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Study abroad : Once you arrive

5 Unspoken rules of graduation

Read our list of the unspoken rules of graduation day which you'll discover for yourself on the day. Prepare yourself now!


For those of you preparing to graduate from university, graduation day is a joyous event, where all the attention is on you and your achievements! The cap and gowns, graduation presents, teary-eyed speeches and poignant combination of conclusions & beginnings....


However, like all wonderful occasions, there are a few things you should watch out for which you won’t know to prepare for. They won’t ruin the day, but they will be the little things you look back on and laugh about years from now:


Self-shots on stage get boring quickly

The joker of the class will think it’s wacky and cool to quickly grab a self-shot photo of them on their phone, accepting their degree. The first such occurrence may raise a giggle or even full-fledged laughter from those parents with a terrible sense of humour (i.e. all parents). The second person, miffed because they already planned to do it, will feel like they have to do something bigger to one-up them; however – whether a sneaky kiss on the cheek or funny dance offstage – it’s lost the initial spontaneity. It gets old very quickly after the first few, and will only hold up the already lengthy proceedings. Once parents see their child, they switch off; and graduates themselves will just want to shed their uncomfortable cap and gown to get to the celebratory lunch/dinner – their first proper meal in a few weeks as a poor student.


Your hair will look it’s worst on the most important day

Graduation caps were not meant for their aesthetic value, and they likely will make the hour you spent on your hair completely redundant - think the worst kind of hat hair! It doesn’t help if your photographer goes to town on you, by turning it back and forth just as you think you appear somewhat passable (by the way, it’s their job to position you in a way that is completely unnatural but they know what they’re doing). If you have a fringe, beware of little squiggles of hair poking out. Carry a mirror, or use the camera on your phone for a quick fix. Mum can play stylist for the day, so arm her with a comb, small bottle of hair-spray etc.


Friends meeting family can be awkward

Once you’ve told your friend’s family what you study and what you plan to do next, there isn’t much else to say back (perhaps ask them whether they’ve come from far, or how their journey was). They might ask about follow-up study; take a look at what postgraduate options are available, so you have something to discuss if the topic arises. Don’t worry if you’re not good with parents or older adults – just excuse yourself politely and say you have to phone a family member who wants to wish you well on this day. Plus, graduation means you probably won’t ever see them again, so don’t be afraid to come off as a little nervous – they’ll understand.


However, you’ll find that everyone will be exceptionally warm and well-wishing towards you as soon as they see your cap and gown. Aside from weddings and funerals, there aren’t many occasions when so many people gather for just one person they care deeply about. This is also the opportunity for your friends to introduce you to their family in person, having spent years telling them how fantastic you are as a friend or boy/girlfriend, and vice versa; they’ve probably heard about you, which can only help conversation flow naturally.


You probably won’t have the same cap at the end

You know that image of all the graduates throwing their cap in the air simultaneously? Well what you don’t see is the scene immediately afterwards when they have to crawl around looking for theirs on the floor. Be wise with your throw; we understand you’re excited that it’s finally your time to throw your cap in the air, but it can be costly if you lose it. If you are renting your graduation attire, provided you hand a cap and gown back at the end, you shouldn’t face any problems as to whether it’s the exact one you were given earlier.


It all goes way too fast

Like all of the best days in your life – like your wedding day or a birthday, graduation feels like it’s all over before you even know it. The day will be full of things to do, and it will seem like you won’t have a spare moment to catch your breath and enjoy it all properly. This is likely to be the last time you see particular friends for a while, depending on all your plans in the near future. So make sure you take a few minutes from all the crowds, speeches, flashing cameras and celebrations to share some personal moments with those who mean the most. 



Are you preparing to graduate soon? Have you considered your next step? Find out about postgraduate courses and scholarships.

About Author


Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.