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How to Wear Your Graduation Cap

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How to Wear Your Graduation Cap

Cap-and-gown graduation ceremonies are a tradition that go back to the Middle Ages. Even though times (and styles) have changed considerably since then, it’s still important to cut a handsome image when you’re walking across the stage. Donning a graduation cap may seem simple, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it that may vary depending on your school, field of study or graduate level. No matter what sort of cap you’re wearing, you’ll want to make sure that it fits properly and is lined up in all the right places, and that you keep it in pristine condition until it’s time to receive your degree.


1. Arrange the cap so that the point is in front. The mortarboard (the square piece on the crown of the cap) is meant to be worn offset in a diamond shape. The front and back of the cap will usually be indicated by the design of the headpiece—look for the slight taper in the forehead area and the elastic band in the rear.

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a. Situate the cap so that the front corner of the mortarboard is centered on your forehead.


b. If you’re still not sure which way it goes, take a look inside the brim. The manufacturer often includes basic directions for how to wear the cap properly.

2. Make sure the cap sits evenly. Once the cap is on your head, the mortarboard should be flat and level with the ground. If it’s not, you may need to tilt it slightly to straighten it out. Double check that the band of the headpiece is symmetrical and comes to a stop about an inch above your eyebrows. Don’t push the cap too far forward or back on your head or let it lean to one side. To test whether your cap is level, try placing a lightweight object on top and see if it stays in place.

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3. Attach the tassel. If the cap doesn’t have a fixed tassel, or it doesn’t arrive preassembled, you’ll need to put it on yourself. To do this, simply loop the circular end of the tassel over the raised button in the center of the mortarboard. It should be able to slide freely around the button without coming loose. Give the tassel a couple gentle tugs to make sure it’s secure.


4. Position the tassel correctly. At the beginning of the ceremony, the tassel should fall on the right side of the cap (unless otherwise specified). Once everyone in the class has been announced, you and your fellow grads will flip it around to the left side, signifying your transition from student to graduate. Some schools and programs may do things a little differently. Be sure that you’re clear about your school’s established practices prior to the big day. Keep the tassel out of your line of sight and resist the urge to mess with it as much as possible.

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5. Leave your cap on for the duration of the ceremony. Once you’ve got your cap and gown on, try not to fidget with them too much. They may not be the most comfortable, but you’ll only have to wear them for a couple of hours. When it comes time to remove your cap, do it in style—new graduates traditionally toss their caps into the air as a celebratory gesture when the ceremony draws to a close. Resist the urge to remove your cap for any reason once the ceremony is underway, unless it’s for the singing of the National Anthem. You can hold onto your cap if you’d rather be wearing it when it comes time to take pictures. In fact, this will definitely be a good idea if your regalia is rented!

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