Graduation

How to Wear a Graduation Cap: What Side Does the Tassel Go On?

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017

As your graduation day approaches, there will be plenty on your to-do list. Along with getting your high school graduation party ideas or college graduation party ideas together there are a couple of things to figure out before walking across the stage. After sending out your graduation announcements and party invitations, getting your graduation cap decoration ideas together, and deciding out what to wear, you’ll also need to consider the most important elements of your outfit— your cap and gown!

how to wear a graduation cap

Avoid having to adjust your cap during the ceremony and that dreaded hat hair with our easy to follow instructions for how to wear your graduation cap. Whether it’s your high school graduation or college graduation ceremony, our tassel turning tips will assure you’ll look picture perfect for the big day you’ve been waiting for.

black and gold photo graduation announcement

How to Wear a Graduation Cap

Your graduation cap, more formally referred to as your mortarboard, should be worn flat on your head and parallel to the ground. You’ll want your cap to be worn properly, comfortably and without any mishaps. Follow our step-by-step instructions to make sure your rocking that grad cap cap with style:

Step 1: Practice wearing your cap before the big day. With practice, you’ll be able to feel certain that you’re wearing the cap just how you’re supposed to be. Trying your graduation cap on before graduation day will also help you make sure it stays put throughout the ceremony, looks great in all of your graduation pictures and if it does get knocked off, you’ll be able to put it back in place without a mirror.

Step 2: Style your hair accordingly. This isn’t as big of a step for the gentlemen graduates as it is for the ladies but, it is an important thing to consider. There are only a few hairstyles that will work well with a graduation cap. Although you may not be able to wear an up-do or high ponytail, there are a handful of hairstyles that look great under your graduation cap.

Step 3: Put your cap on correctly. The pointed tip of your cap is meant to go in the front of your head while the elastic band should go behind. The cap should be worn directly on your head and not tilted back and it should lie about one inch above your eyebrows. Keep in mind that your cap will usually distinguish which side goes in the front and which side goes in the back. Simply flip your cap over and you should find the instructions on the under side.

Step 4: Secure your cap on top of your head. Graduation caps usually feel as if they are going to fall right off your head and with all of the  pomp and circumstance going on during the ceremony, it is even more likely that your cap may get knocked off of your head by a gust of wind or even a fellow graduate. You can secure your graduation cap into place by using a few clips or bobby pins that match your hair color.

Step 5: Brush out your graduation tassel assuring it’s not tangled and hook the tassel onto the button at the center of your cap. Once you have attached the tassel and are rocking your graduation year with pride, give the tassel a little tug to assure that it’s in place.

Step 6: Position your tassel to the proper side depending on your level of graduation. There is a graduation tradition called the turning of the tassel. As tradition goes, there comes a time during the ceremony when the graduates are asked to flip their tassel from one side of their cap to another and this signifies the earning of a degree. Be sure you have your tassel on the correct side before the ceremony with the graduation tassel side details below.

Step 7: Wear your graduation cap with pride and acknowledge this amazing accomplishment. It’s not everyday that you get to style your outfit with a graduation cap and gown. Embrace your ceremony attire!

 Students Standing in Line on Their Graduation Day

Graduation Hairstyles

Trying to decide on different hairstyles for graduation can be more difficult than usual, especially for female graduates. Aside from other common newly graduate worries like making a resume stand out and where to move after college, another thing you may feel pressured to consider is looking presentable for your graduation photos. For the male graduates, you can usually style your hair as you do on a daily basis and have no problem wearing your cap onto. If that’s not the case, you can always add gel or product to make rocking your cap easier.

As for the female graduates, if  you’re used to sporting high pony tails or top-knot buns that won’t fit under your square cap, you can use these graduation hairstyle ideas and common trends to try out under your cap for an effortlessly beautiful look.

  • For Short Hair: You may feel limited when it comes to styling options for short hair under a graduation cap, but there are a handful of easy options and different looks you can achieve. Style your pixie cut with sculpting spray or go with a sweeping bang look that will dazzle under your grad cap. You can always play up your make-up for a more formal look that complements your hairstyling.
  • For Mid-Length Hair: A few easy graduation hairstyles for mid-length hair include tight curls, sleek straight hair or if you don’t want to wear your hair down a good solution is a side braid.  Simply curl a few pieces and you’ve got the perfect look.
  • For Long Hair: A common graduation hairstyle trend for long hair is to wear loose curls or beachy waves. You can achieve these looks with a curling iron and then combing your fingers through or by wearing your hair in braids overnight and spritzing it with a little hairspray the morning of  so it stays in place.

group of students at graduation

What Side Does the Tassel go on Before Graduation?

For purposes of uniformity and celebration, there is a tassel tradition during the ceremony where graduates move their tassel from one side of their cap to another to signify earning a degree. So the question is, what side does the tassel go on before graduation?

Graduation cap tassel placement is different for each degree earned and may also depend on your schools tradition.  Follow the instructions below:

  • For High School Graduation: For a high school commencement ceremony, tassels are worn on the right side of the cap before the ceremony and are then moved from the right side to the left after receiving a diploma or when directed to do so by the graduation speaker.
  • For College Bachelor Degree: For an undergraduate degree, the tassel placement rules are the same as a high school commencement. Tassels are worn on the right side of the cap before the ceremony and are then moved from the right side to the left after receiving a diploma or when directed to do so by the graduation speaker.
  • For College Master Degree: For a college master degree, tassels are worn on the left side of the cap before, during and after graduating. They are not moved from the right side to the left side of the cap.
  • For College Doctor Degree: For a college doctor degree, the tassels are also worn on the left side of the tam or cap before, during and after graduating. They are not moved from the right side to the left side of the cap.

Now that you know the in’s and out’s of academic regalia, you can wear your cap and gown with honor, admiration and style! After the ceremony is over, don’t forget to thank all of those who wished you a happy graduation or sent you graduation gifts. Find the perfect words to say thank you and more with our graduation thank you card sayings and messaging guide.