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What Not to Wear: Commencement Edition…and Other Tips For Your Graduation Day

Atlanta, GA

With Commencement right around the corner, many of you already know what you’re going to wear. Some of you may have planned your outfits months ago. (Hopefully you've at least taken your regalia out of the plastic to let the wrinkles fall out.)

There is no official Commencement dress code, but for those who are still scrambling for picture-perfect attire, here are some practical tips to help dress and prep for the big day.

Commencement Dress DO’s:

If you must have a bag, make it clear. Commencement events at McCamish Pavilion are subject to the venue’s clear bag policy. This limits the size and type of bags that may be brought into the arena. See the full policy at ramblinwreck.com/clearbag.

Travel light. This will save you the hassle of carrying a bag or going through bag check when you arrive. Any belongings brought with you will have to be taken into lineup and to your seat for the ceremony — so leave the bags, laptops, or tablets at home. If you’re wearing a dress or skirt, try to find one with pockets to carry small items such as keys or your phone. If you must have a purse, consider a wristlet or small clutch within the bag policy size limits.

Suggest that your guests dress business casual. Although there is no dress code, many guests like to dress up for this special day. Parents and alumni can often be seen donning Tech colors and gear, and sometimes international guests wear their country’s traditional dress clothes.

Dress comfortably. You will be at McCamish for about three and a half hours. The event will be a combination of standing and sitting, so make sure you’re dressed comfortably enough for both. If you’re wearing pants, consider dark pants and shoes. If you’re planning to wear heels, consult the “don’t wear new shoes” section, and consider a low heel. Keep in mind that if you wear a coat or jacket, it will have to go with you into the ceremony. (Consider light layers instead.)

Whatever you choose to wear, these photos will be around for a while, so pick something you won’t mind seeing a few years down the road. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with white and gold.

Commencement Dress DON’Ts:

Don’t think that because you’re wearing a robe it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing underneath. Throughout the day you’ll be taking numerous photos with friends, attending graduation parties, and maybe going out with family. And you may get warm and need to take off your regalia. Plan your outfit knowing that the day doesn’t start and end with Commencement. 

Don’t wear new shoes. Commencement is not the day to break in new shoes. Another tip: Don’t wear high heels if you are not used to walking in them. On your walk across the stage you should be focusing on shaking hands with Tech's president, not worrying about tripping.

Don’t spend too much time styling your hair. Keep in mind you’ll be wearing a graduation cap for a few hours. If you’re planning an elaborate hairstyle, try it out with your cap before graduation day to make sure that the cap still sits properly.

Don’t make your mortar board too epic. Remember that someone has to sit behind you, and if you adorn your cap with anything 3D, try to keep it no more than an inch or two off the board.

Don’t forget your regalia. Make sure you have your cap, gown, tassel, cords, and stole (and hood, for graduate students). There will not be extras at McCamish. And, don’t wait until Commencement day to unwrap it. Take it out of the plastic, make sure you have it all, and hang it up to let some of the wrinkles fall out. (If you’re feeling ambitious, give it an iron or steam.)

Other Commencement tips:

Set an alarm, especially for morning ceremonies. Late students will not sit with their degree program and extremely late students may not get the chance to walk. Set your alarm and have a buddy system to make sure you wake up. (See the full Commencement schedule).

Stay hydrated and take a bathroom break before lineup. (Even better, use the bathroom before you arrive at the venue.) Once you’re on the floor, water and bathroom access will be limited. The weeks leading up to Commencement are a mix of studying and celebrating, so try to be well-rested, fed, hydrated, and prepared to sit through the ceremony. There will be water coolers stationed throughout the lineup tunnel, but water bottles will not be allowed on the Commencement floor.

Plan in advance where to meet your guests after the ceremony. Students are escorted out of McCamish following the ceremony, so it can get hectic if families can't find their graduates as they leave the building — and you’ll be lost in a sea of black or gold robes. Suggest a specific meeting spot beforehand, such as Fowler Street or the baseball stadium, so that you can reunite easily.

Most importantly, remember to enjoy the day and reflect on all that you’ve achieved at Georgia Tech. Congratulations, graduates!

Additional Photos

Graduate Student Selfie

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Fall 2018 Commencement

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Child at Graduation

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President's Graduation Celebration

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Last revised May 15, 2020