Standard Graduation Cap Sizes and Guidelines (with Drawings)

Standard Graduation Cap Sizes

Graduation caps, which are also known as square academic caps and mortarboards, are an essential part of any student’s graduation outfit. But have you wondered what the sizes of standard graduation caps are?

The square portion of a graduation cap generally measures between 8.5 and 12 inches (22 and 30 centimeters) on sides. The headband of the graduation cap should be suited to the circumference of the wearer’s head.

If you want to learn more about graduation cap sizes, please continue reading. In the following sections, I’ll go over what the graduation cap sizes are in more detail, as well as how to properly wear a graduation cap during the graduation ceremony.

Standard Graduation Cap Sizes

Standard graduation cap sizes

Whether you are renting a toga from your school or university or you have to purchase or rent one from a local supplier, you will need to pay close attention to the graduation cap size.

Online suppliers typically offer a standard graduation cap size. The mortarboard, or the square, measures between 8.5 and 12 inches (22 and 30 centimeters). As for the portion that sits atop your head, known as the headband, you can either get it custom-made to fit the circumference of your head or stick with a one-size-fits-all option.

According to the University of Wollongong, the size of the head directly matches the circumference of the wearer’s head. So, if the circumference of your head is 22 inches (56 centimeters), then you should look for a size 56 cap. If you opt for a one-size-fits-all graduation cap, you will be stuck with whatever you receive.

Sizing Your Gown and Graduation Cap

If you look for gowns and graduation caps to purchase or rent online, you’ll find that different suppliers provide different sizing standards.

The people at Balfour offer 10 different graduation cap sizes based on the size of the gown. Meanwhile, the University of Texas at Knoxville’s online store has a single hat size for every wearer.

For the most part, the graduation cap, regardless of the headband’s size, will fit most people. If the circumference is too wide—i.e., it wobbles around when you wear it—then you can fold the backside corner inward to close the gap between your head and the inside wall of the graduation cap’s headband. Alternatively, you can insert in the graduation cap’s headband your own elastic headband that fits the size of your head and use bobby pins to keep it in place. That way, the cap will sit flush atop your head with minimal wobbling.

On the other hand, if the cap is too small, you may need to rely on hairspray or bobby pins.

If you want to look your best during graduation, your best bet is to purchase a custom-made gown and graduation cap. The tailor will make an outfit that is suited to your unique body and head shape, ensuring that the cap doesn’t fall off the top of your head.

How to Wear a Graduation Cap

How to Wear a Graduation Cap

Wearing a graduation cap may seem straightforward, but the awkward shape of the mortarboard, as well as the head (which is not elastic in most cases), can make it a challenge. Putting on the graduation cap can be broken down into 3 simple-to-follow steps, which are as follows.

  1. Face the pointed end of the graduation cap’s head portion toward the back. The sides and front of the cap should be at the same level, which is roughly 1 inch (2-3 centimeters) above your eyebrow.
  2. Straighten the graduation cap so that the mortarboard is parallel to the ground. If the cap sits at an angle, it may fall off any time during the graduation ceremony.
  3. If the graduation cap has a removable tassel, attach the tassel. You can do this by looping the circular end of the tassel over the raised button found at the center of the cap. Gently tug on the tassel to make sure it’s safely in place.

FAQ About Graduation Caps

1. What is a tam?

A tam is a type of graduation cap, which is worn exclusively by graduating master’s and Ph.D. students. It does not have a stiff square mortarboard like standard graduation caps. Instead, it has 4 to 8 pliable sides that sit atop the headband portion. High school and bachelor’s degree graduates wear traditional graduation caps with a square mortarboard.

2. What size graduation gown and cap do I need?

You will either need to speak to your high school or university’s graduation committee to see whether or not they have the correct gown and cap sizes. However, if you opt to rent or purchase one from an online supplier, you will have to match your body and head’s size to whatever the supplier has in stock. If you’re uncomfortable renting a gown and cap that might not fit your body, you can pay extra to get a custom-tailored graduation outfit.

3. Can I decorate my graduation cap?

Again, you will have to speak to the graduation committee that the school you are graduating from. In general, high schools and even some universities in the United States don’t particularly mind that their students add ornaments or writing to their graduation caps, provided they aren’t renting a school-provided cap. You can check out Church Hill Classics to look for inspiration when decorating your graduation cap.

4. Why are graduation caps square?

According to National Geographic, the square shape is a symbol of prestige. At Oxford, undergraduates would typically wear rounded caps, while square caps were reserved for higher master’s degree and Ph.D. graduates. Some time in history, the shape of the graduation caps changed. Today, high school and undergraduates wear square mortarboards, while master’s degree and Ph.D. graduates sport rounded tams.

5. How do I keep the graduation cap from falling off?

A common issue among graduates is that the graduation cap is too large for their heads. However, you can solve this problem by inserting a headband that conforms to the shape of your head inside the graduation cap’s headband. Use bobby pins to keep the headband in place. Alternatively, folding the pointed end of the headband inward may also help the cap fit snugly around your head.


Baron Cooke has been writing and editing for 7 years. He grew up with an aptitude for geometry, statistics, and dimensions. He has a BA in construction management and also has studied civil infrastructure, engineering, and measurements. He is the head writer of

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