Decorating a graduation cap

What Do You Need to Decorate Your Graduation Cap? Here’s The List:

A few pointers to help you make sure your graduation cap is the best-decorated cap on campus, without going overboard.
May 9, 2018
8 mins read

Graduation is right around the corner. With it comes the excitement and apprehension of entering the Real World for the first time, and the sadness of leaving the college where you spent the last four years. And then, of course, there’s the stress of preparing for graduation itself. It’s time to get all the wrinkles out of the gown and answer the question, “What do I need to decorate my graduation cap?”

The graduation cap represents the four years you spent going to classes to complete a major you loved —  and, of course, all the nights you won’t remember with friends you won’t forget. Whether you decided to pay for essays or buckle down and do it yourself, that cap means something. Naturally, you’ll want it to look nice, but making the perfect graduation cap is not always as easy as it sounds. Here are the do’s and don’ts for having the best graduation cap on campus.

DO: Make Your Decoration Meaningful

Your graduation cap represents the goals you have been working towards for the past four years of your life. You’ve worked incredibly hard for the moment that you walk across the stage in that cap.

The last thing any graduate wants to do — besides trip and fall as they’re walking across the stage in front of their entire graduating class, of course — is have a decorated cap without any meaning. Make your cap something you can be proud of and that you will have framed next to your diploma.

For instance, a meaningful cap is decorated with symbols of your major or athletic team or an inspirational quote that has personal significance. You should not put a meme or something temporary that will not resonate with the same emotion when you look at you college graduation cap five years from now. 

Even the smallest decoration will help you stick out amongst the crowd of graduates. No cap should be left bare of any decoration or embellishment.

Criminal justice student decorating their graduation cap
A perfect example (Image via Pinterest)

DON’T: Pick the First One You See

In order to find inspiration for the perfect graduation cap, many students take to the internet to search for ideas. “Graduation caps” along with a theme such as “girly,” “inspirational” or “soccer” get typed in the Google search bar. Thousands of image hits appear on the screen to inspire any student looking for ideas. 

If you’re stuck for ideas, it’s perfectly fine to look for some on the Internet, but don’t just pick the first images that you come across.

Every student looking for help designing their cap will use the first popular images they find. Therefore, if you choose the first thing that popped up on Google, you’re most likely going to meet at least a dozen people on your campus who settled for the exact same thing.

Keep looking until you find one that will set you apart from all the other graduates. In addition, don’t be afraid to be original. Even if you do take an idea from the Internet, don’t just copy that image; put a unique spin on the original design to make it your own.

DO: Secure Everything

There are a hundred tools at your disposal for decorating your cap. You might want to use sparkly paper, flowers, stickers, glitter, photos, or any combination of those things. But whatever you do decide to use, make sure that everything is secured.

Use hot glue to ensure that your decorations stay on during the ceremony. It would be unfortunate if half of the decorations you slaved over fell off on your way across the stage.  

Also, before you decorate your graduation cap, make sure you’ve tried it on first. Remember: the pointed end is supposed to go towards the front.

You want your graduation cap to be visible to the people who stand around you so your family can see you from the stands.

However, make sure it is facing the right way. You don’t want to glue everything down only to realize that the cap is sideways.

DON’T: Go Over the Top

When it comes to graduation cap decorations, simple and classic are the way to go. Some people will go out of their way to glue on a hundred individual gems between a dozen different colored ribbons and then drown the entire thing in glitter.

It takes several hours and you need tweezers to glue everything on perfectly. While you might have a specific idea in mind, it is easier and less time-consuming to buy pre-glued strips of gems.

When it comes to decorating the graduation cap, everyone will have their own perfect idea of what they want their cap to look like. More often than not, however, the vision in your head won’t exactly correlate to what you’ll ultimately wear to graduation.  

Sometimes we set our sights too high and we are disappointed when the end result is not exactly what we pictured. Set your sights a little lower and keep your expectations realistic; most likely, you will rise above your own standard.

DO: Thank the People Who Helped You Get Here 

As an example, my graduation cap has the words “We Believe That Now’s The Time” on it, which comes from the first line of my school’s rugby chant. It is both meaningful to me and my team; in addition, those words give me inspiration to seize every moment because the time is now. Without them, I would not have stayed at my school and would have transferred home.

Nobody got to this point all on their own. Maybe you needed your friends to keep you from going insane during the crunch before finals week; maybe your family helped you see the finish line on the nights when you thought you could not make it to this day.

Or perhaps you had that one professor who pushed you to be the best student that you could be. You completed all of the strenuous school work, such as writing an English essay, but your support system helped you complete the four years of undergrad. If you don’t thank them in a “thanks mom & dad” on you cap, thank them in person for everything they do. 

“Thank you mom, dad, coffee, and cabernet” decoration on a graduation cap
Or you could also thank other things that got you through the years (Image via Pinterest)

DON’T: Wait Until the Last Minute

Your graduation cap deserves to have enough time and attention to make it something special. If you wait until the last minute to start it, you’ll most likely find yourself scrambling to make sure all the decorations dry in time; naturally, this is a great way to ensure that something will fall off during the ceremony.

If you don’t have time to start decorating the cap, at least get a head start on your decorating by buying all your supplies beforehand.

That way, when you do start working on your graduating cap, you can at least skip the step where you have to wait in line at the local craft store.

Of course, you’ll only wear your graduation cap for a few hours at most; when you consider that you might spend more time decorating the cap than you’ll spend wearing it, the whole process might seem a bit silly.

However, you are dressing up for the most expensive piece of paper you will ever receive. You might as well decorate the cap so you can celebrate your accomplishments. Keep this in mind when answering the question, “What do I need to decorate my graduation cap?”

And if you decide to throw your cap at the end of the ceremony, remember to take the tassel off first. There’s a good chance you will lose it in the throw.

Megan Batt, SUNY Cortland

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Megan Batt

SUNY Cortland
Professional Writing

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