Graduation Symbols: The Toga, The Hood, The Cap and The Diploma

A graduation ceremony is a very important event that any dedicated student looks forward to. It is the culmination of the minimum twelve years spent in studying and training to prepare oneself for the challenges of the world beyond the walls of an educational institution. It is one of the rites of passage that students are eager to cross, officially leaving their status as minors and setting out into the real world as adults.

The traditional graduation attire is composed of a toga or gown, a hood and a cap. The diploma, which best completes and makes official the graduate status of a student, is awarded to each graduate later in the ceremony. Each of these articles symbolizes an important meaning surrounding the educational success of a graduate.

The Toga

Each educational institution usually has its own design and variation of the graduation toga, although all of them are basically similar. High school and college togas are long and reach just below the knee; high school togas are often white, while college togas are black, they have long sleeves; and they are treated with extreme care and reverence by their owners.

Toga represents the degree of education accomplished by a graduate. Besides the color distinction for college and high school, the design of the toga is also indicative of the graduate’s educational attainment. Togas for bachelor’s degrees have wide bell-sleeves; postgraduates have closed sleeves with long slits for the arms to go through; and doctorate graduates have three lines of colored velvet on the sleeves and in front of the gown.

A graduation toga also has a far deeper meaning. It symbolizes the democratic nature of education and learning. It emphasizes the equality of all men for the right to have a good education, regardless of gender, race or social status.

The Hood

The hood serves as a distinguishing mark for each field of study in college. The following color assignments for the different college disciplines are widely recognized by universities around the world:

Business – olive brown

Education – blue

Liberal Arts – white

Fine Arts – brown

Sciences – yellow

Industrial Arts – dull gold

Nursing – apricot

Law – violet

PhD – dark blue

The Cap

Graduation caps for bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates are topped by a square board. This is a cap of scholarship that symbolizes a book. Having this on a place of honor on top of one’s head, the cap symbolizes the knowledge earned that a graduate should be proud of.

The cap is also instrumental for a significant portion of the graduation ceremony. To make their graduate status official,graduates will transfer the tassel hanging from the caps from the left side to the right.

The Diploma

A grade school, high school or college diploma is the most concrete representation of one’s educational achievements. After all, a graduate won’t be wearing his/her toga for the rest of the days after the graduation, all the more during a job interview.

The diploma is the official document that affirms your educational background without the ceremonial pomp. This single, economical piece of paper contains the official signatures, course name and academic honor received by the graduate.

-Jay Bual-

(Photo taken from

One Response to “Graduation Symbols: The Toga, The Hood, The Cap and The Diploma”

  1. Anya says:

    Wow. Really helpful. Thanks. :)

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