How to Organize a Graduation Ceremony in Six Simple Steps: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn how to organize a graduation ceremony
Pooja Jena

Table of Contents

A graduation ceremony is the most important day in any student’s life. They’ve worked hard for years to reach this moment.

As an event coordinator, you’d not want to leave any stone unturned to organize the best graduation ceremony. After all, it’s going to be a memorable event for hundreds of students.

The catch here is that you’re not just responsible for a lot of students, but also faculty members and any guests you may be having. This can include parents and even the chief guests.

You’ll have to be on your toes with so many critiquing eyes on you. To help you organize the best graduation ceremony, we bring to you a comprehensive guide. Follow these steps to learn how to organize a graduation ceremony.

A. Phase 1: How To Organize A Graduation Ceremony

During this phase, you’ll do everything required before organizing any event.

1. Set Up A Team

You can’t have a one-man army here. You’ll need a team and you’ll definitely have to delegate. Typically, it is all hands on board with the faculty and administration of the given institution.

Even within the faculty members, you will have to recognize strengths and delegate across these departments:

  • Anchoring
  • Paperwork and Certification
  • Catering
  • Decor
  • Logistics
  • Chief Guest
  • And any other department you may deem necessary

It is also a good idea to have event planners do it for you instead.

2. Get Students on Board

While faculty members are important to organize a graduation ceremony, students would be just as instrumental.

This is typically the class junior to the graduating class. They could help with sorting the certificates, ushering students and guests, and even anchoring.

3. Budget Planning

An institution usually always has a budget allocated towards the graduation ceremony. Based on the current financial standing of the university, you must decide on the amount the university or school can spend.

It is also a good practice to set aside 10% of the total budget for any contingencies. In event planning, emergencies can arrive at any time. They can be as minor as running out of food, water, or even big medical emergencies.

4. Theme and Decor

This step is something not many institutions ponder upon when thinking of how to organize a graduation ceremony. However, we do recommend that you have a theme.

If you want a recurring theme, you can go with the colors of your institution’s logo. This will be helpful if you want to purchase the decor once and continue using it every year.

Some other themes you can consider could be related to the career. For example, dental colleges can have a theme and decor related to teeth and dental equipment.

Dental themed party in an article about how to organize a graduation ceremony
Credits: Jackie Fo

Alternatively, the theme can also be related to the year’s events. For example, a pandemic-themed event.

Whichever theme you choose, make sure you have a photo booth area for students. It can be for individual and group photos.

5. Date, Time, and Venue

Typically, the venue is usually within the institution. If your school or college doesn’t have enough space for a big event, look for banquet halls and auditoriums outside.

The date and time also typically remain the same every year. But, it can often get disrupted as it did during the pandemic. Or you might be organizing a prom for the first time. In either case, you must choose a date and time after all semesters and clearances are over.

B. Phase 2: How To Organize A Graduation Ceremony

Now, let’s come to the hard and time-consuming part. This phase has the most action items so let’s get to it quickly.

1. Basic arrangements

You can’t have an event without furniture and facilities. So, get things sorted as soon as the budget is finalized:

  • Calculate the number of chairs and tables needed. See if you can use the existing furniture in the institution or need to rent some
  • Arrange for mics and speakers as per the venue area
  • Since the theme is finalized, start working on the decoration
  • Have enough graduation caps, capes, or scarves (anything your institution prefers) for each student

Make sure you have extras for each of the above.

2. Safety Measures

Ensure your event has safe arrangements by taking care of the following:

  • Have enough parking space
  • Have multiple entry and exit points to avoid crowding at the gates
  • Make a list of people who are coming. This is so that you can individually ensure that only the people on the guest list enter
  • Make sure the medical room at your institution is open and working throughout the event
  • Have extra security personnel around your chief guest(s)
  • If the venue is within the institution’s boundaries, ensure that it is cut off from the rest of the area. This will help build stronger security as you only need to monitor a limited area

3. Chief Guest

Usually, important government officials and celebrities grace the event with their presence.

You can even reach out to notable alumni. This helps get the message across better because the students will be hearing from a senior.

C. Phase 3: How To Organize A Graduation Ceremony

Now, let’s spread the word about this awesome graduation ceremony you’re about to host.

1. Audit the Student List

Firstly, you require a list of students who are graduating. You must roll out this list and ask students if any spelling or demographic details need to be changed.

2. Prepare and Roll Out the Invitations

Prepare a formal invitation for the graduation ceremony. Usually, it is done via email. Here you’ll have to specify the timings, itinerary, and any formalities that students have to abide by.

Also, include a set of rules and dress code if you have any. Will you offer graduation gowns, caps, or scarves for purchase or rent? Make sure you mention the same in the invitations.

3. RSVP and Guestlist

Make sure you create a form to know how many students will attend the ceremony.

You may adjust your catering and furniture requirements accordingly.

4. Hire Vendors

You will need vendors for the following purposes:

  • Decor (if you can’t have in-house decorators with the help of students)
  • Catering (try reaching out to the school/college canteen)
  • Photography
  • Certificate makers

5. Clearance

A lot of paperwork is required before you hand out degrees to students. Make sure that this starts a month before the actual graduation ceremony.

This is a step that most guides on how to organize a graduation ceremony skip. But you shouldn’t.

You’ll need to get your students to get a no-dues form filled out by various stakeholders. For example, library, IT, and more.

D. Phase: 4: Digital Planning

Today, schools and colleges are trying to get more traction online. Modern-day graduation ceremonies have a digital aspect to them too. Here are some of the things you may want to include:

1. Graduation Hashtag

It shouldn’t come as a shocker that your students are going to post about their big day. So how about a way to easily find what they’re posting? To do so, you can create a hashtag for the event. It will also help boost the institution’s online presence.

For example, if your institution’s name is Republic College, your hashtags could be #republicgraduation, #republicalumnus, or #republicgrad.

2. Student Video

Graduation day is undoubtedly a very emotional day for students. To give them a good farewell, you must create a video of their photos of their time spent in school/college.

Here’s an example of how you can do this:

This video will give them a sense of belongingness. It’ll also provide a beautiful conclusion to their school/college life.

3. Live Streaming

Organizing a graduation ceremony was a different story altogether during the pandemic.

Luckily, we are not amidst a pandemic anymore. We don’t want any more students graduating over a zoom call.

However, we did learn during the pandemic that it does help include everybody. A lot of students and their family members might not be able to attend the graduation ceremony.

While their physical presence might be impossible, they can still be digitally present.

To make this possible, live stream your event and station a camera for it in advance. You can do the live stream on Facebook or Youtube.

You might also want to save this video and publish it separately so people can relive their special day.

E. Phase 5: Flow of Events

Now, you’ve reached the day of the actual event. Here’s how things will move hereon:

1. Distribution

First, ensure that each student gets the scarf/gown/cap that they rented. You may have custom-made outfits with the university/school logo. Instruct the students to keep them safe and clean if you’re renting them out.

You may even want to give some refreshments to prepare your guests for a long event.

2. Opening Speech

This is usually done by the Vice Chancellor. You can refer to this to see how speeches go.

3. Chief Guest

People will stand up to welcome the chief guest. The honorable chief guest will also speak soon afterward.

4. School-wise Speeches

For a high school graduation, teachers from each stream make their speeches before calling out each student.

And for colleges with different batches, heads from each school of study speak. For example, first, the head of the school of undergraduate studies may speak, followed by the head of the school of ecological studies.

5. Handing Out Degrees

Students will be called out one by one after the head has spoken. They’ll be handed out their degree and certificates. They’ll also momentarily pause for individual photos.

Degrees being handed out while you organize a graduation ceremony
Credits: Utah Valley University

6. Valedictorian Speech

The students who perform the best from their batch will get a chance to make a short inspiring speech. Here’s one iconic valedictorian speech for your reference:

7. Oath

This is an integral step of any graduation ceremony. This is a promise students make to only put their knowledge gained to good use. You may refer here for a sample oath.

Typically, the oath remains the same for each batch that graduates.

8. Closing Ceremony

The ceremony is usually closed by the person who initiated it. You may also add some performances here.

Finish the event by giving directions about the lunch/dinner.

F. Phase 6: Farewell

1. Keepsake

As people are walking out of the event venue, give them any keepsakes you’d want. It could be a box of chocolates or even a small plant. If your budget allows, get custom-made parting gifts. Some other ideas include badges, mugs, or a yearbook.

2. Lunch/Dinner

With so many speeches and a long tiring event, it is time to offer your guests a ravishing meal. Keep it in a buffet style so all your guests can help themselves to the meals they want to have. If on a budget, boxed meals will also work.

Lunch at graduation ceremony
Credits: The Collegian

And with that, you’ve created the graduation ceremony of their dreams.

Another important event in one’s school and college life is prom. If you’re responsible for organizing that as well, you might want to refer to the guide and prom theme list we’ve created.

Now that you know how to organize a graduation ceremony, we wish you all the best! We hope you create more school and college events in the future. Sign up for our newsletter below if you’d like more event guides!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *