Student Advice

What is graduation?

Sarah Jones  · Jan 29th 2024  · 2 min

This is it, you’ve done it! Dissertations and coursework complete, you’ve got your results, and now it’s off to celebrate at your university graduation! But, what can you expect from the big day?


We've all seen graduations in films and TV shows, but is it as it exactly as it looks in the movies? While in the US you have a graduation in high school and college; graduating from your undergraduate may be the only time many of us will experience a graduation. Let's give you the rundown of what to expect and share some tips from recent graduates!

What is graduation, exactly?

A graduation is the opportunity for the university to formally award you your qualification. This will happen at the end of your final year of university after all your work has been handed in, graded and your classification has been determined.

So, is it like the movies? Well, in some senses, yes! If they're films from America, you'll likely see they have a valedictorian. A valedictorian is a member of the class who addresses the other graduates with a motivational, uplifting speech. This isn't all that common in the UK, although you may have guest speakers or people receiving honorary degrees throughout the ceremony.

Every institution will have its own quirks to your graduation day, but there are some things you can be sure to expect.

Graduation cap and gown

You'll likely wear a cap and gown throughout the day - the perfect attire to snap your celebratory photos in. Each university has its own robes, and the colours you wear may differ depending on the course you've taken. This is nothing to worry about too much, your uni will give you guidance nearer the time on how to rent or purchase your robes ahead of the big day.

At UoY, we had grey gowns for undergraduates, with a pale blue hood for those who had take a BSc. My friends studying History had a light grey hood for BA qualifications.
- Sarah, University of York

university of york graduate

Graduation ceremony

Each university has their own way of celebrating their students' successes, and many have changed their procedures since COVID-19. While some universities host their ceremony on campus, others might have it in cathedrals or well-known buildings in the area. Some may have guest speakers, some may have musical performances - having a unique experience is half the fun!

One thing you can expect is to receive your qualification. With a shake of the hand or, now, a tip of your cap, you'll be presented with your Bachelor's degree after walking across the stage to the claps of your friends and family. It's a moment to be truly proud of yourself.

Whilst I was pretty nervous to be walking across a stage in front of over a thousand people, graduating with a number of my friends made the experience much less nerve wracking!
- Lois, UCL

university of york graduate
Our graduation was postponed by 2 years due to COVID so was different to a typical graduation. It actually felt more like a high school reunion! With most of us already settled into working life, we really enjoyed reminiscing with friends and celebrating all we'd achieved!
- Laura, Reading University

What to wear to your graduation

Alongside the graduation cap and gown, it's likely the university will ask for smart attire. This could be a dress or a smart suit. Think, something you could wear in a corporate setting if you're struggling. Opt for smart shoes and try to avoid trainers.

Some universities, likeOxbridge, have much different rules and ask you to wear the required Academic dress. This is something the universities will again provide details on prior to your ceremonies.

Some graduation advice from recent graduates!

  • Keep an eye on the time. The day can fly by in an instant and there'll be set times you need to be in certain places - to collect your cap and gown, buy your merch and line up for the ceremony. Be sure to keep and eye on where you need to be and make sure you get to tick off everything on your list.
  • Comfy shoes are advised! Save yourself the worry of tripping across the stage (we've all been there!) and opt for something you know will be easy to walk in. You'll also be on your feet a lot that day, so make sure you're comfortable.
  • Take lots of photos. You won't regret it! Walk around campus and snap some shots in your favourite places with your favourite people. You'll have these to look back on for years to come.
  • Remember to take it all in. This could be the last time you step foot on campus or see your uni friends for a long time as you head out on a new adventure. Take some time to celebrate your time and remember all you've accomplished.
It's easy to get wrapped up in the worry of the day. Remember to spend time with your course mates and the loved ones there to support and celebrate your success. Take it all in!
- Sarah, University of York

undergraduate Uni's

Get your questions answered by sending them an enquiry now.