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Graduation Planning 101

Set the Date Your Students Graduate


If you’re in charge of planning your school’s graduation ceremonies, then this series of articles was written with you in mind.

You have so many things to do for your school’s graduation ceremony and very little time to do it all. Our first bit of advice, take out your day planner, open up your phone’s scheduling app, and start making a graduation calendar. Every journey begins with that first step, and we highly recommended setting dates to be your first one.

This article is an excerpt from “The Graduation Planning Handbook.”

Create Your Graduation Calendar 1

Graduation Day – The most important date of them all

Every educator and administrator know that it is critical to set a particular day and time for the graduation ceremony. All other activities you schedule will flow backward from that one date. As always, you must notify parents, students, teachers, and other support staff of this most auspicious day well in advance. How else is everyone doing to make sure to free their schedules?

Many schools set their graduation date before the school year draws to an official end. We’re of the mind to advise you set it a few days after the end of the school year. Otherwise, you run the risk of senior students mentally “checking-out” ahead of time. Doing so helps the graduation coordinator make certain there are allotted time-frames for every important task. The larger the school, the more time they will need.


Take the time to coordinate with fellow educators when choosing the best graduation date. Set aside a block of dates to choose from if you think it’s too far away to pin point. Also take into consideration any national or local holidays that may conflict with your date(s), as well as any favorite local events which families in the community regularly take part.

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Announcement & Invitations Dates

Once you select the graduation date, you can now plan backward from there. It’s a time-honored tradition to send out invitations to the students and their parents inviting them to attend graduation. As with most graduation products, you’ll need to get price quotes for the design, printing, and postage.

This process takes time if you choose to go the route of formal announcements. While you can use standard paper and have a staff member with design skills whip one up quickly enough, you’ll still need to operate within allotted time frames.

We recommend that you order your announcements at least 16 weeks (or 4 months) before graduation. That way there will be ample time to order, print and mail them. Be certain to send out invitations a minimum of 12 weeks before graduation day. Families may wish to invite extended family or friends who are out of town or who need to make special arrangements to be there. The more time they have to do that the better.


Get at least three quotes from vendors on invitations that you like. Remember to consider not only price but also quality and delivery time as well. Or go the cheap route and print the announcements on your standard school letterhead and send out a standard letter. Make sure you specify the time, place, parking situation, and note if there are limits on the number of guests allowed per student.

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Gown Measuring Day

You can expect that as the day’s inch closer to graduation that the students will be more and more excited about graduation day. One of those terrific milestone events is when you measure students for graduation gowns. Graduation gown measuring day helps students they will be “really” wearing those outfits while walking crossing the stage sooner than later. The graduation coordinator is responsible for this important task. We know that you want every student to look their very best on this momentous day.

Take the time to plan a Measuring Day that is at least 16 weeks before the graduation ceremony. As with everything, the sooner, the better. If you have a large graduating class measuring might need to take place over many days. If that’s the case, set aside two or more days that fall before the 16-week time frame.

Remember that measuring students will take time. Measuring is a task where you, and those assisting you, will be managing many details that matter – if a student’s measurements are “off” then their robe will not fit them properly.

Some schools worry about whether or not a few students will graduate and then put off measuring them – until they have their final list of students. Doing this causes much-unneeded stress and results in placing a last minute order. A good graduation company will allow you to return unused gowns free of charge, or with a minimal fee, so we recommend that you measure every senior student so that no one risks being left out – and then return the extras if the need arises.


Remember the old-fashioned saying “A stitch in time saves nine?” Try measuring each student and then double-check their measurements for accuracy. It is easy and quick – and will help every student look their best on graduation day!

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Strike a Pose: Photography

If your school wants to have your students appear in the yearbook dressed in graduation gowns, then coordinating photography is an important step. There are two suggestions when considering this for your school’s yearbook and senior class. The first is to consider ordering a variety of graduation gowns in a range of sizes that can be shared with the senior class and used for the class photos. The second option would be to place your school’s entire order before the graduation photo shoot. That way every student will have a gown of their own to wear.

Some schools may have the concern about a few seniors who might not graduate and would prefer to avoid having to return an unused gown. For that reason, schools may consider the first option.

No matter which gown option you choose, the date for photography must be made clear to all involved. The photographer you hire may very well give you dates they are available and ask you to choose which works best for your school.

Kill Two Birds with One Stone

Most schools will use the gymnasium as a place to have the photographer set up their station. God knows it’s a rarity to get all the kids all in one place. You may want to consider using the day of photos to double as a way to measure students. While your students are all waiting their turn for pictures, it’s an excellent opportunity to record their gown sizes.


Worried about those few students who may not graduate and leave you with an unused graduation gown? Remember that their friends graduating on time would appreciate seeing their friends smiling, proud faces in the yearbook regardless. It’s punishment enough to not graduate with one’s friends, we wouldn’t advise depriving their friends of the opportunity to sign each other’s yearbooks.

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Cap and Gown Order Date

As mentioned a moment ago, the order for the graduation gowns should take place early on. The earlier before the graduation ceremony, the better. A coordinator will want to keep in mind the exact number of students that are graduating, the photography, the cost, and the gown delivery timeline. All of these details matter when you’re planning for a successful graduation day.

It is important to note that a select few graduation companies do charge significantly less for the gowns if you choose to order early. Taking advantage of early bird deals is an easy way to receive significant savings. The more organized you are, the earlier you can place your order, and the more you can save.

Reduce Your Budget and Give Special Awards

Saving money on the cap, gown, and tassel sets can enable you to purchase other items for your graduates that previously weren’t in the budget. Things like honor cords for your top students, special graduation stoles for those in student government, and other fun things your students would love to receive.

Every student, parent, educator, and administrator knows the importance of graduation day. It’s a day that students will treasure in their memories for a lifetime. Students deserve to have their “moment in the spotlight” and schools can do many things to make graduation day special for them.


Time management is the key to handling the preparation of a graduation ceremony. Set a firm date to order graduation gowns and know that it will save you money, time and effort in the long run.

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Cap and Gown Delivery Day

Take out your favorite marker or pen, and be sure to circle that delivery day on your calendar! Then, announce it to everyone who is involved.

So, how do you choose a delivery date for your graduation gowns? It’s easier than you might think. Just keep your overall timeline in mind. Your ideal delivery date should be at least a month before the graduation ceremony or two weeks before your scheduled photography sessions.

You’ll want to make sure you take the time to receive and inspect your graduation order for quality and accuracy.


Remember to choose a date that is at least a month before the graduation, so everyone has time to prepare and plan properly. Sometimes that handwritten order you faxed in came over a little sloppier looking than you would have liked. For example, that 54 for one size might have looked more like a 57. Double check to make sure your order matches what you wanted.

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Gown Distribution Day

We know that passing the gowns out is not quite as easy as passing a note in class. But with our helpful tips, hopefully, it will be easier than you might think it could be. The first thing you’ll want to do is to set a date to distribute the gowns to the students.

Announce the date to faculty and the graduating class. Depending upon your needs, that time should come before either your photography sessions or graduation day:

Are you having the students wear them for the yearbook photos? If so, pass them out a few days beforehand (assuming you didn’t use our previous tip and ordered a few generic sizes just for the photos).

Will students be wearing the gowns just for the graduation ceremony or will they want to take them home and get a few photos in with the family before the ceremony? You may want to give out gowns a couple of weeks ahead of time for family photo shoots.

It’s important students get their gowns well in advance of graduation, so they have time to try them on. Students may have grown (puberty) or shrunk (diets) in between the ordering and delivery of your order.

If you have a large graduating class or school, you may want to consider requesting your gown company alpha-pack your order. Alpha-packing enables the speedy distribution of dozens of gowns to a large graduating class. Simply put, alpha-packing, means labeling each gown with the student’s name. It costs more, but at least you won’t run the risk of students grabbing sizes intended for someone else.


Set your graduation gown distribution date (and time) and inform everyone – parents, students, and teachers if possible. Don’t forget to ask your graduation company about alpha-packing. Regardless you’ll want to keep a checklist of students and the sizes ordered so you can not only make sure they got the right gown set, but also to make sure they even got one in the first place.

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Keep a lookout for more articles if you want to learn more! There will be many articles about graduation planning on our blog in the weeks to come. 

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