Graduation day is an odd one. It’s a day to celebrate your achievements but it can feel like a bit of a chore, particularly if your university has it late in the year, months after you’ve actually completed your degree. With so many people to get through in each ceremony it can be hard to feel like the day is yours to enjoy. But what I’ve learned from my graduation, and from photographing other graduates on their day, is that with a little bit of planning you can create a day that feels like the perfect end to your time at university.
Advanced planning is key here. I’m not saying you need to make a minute by minute schedule with colour coding for different family members, but booking things well in advance means you’re much more likely to get the day you want and won’t have any last minute panics about where to eat and what to wear. So pay for your cap and gown hire as soon as you get the email telling you how; book a meal at your favourite cafe or restaurant as soon as you know the timings of your ceremony; and start thinking about what you’d like to be wearing for the day so you can keep an eye out for your perfect dress or suit.
Speaking of what to wear, most graduation hoods have a loop at the front which is meant to be hooked over a button on a shirt to keep it in place. This is all very well if you plan to wear a shirt, but becomes more of an issue when a nice top or dress is involved. My suggestion is to avoid very low cut necklines, as that leaves you with nothing for the hood to hold on to, and consider sewing a decorative button on to the front of whatever you choose to wear. Find images of people from your university’s graduation last year to use as a reference as to where the hood sits and where you’ll need the button to be. Having said that, you will survive without a button for your hood, just be prepared to have to make frequent adjustments to your hood (or have a parent fussing over your outfit at every photo opportunity)!
The most important thing about your outfit should be that its comfortable. You may have to travel in it if you don’t live near the university anymore, and then spend all day in it and do a fair amount of walking. For the girls, if you’re wearing heels, have some flats in your bag just in case. The weather is far too unpredictable to base your outfit on, but knowing the usual temperature range for the season you can make sure you avoid overheating or freezing. Layers are useful and can be handed to family or friends when you split off to sit in your designated seats for the ceremony. And whenever your Graduation is, take an umbrella!
Obvious advice time: be early. First ceremony of the day? Aim to get there even earlier than the ‘please arrive x minutes early’ suggestion time. Better to be super early and have time to wander round the area a bit and get a coffee, than risk being late and arriving at your ceremony flustered. If your ceremony isn’t the first one of the day, I’d highly recommend going to pick up your cap and gown at the start time of the ceremony before yours. You’ll find little to no queue and you’ll have plenty of time to work out which way round the cap goes and how the hood should sit before any photos get taken. They usually give you a bag with them so if you don’t want to wear them all day you can keep them safe and clean. But I say (besides when you’re eating) wear them all flipping day. I mean, when else are you going to get to wear something so simultaneously ridiculous and full of gravitas?
More obvious advice: enjoy! Yes, the ceremony itself is usually long and often full of speeches by people you’ve never heard of, but making the most of your day means going in with an attitude of optimism and celebration. Listen to the speeches with an open mind, you never know who might have some pearls of wisdom that resonate with you, or who might turn out to be a comedian! Take the day off work and get your family to do the same. Go visit the places you already miss seeing because you no longer walk past them to get to lectures most days. Go visit the places you never made the most of while you were there. Take selfies with your favourite landmarks and people from your time at university. Throw your hat in the air!
Want some fun and unique memories like the ones above? Celebrate your graduation with your very own relaxed photo shoot using the city you studied in as a backdrop. I am Sheffield based but happy to travel! Prices from just £80 for a half hour shoot and a selection of edited digital images for you to share, print and frame! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form on my website www.heatherisobel.co.uk to book your shoot.