Fun Facts about Graduation

In 2008 a student received stitches when a mortarboard came down on his head a few years ago, and another student took a mortarboard corner to the eye and suffered retinal trauma. Photo provided by

Lianys Olmeda, Staff Writer

The end of the school year is almost here, and for seniors this also means the end of an era. On May 23 seniors will walk across the graduation stage and receive their hard-earned diploma. This vision of a traditional graduation often includes “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in the background and tassels being moved to the left. However, where did so many of these traditions even come from, and what are their true significance? Here are five fun facts about graduation traditions that you can mention this coming graduation:

  • As mentioned above, “Pomp and Circumstance” is the song that has become synonymous with graduation, yet it was not originally composed for this occasion. The creator of the song was twentieth-century composer Edward Elgar and he wrote it for King Edward VII. However, in 1905 when Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale, his song played in the background as he too walked across the stage, which made a lasting impression in schools for decades to come, thus establishing it as the graduation song that is beloved today.
  • Unfortunately, Pinellas high school graduates cannot partake in this next tradition. Graduates tossing their caps in the air once they graduate is a longstanding tradition that has been popularized by many Hollywood depictions of graduations. This tradition originated during a Naval Academy ceremony in 1912 when students of said academy graduated, they weren’t required anymore to wear their caps. Thus, they threw them in the air to signify their freedom from the Academy’s restrictions and their graduation from it. High schools and colleges have adopted this tradition since then.
  • Other than the caps, there are other traditional garments that are also worn at graduation. Wearing gowns at graduation for instance, is a very old tradition, dating all the way back to around 700 years ago. Buildings were not heated when the early universities were still being established in Europe, so the gowns were worn by academics and scholars to guard against the cold and keep warm. Afterwards, gowns were established as the official apparel of academics to prevent extravagant and excessive outfits.
  • Many people refer to seniors as graduating students, or soon-to-be graduates; however, this is not the correct term. The correct term for candidates for graduation is actually “graduand.” Once your degree has been granted or your diploma awarded, you finally become a graduate.
  • While moving the tassel from right to left at commencement, symbolizes the journey from start of the graduate’s academic career to the end, it’s also done as a substitute for individual hooding. This is a tradition where master’s and doctor’s candidates have a hood with their specific discipline colors placed on them when their degrees are awarded to them. The practice is a visual representation of the fact that the person can now claim title to the academic degree he earned.

Though these traditions are rooted in different beginnings, now they bring us all together to commemorate the hard work of students and welcome the journey that is to come after graduation is over. They remind graduates that they are a part of something bigger than themselves that ties many generations of past graduates together. Now you can think of these fun graduation facts this May as the graduands make their way across the stage and finally become graduates.