members, sometimes in alphabetical order. 

Your guests will also be helped to find their seats. 

Academic procession and welcome  

At the start of your ceremony, there will be an academic procession. 

This will last for about 15-20 minutes. 

Senior academic lecturers and staff, some of whom you’ll recognise will walk onto the stage. 

They will also be dressed in academic attire. 

The graduands will stand whilst the academic staff walk on to the stage and take their seats.   

Then you’ll be invited to take your seat again, and you’ll be welcomed by the vice-chancellor or president of the academic board. 

There may be some other speeches and notable mentions. 

The presentation of the awards  

Then each graduand will be called on stage one by one. 

This will be done in a very coordinated fashion and there will be members of staff nearby, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. 

Usually, members of each subject will be called at a time. 

Walking across the stage  

  • When your name and degree classification is called, you’ll walk across the stage. 
  • You’ll then shake the chancellor’s hand. 
  • Then you’ll receive a cylinder or piece of paper (Usually, you’ll get your actual degree certificate before or after your graduation ceremony). 
  • Some universities will take photos of each graduate shaking the chancellor’s hand. 
  • Then you’ll walk back to your seat and enjoy the remainder of the ceremony. 

After the awards have been handed out, there may be some further speeches. 

What happens at a graduation ceremony?

Academic procession and Graduates Exit 

The graduates will stand whilst the academic staff on stage leave the ceremony. 

Then the graduates will exit. 

After the ceremony

You’ll leave the ceremony venue. Some people will take photos outside of the venue with their family and friends.

Then there may be a post-ceremony celebration at a location nearby. 

All university graduation ceremonies will be different. Some will serve food and drinks, others will have activities to help graduates to celebrate their academic success.

At the celebration, you may have the opportunity to get a professional photograph taken whilst wearing your graduation gown and cap. 

At the end of the celebration, if you hired your gown and graduation cap, you’ll need to return it to the gown hire company. 

Here’s a video showing what happens at a graduation ceremony.

What happens at a graduation ceremony: summary

We hope this post helps you to understand what happens at a graduation ceremony. 

Graduation ceremonies will differ across universities, but this post will give you a general idea of what to expect. 

Your graduation day is one that you’ll reflect on your time at university and your achievements. 

If you would like bespoke help to secure a graduate-level job contact us, here at Graduate Coach. 

We will help you to turn your degree into the right career for you. If you’ve recently graduated from university, check out our post on books for graduates who want to excel in their careers.


I’m nervous about my graduation ceremony walk. What should I do?

Many graduates feel anxious about the idea of walking across the stage in front of hundreds of people.

However, once you get to the stage your nerves and anxiety will be replaced with pride.

Ensure that you wear a comfortable pair of shoes and you’ll be fine. We promise!

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