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10 Tips to Prepare for Graduation

College graduates celebrating by tossing their caps in front of an academic building.

After four years of long nights, long essays, and a long week of finals; you are finally done. It’s time to walk across that stage and snatch that diploma! But is it actually that easy? Unfortunately, it’s not.

Applying for graduation isn’t hard. But there are some necessary steps you need to complete in order to qualify. Don’t be that one person who thought they could just show up the day of, because they won’t have a spot for you. Collegeboxes is here to help you cross the finish line, so here are some tips on how to successfully make it through graduation.

Have the Necessary Credits

Do you know how many credits you need to graduate? Most universities require you to have completed 120 credit hours, with 45 of those credits being upper-level classes. On top of this, many universities also require you to complete certain required courses in order to graduate.

This can be a lot to keep track of over the course of 4 years. Luckily, most universities have an audit system that can immediately tell you how many classes you have completed, as well as which ones you still need to take. These are typically available in your student portal on the university website. If you have trouble finding it, make an appointment with your counselor and check to see if you reach the credit requirement.

The university will check the number of credits you have before sending you the diploma, so make sure you meet that requirement before filling out the application. The credits you take during your senior year count toward the total number of credits, so try to avoid leaning into senioritis and stay focused!

Pay All Outstanding Fees

Remember that textbook you forgot to turn in? The school didn’t. On top of that, they won’t let you walk across the stage until you pay off any outstanding fees. If you are uncertain of any potential fees attached to your account, either check with your student portal or contact your bookstore to follow up. This includes overdue books, parking tickets, or other general fees that pop up over the course of your college career.

Fill Out the Application

Yes, you must apply to graduate. This gives the university time to check over your transcript and make sure that you passed your classes, met the credit requirements, and paid off all your fees. If you get all these checked off your list, you can safely expect to walk across the stage and get your diploma.

Most applications for graduation will have a fee. The standard price for a graduation application is $50, but there can be an additional late fee of about $25. If you were pursuing a concurrent degree, you may also be subjected to another fee on top of the original application.

Pass Your Final Exams

The classes you take your senior year also contribute to your credit hours. This means that even though you are close to the finish line, you still need to buckle down and make sure you pass your final semester of classes. While it may be tempting to start skipping classes, try to stay engaged until your last final.

It’s not uncommon for universities to approve a student for graduation, only for that student to fail one of their last classes. In situations like this, you may still be able to walk on stage, but you won’t officially graduate and receive your diploma until you complete that class. Avoid having that awkward conversation with your family and try your best to pass these classes the first time.

Order Your Cap and Gown

Another thing you must pay for, or else you won’t be able to walk the stage. Once you are approved for graduation, your school will tell you where to order and pick up your cap and gown. This usually takes place in the university’s bookstore. If you qualify for any cords for academic distinction, you may have to pick them up in a different location.

If your cap and gown are being delivered, make sure that you order a few weeks in advance to ensure you get it on time. For some companies it can take up to two weeks for an order to reach your door. If you have any questions about acquiring a cap and gown, don’t hesitate to contact your campus bookstore. They are prepared to answer those questions for you.

Polish Your Resume

As you come up on graduation, you are going to have to endure everyone asking you about what comes next. Don’t panic! You have time to decide. In the meantime, take this chance to spruce up your resume and begin thinking about which careers you would like to pursue.

When editing your resume, make sure that you are keeping it clean and readable. Making your resume pop is great, but the most important part is the information on the page.

Resumes should be one page, so work on creating concise explanations of your job experiences. Feel free to include interesting tidbits, like volunteering or additional skills you have. Just make sure you are highlighting your talents and experience in a clear way.

Reconnect with Old Professors

Who knows where life will take you next? Before you leave your alma mater, take some time to personally thank the people who helped get you to this point. Obviously, you don’t need to stop by and see every professor you ever had. But prioritize seeing the ones you connected with. This not only gives you an opportunity to say thank you, but also gives you a chance to ask for a personal recommendation letter.

Whether you are looking to pursue graduate school or trying to jump into the workforce, recommendation letters will help you wherever you go. While you may not need one right away, it is good to have some people in your back pocket if the time comes. Don’t let yourself be a stranger to your professors, they can help you in the long run!

Find Out How Many Invitations You Get

For some universities, there are only a certain number of tickets to graduation that each student is entitled to. For larger schools, you may be able to bring the entire family, but for smaller ceremonies that might not be the case. Follow up with your administration to make sure how many family members can come along to celebrate with you.

If you are attending a large university, there may be multiple ceremonies open to you. While all schools hold a catch-all graduation event, your specific program may offer a smaller, more intimate graduation ceremony. If you are looking for a shorter event with fewer people, this could be a great option for you. These ceremonies usually come with a ticket limit, so make sure to clarify how many tickets you get before inviting the entire family!

Figure Out What to Wear

If you are wondering what you should wear to graduation, you aren’t alone. You should dress nicely, but there is no need to bring out your black-tie attire. Most colleges encourage a semi-formal dress code, which usually means dressing as though you were going to a business meeting or professional event. If your school hasn’t provided any dress code instructions, dressing semi-formal is a safe bet.

For men, this could look like some nice pants with a button-up shirt and tie. For ladies wanting to wear dresses or skirts, everything should fall below the knee. Wear comfortable shoes, especially if your graduation is taking place outside. You’ll thank yourself later.

Give Yourself Time to Get Seated

This might seem like a minor detail but remember that you aren’t the only one graduating. Before getting to the venue, figure out the parking situation and learn where you are supposed to check-in before graduation. There will be a lot of people swarming around, so it might be hard to navigate around the crowd. Give yourself about 45 minutes as a buffer, so you can get signed in, seated, and comfortable before your graduation ceremony starts.

Overall, while registering for graduation isn’t hard, there are a lot of steps you need to take to make sure you can get that long awaited diploma. Take a deep breath and remember that this is an exciting milestone you have just accomplished. Congratulate yourself and enjoy these last few weeks of being a college student, you earned it!

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