Graduation ceremony anxiety: How to not be nervous for graduation

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Graduation day – it’s one of the biggest milestones in your academic career.

After years of deadlines and all-nighters, it’s time to commemorate all that you’ve achieved.

However, graduating isn’t always as blissful as it seems.

Why does graduating feel stressful?

While your university has planned a day of festivity for you and your fellow graduates, you might still have conflicting emotions about the whole event and feel nervous for graduation ceremony.  

Although graduation is supposed to be a day of celebration, the formality of attending a graduation ceremony combined with post-graduate worries can turn a fun day into one that can seem incredibly daunting.  

Firstly, you aren’t alone in feeling this way – in fact, your graduation worries are completely normal. 

Studying for a degree has been a big part of your identity for a long time, and it’s hard to transition away from that. Especially in such a public way! 

However, it’s also important to keep the day in proportion.  

Even if you drop your hat or sneeze in your professional photos, it’s very unlikely that your graduation will turn out to be a disaster.  

Rather than a day that defines your entire degree, graduation should be all about celebrating your time in education and the journey you took to earn your degree. 

What do you do at a graduation ceremony?

So, you’ve put a label on your graduation worries and thought of ways that you can feel more prepared.  

But what does the graduation day consist of?  

You’ve probably seen a graduation ceremony on TV or been a guest at someone else’s. 

But attending one as a graduate-to-be is a little more complicated.  

If you’re still feeling apprehensive towards the day, you should consider thoroughly going over your schedule for the day beforehand.  

To soothe any jitters about being late and missing the ceremony, try to arrive an hour or so early. 

This allows you extra time for any pre-graduation pictures or last-minute adjustments to your graduation robes.  

Getting there early also gives you time to scope out the graduation hall and get a feel for how the ceremony should go.  

We all have worries about tripping on our robes or losing our hat. 

So, seeing where you’ll be walking across the stage and receiving your certificate can be an effective way to rationalise those fears and visualise yourself graduating. 

Although the ceremony itself is the focus of the day, so is your happiness.  

If graduating still doesn’t sound great to you, planning a surprise or treat for you and your loved ones afterwards can be a good incentive. It gives you something positive to focus on during the ceremony. 

From a family meal or a post-graduate trip with friends, to some self-care pampering time, graduation is a time to celebrate and reflect. 

If buying yourself a graduate gift or booking a weekend away will help you soothe your graduation nerves, then go ahead and congratulate yourself for working hard in a way you’ll cherish. 

How can I overcome graduation anxiety?

Ultimately, how you counter your graduation nerves is up to you.  

Some people find planning ahead to be helpful. 

Others find going into the ceremony with no expectations less stressful.  

Here are a few ways you can make the graduation stress feel less intense: 

  • If your graduation day worries are related to the running of the ceremony itself, you be asking yourself: should I make a graduation plan?

    This can be an effective way to reduce any anxiety you might be having over the unpredictability of the day.

    Creating order is a great way to combat anxiety, and it can be useful to make sure that all your details are in order.

    Your university has probably given you a lot of information on how the ceremony is supposed to go.

    So, coming up with a play-by-play graduation timeline – like how to pick up your robes and when your ceremony starts – is a useful way to keep the day in order.

    Whilst planning your graduation can help you to reduce fuss on the day, it can still be hard to let go of your nerves without the help of others.

  • If graduation fears are beginning to take over, discussing the day with your friends and family could be the solution to better understanding these worries.  

    From an outsider’s perspective, they can share their own experiences of their graduation, help you put your graduation ceremony anxiety into perspective, and generally support you in managing these worries.  

  • Another alternative is looking to the internet for help.  

    Across various social media platforms you’ll find guides to getting through your graduation day, outfit inspiration, and tips on managing post-graduation blues.

    In particular, on TikTok you can find loads of useful day-in-the-life videos, where people run through the process of graduating.

    While planning can be time consuming, thinking ahead and learning about others experience of graduating can settle your nerves. 

  • If your graduation is coming up and you’re still at a loss on how to get a hold of your graduation anxiety, preparing relaxation strategies for beforehand might be the answer. 

    Practicing gratitude is a technique recommended for combating anxiety in general, but can also be a clever way to keep your graduation nerves in proportion.  

    Writing down what your experience as a student has made you grateful for, and what you have learned throughout your time studying could help you keep your mind away from any self-doubt when you go into your ceremony. 

    As well as diving into your gratitude, positive affirmations can be another powerful source of support when you’re facing a nerve-racking situation where you want to feel your best.  

    Remind yourself that you are a smart, capable person who has gotten this far within your academic career and will continue to go further in the future.  

If all else fails, remember that your graduation day is only one day out of the hundreds that make up your degree.  

And, there is so much to come after this day. Whether that be a master’s degree, a graduate job, or a long, well-deserved rest!

Whether the ceremony goes swimmingly, or disaster strikes, your hard work and determination to get your degree can’t be taken away from you. 

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