What Is A Graduation Cap Called: How To Wear It, Variations, & Why Students Wear It

Graduation day is one of the most significant moments in a student’s life. It’s a day of triumph, celebration, and pride. As we all know, graduation ceremonies are incomplete without the iconic graduation cap. 

It symbolizes academic achievement and a rite of passage into the next chapter of one’s life. But have you ever wondered what the graduation cap is called? Is it just a plain ol’ cap, or is there a specific name for it? 

In this blog post, you’ll explore what the graduation cap is called, why students wear it, and its variations. So buckle up, and let’s dive in.

What is a graduation cap called?

The graduation cap, commonly known as a mortarboard, is a head covering graduates wear during commencement ceremonies. Its unique design and symbolism make it a significant part of graduation traditions worldwide.

 This cap symbolizes accomplishment, academic achievement, and the transition from student life to professional life. The term “mortarboard” refers to the resemblance of the cap’s shape to a mason’s tool called a mortarboard, traditionally used for holding mortar during construction. 

The mortarboard cap typically consists of a flat, square-shaped board made from stiff fabric or cardboard, with a tassel attached to the center.

What is the purpose of a graduation cap?

Reasons why graduates wear a graduation cap - lmshero

1. Symbol of Achievement and Academic Success

Graduates wear a graduation cap, also known as an academic cap or mortarboard, to symbolize their academic achievements and success. 

The cap represents years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. It serves as a tangible reminder of the knowledge gained and the hurdles overcome throughout one’s educational journey.

2. Tradition and Commemoration

Wearing a graduation cap is deeply rooted in tradition and serves as a symbol of commemoration. 

The tradition of wearing a cap dates back centuries and has evolved to become an integral part of graduation ceremonies worldwide.

It connects graduates to a long line of scholars who came before them, fostering a sense of unity and pride within the academic community.

3. Recognition and Identity

Graduation caps play a crucial role in recognizing graduates and distinguishing them from other attendees at the ceremony. 

The design and adornments of the cap often represent the graduate’s field of study, institution, or academic honors. Graders proudly showcase their accomplishments and expertise in a particular discipline by proudly wearing their caps.

What is the proper way to wear a graduation cap?

Wearing a graduation cap properly is essential to maintain the decorum and symbolism associated with this cherished tradition. Follow these guidelines to ensure you wear your cap correctly:

  1. Placement on the head: The graduation cap should be worn squarely on the head, with the mortarboard positioned horizontally. It should sit comfortably above the forehead, with the front edge approximately one inch above the eyebrows.
  1. Level alignment: The mortarboard should be level and aligned parallel to the ground. Take care not to tilt it forward or backward. A level cap ensures a polished and uniform appearance among graduates.
  1. Secure attachment: Attach the cap securely to your head using bobby pins or the provided elastic band. This will prevent it from slipping or falling off during the ceremony, allowing you to move confidently and gracefully.
  1. Tassel placement: The tassel, typically attached to the center of the mortarboard, should be positioned on the right side before the conferral of degrees. Once your degree is officially conferred, you can shift the tassel to the left to signify your transition from candidate to graduate.
  1. Avoid decorations: While personalizing your graduation cap has become popular recently, adhering to your institution’s guidelines is important. Some institutions allow graduates to decorate their caps within certain parameters, while others maintain a more traditional approach. Always check with your school’s administration to ensure compliance with their regulations.
  1. Maintain dignity: Throughout the ceremony, it’s essential to maintain proper posture and avoid excessive movement. A graduation is a formal event, and displaying respect for the occasion enhances the overall atmosphere of the celebration.

Now that you know how to wear a graduation cap, you can proudly participate in your commencement ceremony. You can do this knowing that you look the part and honor the significance of this milestone achievement.

Variations of the graduation cap

Different styles and designs

While the traditional mortarboard is widely recognized, there are variations in the design and style of graduation caps across different countries and institutions. 

For instance, some caps feature a soft, rounded top instead of a flat square shape. Additionally, certain universities and colleges have unique designs on the cap’s fabric, such as school logos or emblems. These designs add a touch of individuality to the traditional cap.

Honors and decorations

Graduation caps may include special decorations and honors to distinguish outstanding academic achievements. 

This can range from cords, stoles, and medals to signify honors societies, academic achievements, or specific accomplishments within a field of study. 

These additional embellishments add a sense of pride and distinction to the graduation regalia.


Can family members or friends wear graduation caps during the ceremony?

Graduation caps are typically reserved for the graduates themselves. Family members and friends attending the ceremony usually do not wear caps unless they hold a specific role in the proceedings, such as faculty members or honorary guests

Are there any variations of graduation caps in different countries?

Yes, graduation caps vary across different countries and cultures. For example, in the United Kingdom, graduates often wear square-shaped caps known as “square caps” or “Oxford caps.” In some countries, doctoral graduates wear caps with additional adornments, such as a colored velvet band or a metallic tassel.

Can you keep your graduation cap as a memento?

Yes. Many graduates keep their caps as treasured mementos of their academic accomplishments. It serves as a tangible reminder of the hard work, dedication, and memories associated with their educational journey.

Can you wear your graduation cap if you have long hair?

Yes, graduates with long hair can wear their caps comfortably. Tying your hair in a low bun or ponytail is recommended to ensure a secure fit. Use bobby pins or hair clips to secure loose strands and prevent them from interfering with the cap placement.

How did the tradition of wearing graduation caps originate?

The tradition of wearing graduation caps originated in medieval universities, where scholars wore robes and hoods to signify their academic achievements. Over time, the cap became integral to the graduation ceremony and evolved into the modern mortarboard.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a graduation cap is not just a simple piece of headwear; it represents a significant achievement and accomplishment in one’s academic journey. 

Whether you call it a mortarboard, trencher, square academic cap, or graduation cap, it symbolizes the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of earning a degree. 

So, when you proudly don your cap on graduation day, remember its significance and wear it proudly. Congratulations to all the graduates out there – you did it.

You can also compare graduate and postgraduate.

Thanks for reading.