Graduation Checklist

Connect / February 12th, 2016

graduation checkllist

Graduation is probably the most exciting time in every student’s life—you’ve made it! Time to celebrate! But it’s also one of the craziest, and if you don’t stay on top things, it can become very stressful. To avoid last-minute panic, be sure to plan ahead. The checklist below isn’t all-encompassing, but it should help you get started.

Contact your academic advisor to verify that you’ve met all requirements for graduation—academic and otherwise. This is especially important in college, where graduation requirements can be quite complex. Ask around, and you’ll hear all sorts of crazy stories—credits from another school that didn’t transfer properly, a placement test with results that weren’t recorded in the system, an art class that for some obscure reason did not meet the fine arts requirement. However, even in high school you might discover problems—an error on your transcript, or a fee for a lost library book that must be paid. Do not let this be you. Ideally, check with your academic advisor just prior to or at the very start of your last semester so you have plenty of time to resolve any issues, and then again a month or so before graduation.

Apply to graduate. Again, this is more applicable to college students, but even if you’re in high school check to see what you need to do before you graduate. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised.

Find out how many guests you’ll be allowed at commencement. Many times graduation ceremonies are so packed with guests that schools limit the number of guests each student may bring, and they may enforce it by requiring tickets to get in.

Send out invitations to the graduation ceremony. You may order your own graduation invites at

If you are expecting guests from out of town, be sure to do this well ahead of time. This will allow them to make flight and hotel reservations. If guests will be staying in a hotel, check to see if your college has arranged special rates for commencement guests at local hotels.

If you’ll have attendees with special needs, plan ahead of time with your school for accommodations. For example, a guest in a wheelchair will need seating in an area that is wheelchair accessible. Other guests may have difficulty climbing stairs and should not be seated near the top of the bleachers.

Plan a graduation party. This party can be as big or small, lavish or laid-back as you want. While some families choose to throw a catered affair or a dinner at a local restaurant, a backyard barbeque or casual brunch is just as acceptable. It’s perfectly fine to invite people to your graduation party who aren’t invited to the ceremony, but be sure to send separate invitations.

Order your cap and gown. This is generally done through your school with your local Balfour Representative or online at

If you expect to be graduating with honors, find out if you’ll have the option to order special cords or other accessories to wear at commencement. These aren’t generally required, but they’re a nice touch. Celebrate your achievements!

Order keepsake items. These may not seem high on your list of priorities now, but in years to come you’ll cherish these reminders of this important time in your life. This may include a yearbook, class ring (if you haven’t purchased one already), personalized memory album, etc. If you purchase a yearbook, don’t forget to have classmates sign it well before graduation, when things start to get really crazy!

Have graduation portraits taken. Check with your school to see if they have special portrait sessions for graduates. If not, many professional photography studios offer packages for graduation. Many grads choose to have portraits taken both in their cap and gown and in dressy clothes. In addition, graduates from certain specialty fields may have their portraits done in a particular professional uniform—for example, nursing students often have portraits taken in their school’s uniform such as a lab coat with the nursing school’s patch on the shoulder. Of course, those graduating from a military academy or ROTC program will have their own formal uniforms.

Order graduation announcements. According to etiquette experts, announcements should not be sent until after graduation has taking place. You’re announcing an accomplishment that has taken place, not an anticipated event. When you do send announcements, there are rules for who should (and should not) receive them. Close family members—aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins—are a given, as are good family friends, godparents, and any of your friends who are not in school with you. Additionally, you should send announcements to the people who have made a difference in your life or helped you toward graduation—mentors, tutors, scout or youth group leaders, etc. This may be a pretty large group of people! However, most experts advise against sending announcements to casual acquaintances or distant relatives you’ve never met. The point is to share your news with those who will be excited for your accomplishment, not people who might struggle to recall who you are.

Relax. Enjoy the ride. If you plan ahead, this is going to be much easier to do!

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