May 31, 2020

Everything you need to know to look your best at graduation

The consolation of wearing that often ill-fitting graduation cap is that you get to decorate it when you graduate from college.  

With graduation and the end of the semester closing in, senioritis and plans for graduation have begun. While students have a lot of freedom with the dress code for graduation, there are some rules to abide by when it comes to decorating caps.

“The commencement ceremony is considered a formal event,” Niki Staten-Miller, graduation coordinator from the Office of the Registrar said in an email. “Dress is encouraged to be at least business casual. Most of the guidelines relate to how to wear honor cords, service cords, or stoles.”

The specifics of commencement attire, additional tickets, and other graduation events can be found here.  

“There are usually cap decorating events/group get-togethers leading up to commencement,” Staten-Miller said in an email. “So obviously it is not restricted, however graduates would be encouraged to keep it appropriate and not include anything that could be considered offensive or hurt someone.”

Graduation caps are a 9.5 inch square, giving students plenty of space to personalize to their liking.

Capital has not enforced a list of specific restrictions for decorating caps, and has worked on an honor system, according to associate director of Student and Community Engagement (SCE) Christa Serluco.

“We have never had an issue with students putting something inappropriate on their caps as commencement is a formal and special day for graduates,” Serluco said in an email.

The SCE has also stepped in and helped students by supplying material to decorate with.

“Decorating graduation caps hasn’t always been a trend, but when we noticed in the past few years that this is something students were doing, we decided to support them (as craft supplies are often costly), and built a Grad Week event around providing craft supplies and allowing graduates a space to craft,” Serluco said.

Many high schools don’t allow students to decorate their caps, so seniors like Seth Martin are even more excited to decorate their graduation caps.  

“I’m going to put the quote ‘I go to seek a great perhaps,’” Martin said.  

Martin will be moving to another country for graduate school, so he is adding a compass to his cap, the cardinal directions in Spanish instead of English because he will be moving to a Spanish-speaking country.  

“I’m putting the quote ‘I think I’m quite ready for another adventure’ from Bilbo Baggins,” senior Moriah Reichert said.

Many students find a quote or a topic they’re passionate about and make that the central focus, also drawing inspiration from the internet

“Pinterest has been a lifesaver,” Martin said.  

Senior Hannah Crabtree has chosen to theme her cap based off of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Hamilton.

“I am going to put the lyrics ‘There’s a million things I haven’t done, just you wait’ on my grad cap,” Crabtree said in an email. “I chose this for my cap because I really liked the message Hamilton gives. It’s a story of perseverance and determination. The whole soundtrack has fueled a lot of study sessions during my last semester, so it was only right.”  

Decorating your cap isn’t mandatory, but the self expression that comes with it is something that many could take advantage of. Inspiration can be found in anything you follow, look at what you like and let that guide you.  

Pinterest, as Martin said, is a great place to draw inspiration as well as tips and tricks for completing your art. 

Graduation caps, gowns, and tassels can be bought through the Barnes and Noble Bookstore. To obtain your honor cords, contact your honors society and they will be able to give them to you.  

For any additional information, head to Capital’s website or email Niki Staten-Miller with questions.  


  • Julie is the web editor of the Chimes and is a third-year Professional Writing and Journalism and Creative Writing major at Capital University.

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