Graduation Traditions

February 16, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Graduation Traditions

Graduation is a special moment in the lives of many people, marking the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. Along with academic achievements, graduation is also steeped in traditions that vary from culture to culture and country to country. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most common graduation traditions from around the world.

History of graduation ceremony

The history of graduation ceremony is long and rich, dating back to the medieval universities of Europe. The first universities were established in the 12th and 13th centuries, and graduation ceremonies were formalized by the 14th century.

During this time, universities were often associated with religious institutions and operated under the authority of the Catholic Church. Graduation ceremonies were formal events, with students and faculty wearing academic regalia and processing to the church for a mass or religious ceremony.

As universities grew and evolved, graduation ceremonies continued to be an important part of the academic calendar. In the 19th century, many American universities began to adopt the practice of conferring degrees on their students in public ceremonies, often held in large halls or theaters.

a group of Johns Hopkins University college graduates wearing their graduation gown

Today, graduation ceremonies are an important rite of passage for students around the world, and they continue to be steeped in tradition and ritual. While many aspects of the ceremony have evolved over time, the basic structure and purpose of the graduation ceremony have remained largely unchanged, serving as a celebration of academic achievement and a recognition of the hard work and dedication of students.

What are graduation traditions?

What are graduation traditions? Graduation traditions are customs and rituals that are commonly observed to celebrate and mark the completion of a course of study. These traditions vary from culture to culture and country to country, but they all serve as a way to recognize and honor the hard work and achievements of graduates. Some of the most common graduation traditions include:

Caps and gowns

One of the most recognizable graduation traditions is the wearing of caps and gowns. This tradition originated in the United Kingdom, where students and faculty members at universities wore long robes and hoods to symbolize their academic achievements. Today, this tradition is observed in many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Diploma handover

Another common graduation tradition is the handing over of diplomas. This is a symbolic moment in which students receive their diplomas from a faculty member, marking the official end of their academic journey. In some countries, such as the United States, students also receive their graduation caps and gowns at this time.

Graduation speech

A graduation speech is a common tradition in many schools and universities around the world. This is typically delivered by a notable guest speaker or a student who has been selected to represent their class. The graduation speech is an opportunity to reflect on the journey that led to this moment and to offer words of encouragement to fellow graduates.

Tossing of the cap

At the end of many graduation ceremonies, students will toss their caps into the air as a symbol of their accomplishment. This tradition is particularly popular in the United States, where it has become an iconic moment in many high school and college graduations.

Cultural traditions

In addition to these common traditions, many cultures and countries have their own unique graduation traditions. In Japan, for example, students will wear traditional hakama pants and perform a ceremony known as the hakama, in which they receive a diploma and bow to their teachers. In the Philippines, graduates will typically wear a toga and a sablay (a traditional sash) and take part in a procession known as the grand march.

Masters graduation traditions

Masters graduation traditions are similar to those of undergraduate graduations but may vary depending on the institution and country. Some common traditions for Master’s graduation ceremonies include wearing academic regalia, such as caps, gowns, and hoods in the color associated with the degree, the presentation of the diploma, speeches from notable guests or students, and the conferral of the degree.

Masters graduation ceremonies may also include additional customs, such as the hooding ceremony, where a faculty member places a hood over the graduate’s head to signify the completion of the degree or the presentation of awards and honors to outstanding graduates. Other cultural or institutional-specific traditions may also be observed during a Master’s graduation ceremony.

Doctorate graduation traditions

Doctorate graduation traditions are similar to those of undergraduate and Master’s graduation ceremonies, but with additional customs that reflect the significant achievement of earning a doctoral degree. Some common traditions for doctorate graduation ceremonies include wearing academic regalia, conferral of the degree, and the presentation of the diploma.

Doctorate graduation ceremonies often include the hooding ceremony, where the graduate’s academic hood is draped over their shoulders by a faculty member. This tradition symbolizes the completion of the doctoral degree and is unique to doctoral graduation ceremonies.

a male and female student wearing their graduation gown, looking happy while looking at the camera

Doctorate graduates may also deliver a dissertation or thesis defense as part of the graduation ceremony, where they present their research and answer questions from their faculty advisors and peers.

Other customs specific to doctoral graduation ceremonies may include the presentation of awards and honors to outstanding graduates, speeches from notable guests or faculty members, and cultural traditions unique to the institution or country.

Overall, doctorate graduation ceremonies are a significant and meaningful event for graduates and their families, marking the culmination of years of rigorous academic study and research.

Graduation traditions play an important role in celebrating the accomplishments of students as they complete their academic journey. These traditions vary from one institution to another, but they all serve the purpose of honoring the hard work, dedication, and achievements of graduates. Graduation ceremonies, regalia, speeches, and other customs provide a sense of closure and mark the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of graduates. Ultimately, these traditions help to create a sense of community and pride among graduates, their families, and their academic institutions.

Learn more about how to best prepare for college by consulting with college admissions specialists like the ones found here in AdmissionSight. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process to get accepted to the top universities in the world. Feel free to set up an appointment today to book your initial consultation.




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