Boy, does time fly! It seems only yesterday it’s been your first day in the new school, and now you are about to graduate! When did THAT happen? There is so much to do and plan that you might forget about one essential detail – customizing your grad cap!
Graduation is one of those milestone moments that are worth commemorating. Despite being a solemn event, with everyone wearing robes, making speeches, shedding tears, and saying their thank yous and goodbyes, it still has a place for some levity. After all, innocent student mischief is one of the proud traditions of academia – just as robes, caps, and diploma scrolls with seals and everything. A customized cap is one of the ways to express your unique personality, share the last inside jokes with your soon-to-be-former classmates, and finish this chapter of your life in style!
In this post, I’ve gathered eighty-odd funny and inspiring grad cap references that you can use to make your graduation outfit unique. To compile all this, I’ve spent hours on Pinterest and Instagram, so you don’t have to.
The ideas are gathered in 12 thematic groups for convenience. Class of 2023, glue guns and sequins at the ready!
Favorite Performer Quote
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I don’t know if you kids remember the lyrics by CSS that go like: “Music is my boyfriend, Music is my girlfriend, Music is my dead end, Music is my imaginary friend,” but I’m sure you can relate to the sentiment. Music has definitely been with me through thick and thin and helped me survive high school and college. I believe you, too, have a song or a singer that inspired and cheered you up. Quoting lyrics that sum up your school experience on a grad cap is a sweet way to pay tribute to your favorite performer and express your love. Do you feel like you are the only 18-y.o. out there who appreciates The Beatles? Are you Ari’s fan? Stan for Taylor Swift? There’s a cap for that!
I particularly love Beyoncé’s quote here. Although she probably talks about money, the “paper” here may also mean your diploma – that you actually got, no matter what the haters said! – or your future academic successes. Like, “I will write my paper with you as a subject of study, and it’s going to be brilliant, and that will show you!”
Favorite TV Show Reference
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Binge-watching TV shows is everyone’s favorite way to procrastinate. Yet maybe some of those shows were particularly meaningful to you? I remember, no matter how much homework I had, I felt I had a right to put everything on pause to watch Charmed because I needed some magic in my life. Plus, fantasizing about seeing the future and getting a peek at tomorrow’s test questions helped with my anxiety.
Whether with a poignant quote, gag memed to death, pun, or a subtle nod to the overall aesthetic – customizing your cap with a reference to your favorite show is a win. Grey’s Anatomy, Office, Breaking Bad, Friends, Doctor Who – which one is yours?
Puns and Humor
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Speaking of puns, it’s a whole separate genre of grad cap customization with a long and proud tradition! From oldie but goodie “Holy cow!” to a more edgy “Sea ya later beaches!” and “So long, succas!” – there is a pun for everyone. My favorite here is definitely “Hotter by two degrees!” because smart is the new sexy. Yet if you are a high-achiever and want a subtle flex, “Finally got the ‘D’!” is also a nice one. Don’t forget to use visuals to help get your message across – in case not everyone in the crowd is as clever as you are. And because it looks nice in photos, obviously!
Favorite Movie Homage
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Timeless teen movie classics like Mean Girls, Clueless, Legally Blonde, and Princess Diaries are a no-brainer here since they deal with high school, college, and all the shenanigans students are always up to. Yet, there is an entire universe of possibilities – you just have to decide which one: Wizarding World, Marvel, Middle Earth, or the Galaxy Far, Far Away? If that’s too mainstream for you, maybe the misanthropic Grinch is your spirit animal? I, personally, relate to the Jack Sparrow quote from the above because I wouldn’t go through all that again – not for all the buried treasures!
The World of Disney and Other Cartoons
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From the OGs like Looney Tunes to more recent 3D masterpieces by Pixar, the animation is another treasure trove of characters, gags, songs, and iconic one-liners to wear proudly – if not on your sleeve, then at least on your cap. Goth kids, Disney princesses, and absurdity aficionados alike can dig into their favorite animated movies and TV shows for inspiration. I particularly like the Scooby Doo one here because it beautifully encapsulates that bitter-sweet feeling you have when you say goodbye to good things in hopes of something even better ahead.
Favorite Celebrity Quote
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Oprah’s iconic generosity, David Bowie’s self-irony, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s unapologetic trust in equality, or the quiet cheerfulness of Bob Ross – what helped you through the tough times? A graduation cap is a cool way to give homage to your role model or meme legend that made you smile when that essay drove you close to tears. I definitely owe a huge chunk of my emotional equilibrium to Bob Ross’s soothing voice – and YouTube for preserving it. Judging by the example above, I’m not alone!
Subjects and Majors
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Celebrating your major (either prospective or newly earned) is another popular theme for cap decoration. Chemistry, biology, health care, astronomy, literature, linguistics, arts, music, psychology, engineering, criminal justice, education – everything can be referenced and played with. My favorite grad cap here is probably the “Psyched for grad school” one. It doesn’t simply reference the major but also states the wearer’s ambition to continue their path in academia, which is definitely laudable.
Favorite Book Quotes
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Although so many wise words from the world literature classics would fit the occasion, I think you don’t have to take yourself too seriously when decorating the cap. It’s time to celebrate! That’s why children’s books like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland or YA lit full of adventures will do just right. Moreover, it’s such a beautiful way to say goodbye to your childhood and open the door to your new, independent life. Put your trust in pixie dust, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Board and Video Games References
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Did your mom worry that you were not going to make it through to your graduation day because you played video games all the time? Now that you’ve triumphantly proved her wrong, there’s no harm in bragging about it. Just a little bit. Or maybe you’ve played so much that your entire life now feels like a game, and you totally win high school? That’s a thought. However, I’d see it not as “game over” but as a level-up with +1 to intelligence and no less than +1,000 exp. I like the cheeky nonchalance of “I paused my game to be here,” but my favorite is the Ms. Pac-Man one because of how elegantly the cap button is included.
Grad’s Best Friends
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While some vet clinics do require the services of professional cat petters (no kitting!), cat lady is, alas, not a real job, otherwise, I would definitely consider it as a career path. Are you anything like me and went through the purgatory of getting a degree only to be able to afford the best tuna for your cat? Or did you do it to make your doggo proud? In any case, if you are a cat/dog/bird/insert your option person, you might want to make it a statement on your graduation cap. It will pair beautifully with the pet hair on your robe, I promise!
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The ever-rising tuition costs in college have been a focus of public discussion for nearly a decade now. Still, every year a new generation of graduates is faced with the harsh realities of starting life not from ground zero but rather dug deep into debt and set to be broke for years to come, no matter their salary, because that student loan won’t repay itself. It’s great if you have a scholarship or some other financial aid to fall back to, yet what if your dream school doesn’t take FAFSA? At least you can share your tale of woe on your graduation cap.
Mixed Bag of Ideas
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The last entry on this list is a mixed bag: glamor, triumph, self-irony, hope, thanks, brags, and last-minute fixes – not unlike the graduation or even high school itself. Have you been a hard-working student with focus, discipline, and determination? Have you always been late for everything and collected too many tardy slips? Homecoming queen? Doer? Lazy and relaxed? It’s all going to be in the past in a couple of minutes. Yet before the slate is wiped clean, embrace your high school identity and wear it proudly as your crowning glory.
Stay unique, and see you on the other side!