Graduation Cap Tassel Etiquette

We all know the scene. Mobs of students clad in graduation gowns, topped off with the crowning image of graduation: the graduation cap and tassel.

Graduation isn't an everyday occurrence, and while most of us know that there are cap and tassel rules of etiquette, many of us are also a little fuzzy about exactly what those rules are. The following are some pointers that will ensure that you or your graduate can relax and enjoy the ceremonies without worry.

Tassel Color

The colour of the tassel depends on the level of education you've completed as well as on your individual school. Most high school graduation tassels feature the school's official colours, while college or university graduation tassels are either black or else colour-coded to reflect the type of degree being conferred. Graduates receiving doctoral degrees receive a gold tassel.

Tassel Accessories

It is common for graduation tassels to have small hanging charms attached noting the year of graduation, although not all schools do this.

How to Hang the Tassel

This also depends on level of education being completed as well as on school. Usually you will wear it hanging on one side until you officially receive your diploma, at which point you'll symbolically transfer the tassle to the other side of the graduation cap. Your school will tell you which side to hang the tassel; for high school and college graduations in the United States it is often hung on the right side, and students are formally invited to move the tassel to the left side upon completion of the ceremony.

Number of Tassels

Although you may be graduating with multiple degrees (as in a college graduation), you should only wear one tassel.

Tassels are Tradition

The trappings of graduation, including the gown, cap and tassel, connect modern students with a long and rich history. Each item has great symbolism, and while there is room for some individualism and change, the etiquette of graduation garb links you to fellow graduates at schools across the country and the world, as well as to the students of both future and past generations. Enjoy the ceremony and its rituals, and think of graduation etiquette as a way to truly commemorate your induction into a community of scholars.