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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, some of you have been waiting months longer than usual for this day. You may have planned, and replanned, what you’re going to wear. 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 there are some practical things to consider — especially with new guidelines in place for the pandemic. Here are some practical tips to help dress and prep for the big day.

Note: Ticketing policies for Spring Commencement have recently changed. Please view updated information at commencement.gatech.edu/tickets.

Commencement Dress DO’s:

Bring a mask. Face coverings must be kept on at all times during the ceremony. Make sure you have a clean one – and consider making it festive, if you wish.

Don’t bring a bag. Commencement events at Bobby Dodd Stadium are subject to the venue’s contactless entry policy, which has been amended this year to allow only one clear plastic gallon bag per person. See the full policy at ramblinwreck.com/clearbag.

Travel light. This will save you the hassle of carrying a bag at all or leaving your bag at bag valet. If you’re wearing a dress or skirt, try to find one with pockets to carry small items such as keys or your phone.

Dress comfortably. You will be at the event 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. Students will process in front of the stage, physically distanced from others, as their names are called, so be sure you can walk in your shoes. If you’re wearing pants, consider khakis and shoes. If you’re planning to wear heels, consult the “don’t wear new shoes” section, and consider a low heel. Check the weather and consider light layers to be sure you will be comfortable outdoors. Wear a coat or jacket if needed, and consider how it may fit over or under your regalia .

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. Tell them about the contactless entry policy so they, too, can plan accordingly. Suggest that your guests also wear layers — they will be outside for an extended period, and should be prepared.

Whatever you choose to wear, the photos you take 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, and you may get warm and need to take off your regalia. 

Don’t wear new shoes. Commencement is not the day to break in new shoes, and you will be walking on turf on Grant Field. 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 the moment you’ve been waiting for during the past four (or five) years, 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 mortarboard 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 Bobby Dodd. 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. Gates will open one hour before the start of the ceremony. Graduates must report to the stadium 30 minutes prior to ceremony start. Set your alarm and have a buddy system to make sure you wake up. (See the full Commencement schedule). The bachelor’s morning ceremony on Saturday is at 8 a.m.

Charge your phone. You will scan a virtual name card as you process into Bobby Dodd Stadium, and you will want to find family members after the ceremony. Bring a phone with a full charge. Guest tickets will also be accessed on a mobile device. Pro tip: take a screen shot of your grad pass and tickets before you arrive.

Stay hydrated and take a bathroom break before you arrive. Try to be well-rested, fed, hydrated, and prepared to sit through the ceremony.

Plan in advance where to meet your guests after the ceremony. There will be no formal processional in or out of the venue, but students will exit in a physically distanced way. Suggest a specific meeting spot beforehand, even if it’s not in the vicinity of the stadium, to ensure you are away from others but can still find family members and reunite easily. View a seating chart of where in the stadium your guests can look for you during the event:

Test before the event. Students, faculty, and staff who plan to attend Commencement should get tested that week. Surveillance testing locations will continue to operate at full capacity until Commencement. View current hours and locations.

Send your guests parking information. Parking will be different for the Friday and Saturday ceremonies for Spring 2021. Note available parking areas at commencement.gatech.edu/parking.

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


For faculty and staff members: Volunteers are still needed to help Commencement run smoothly and in accordance with public health guidelines. For more information, please review volunteer information. If interested in volunteering, please fill out this form.

Last revised May 4, 2021