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Planning for Graduation: The Comprehensive Checklist

With graduation season quickly approaching, many of us are getting ready for the big event and feeling lucky to have an in-person commencement ceremony. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed planning everything, here is a great checklist to make sure you have everything ready to celebrate this milestone. 

1. Get your grad gear early

The cap and gown are the most important part of the look, and you may need them more times than just during the ceremony, so make sure you get them ahead of time. If you’re a member of any organization or honor societies or have a certain GPA, you may have the option to buy a stole or cord to add to your grad look and show off your accomplishments and involvements. 

2. Plan your photos in advance

If you want a more laidback shoot with your friends and your iPhone cameras, you might get some fun pictures, but if you want to commemorate your graduation with professional photos, make sure to plan early. Research photographers in your area, especially those with experience doing grad shoots, and take advantage of creative talent in your university or even your group of friends. Look at some of their previous work to make sure it matches the style you want, and contact them with plenty of time to ensure they have appointments available before your ceremony. Don’t be afraid to contact different photographers for lots of pricing options.

3. Pick out your outfit

This may be the most fun part of getting ready to walk across the stage. Coordinate your outfit with your gown to make sure it won’t clash or be visible through the fabric. If you’re feeling spirited, try to match your school’s colors. For FIU grads, a yellow or gold dress would look great paired with the dark blue gown, but you can never go wrong with a white dress. Don’t forget to look into your school’s dress code to make sure you are allowed to attend the ceremony (FIU is not allowing high heels, probably because the ceremony will take place outdoors).

4. Make appointments for hair, nails and makeup

If you’re a DIY type, plan out your look and practice it before the big day to make sure everything goes smoothly. If you like being pampered or you don’t trust yourself with a makeup brush, look into makeup artists, hair stylists and nail salons, and time your appointments to make sure you have enough time to get ready, whether your go all out for your photoshoot, the ceremony, or both. 

5. Decorate your grad cap

Depending on the university rules, you will probably be allowed to personalize your cap. Quotes, flowers, glitter, and other embellishments can really make you stand out in the crowd and add to your look. Check Pinterest for inspiration and visit stores like Michaels or the dollar store for supplies. Pro tip: buy a pack of glitter paper or cardstock, cut a hole in the middle of a sheet, and decorate that instead, gluing it onto your cap when you are done. If you make a mistake, you won’t be ruining the cap itself, and it’ll be easier to work on than the fabric. 

6. Take care of housekeeping

It may be tedious, but check your emails and your school’s website to learn about anything you need to do before commencement. Apply for graduation, register for your designated date and time, and print out your guests’ tickets in the days before the ceremony to make sure there are no problems when you arrive at the venue. 

7. Plan your meal

Grad day isn’t complete without a celebratory meal with family or friends. Based on the time of your ceremony, determine what time you’ll be eating, then decide how many people will be attending and where you’ll be eating. Spring is the ideal time for a COVID-safe outdoor lunch or dinner, so if possible, plan to avoid restaurants. If your plan is to eat at home, order takeout or delivery in the morning to be delivered at mealtime, so you don’t have to worry about ordering later on. If you must eat out, make reservations and try to avoid indoor dining and crowds for a safe experience.

After these are all checked off and you wake up on the morning of graduation, take a minute to be proud of yourself. You made it through at least a few years of college and earned that diploma, and that is truly an achievement. Whether you want to go all out or you prefer a more lowkey day, celebrate yourself and your accomplishment in the way you deserve.

Maria Duque is a senior at Florida International University majoring in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications with a minor in Marketing. She is also a student in the Honors College at FIU. She is interning at rbb Communications as a digital intern, and is the Director of Accounts at BOLD FIU, a student-run strategic communications agency. She loves culture and literature, helping people and making change, so she is determined to find a career that will allow her to integrate these interests. Her favorite project is running a bookstagram account where she reviews and recommends books (linked below).
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