5 things I wish I knew before graduation

University of Leeds
4 min readJun 29, 2023

With graduation creeping up, you’ve probably got a load of questions about actual graduation day itself. What do I wear? Where should I go to celebrate? How do I make most of the day?

As a recent graduate from Leeds myself, and now a member of the Student Comms team, I’m here to tell you about five things I wish I knew before graduation to help you make the most of your day.

Written by Amrit Chahal, Class of 2021 at the University of Leeds, and now Campaign Officer in Student Communications and Engagement.

A group of students, family members and friends gathered outside Clothworkers’ Court

1. You can only reserve two tickets for family/friends…

but those who didn’t quite make the cut can watch your graduation via live streams across campus and stay with you the rest of the day.

You might already be on top of this and have got your wish list for who will be watching your graduation in the Great Hall ready. If however, like me, you hadn’t realised that you’d only be getting two tickets and promised all your aunties, uncles and nephews a place in-person then this can be an awkward one to get around.

If you’re struggling to decide who to bring, think about the people who are closest to you and who have done that extra bit to help you get to graduation day. For me it was my parents, and that’s who ultimately sat in the crowd cheering me on!

2. Everyone is dressed extremely smart…

so plan ahead for what you’re going to wear.

Again, this might seem obvious but for someone who didn’t have a fitted blazer ready in time for graduation it was a cause for some stress! A blazer (or a light jacket) certainly wasn’t needed given we wore our gowns for most of the day, but I did feel a little left out and underdressed for the post-graduation celebrations.

Back of the head of two students graduating in their gowns, with family taking pictures

I’d advise you to try out your outfit well in advance of graduation to make sure you’re happy with what you’re going to wear throughout the day. And if you want an extra boost of confidence, why not check out your friends’ outfits who are also graduating! Buying in advance also gives you more chance to shop sustainably, such as charity shopping or Vinted. Saves you some money and helps the planet!

3. Graduation day is very busy…

be sure to arrive on campus with plenty time to avoid rushing around.

Graduation is overwhelming enough without the added stress of getting the perfect Instagram picture or queueing for your gown just before your ceremony starts — get to campus early on!

I know a lot of advice will say to arrive around 90 minutes beforehand, but I would give it even longer than that. You can always try and get your gown fitted early and take pictures in the usual spots outside Great Hall and Clothworker’s Gate before your ceremony opposed to afterwards when there will be big queues.

4. A lot of bars/restaurants get booked up fast…

and you should plan where you want to celebrate after graduation early to avoid being disappointed.

Given how many students are graduating at the same time as you, and likely wanting to eat and drink at the same popular venues as you, I’d suggest booking tables as soon as you can.

You could even celebrate without needing to eat/drink out with family friends — why not go for a picnic in Hyde Park if the sun is shining! It’s your day and you can celebrate how you like.

A group of graduating students and family members walking around campus in gowns

5. Graduation will be the last day you see a lot of people…

give them the warm good-bye they deserve!

This last point is one I didn’t really want to accept, meaning that I didn’t get a proper chance to speak to course mates and lecturers who helped me through my degree one last time.

Whether it’s close friends who are moving miles away from you, or lecturers who went that extra step to help you through your studies, make some time for them after your ceremony. Don’t book your meal out with your family 30 minutes after returning your gown like me and regret not spending some quality time with those you might not see again.

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