3D Printed Graduation. Source: Tom Wang/Shutterstock.com
3D Printed Graduation. Source: Tom Wang/Shutterstock.com

History of Graduation Paraphernalia

During the Middle Ages, students began wearing long robes to protect themselves from the cold in the study halls. In the 12th century, with the formation of universities, these robes inspired the tradition of the graduation gown that is still worn to this day.

Graduation caps are called mortarboards because they resemble the masonry tool of the same name of hawk or mortarboard. It is likely that Shakespeare was referring to this tool when Hamlet, speaking to the courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, states, “I am but mad North, Northwest; when the wind is Southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw”. “To know a hawk from a handsaw” is now an idiom used to mean that someone is aware and competent. (See Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2)

The tassel was added to the graduation cap in the 19th century. Tradition requires that the tassel is worn on the right side of the mortarboard until the diploma is received. It is then moved to the left side of the mortarboard.

The document certifying that all graduation requirements have been met is called a diploma. This information was originally written on paper-thin sheepskin, rolled up and tied with a ribbon. Once papermaking techniques improved, diplomas were printed on parchment paper. 

In 1835, the first class ring was created for the graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point. 

On June 28, 1905, Sir Edward Elgar received an honorary degree at Yale University.  During the ceremony, the famous tune Pomp and Circumstance, which he wrote, was played as the graduates left the auditorium. The music was so popular that soon other schools, Columbia, Princeton Rutgers and Vassar, made it part of their graduation ceremony. It soon became the official music used at graduations throughout the United States. 

Value of a College Degree

The oldest recipient of the General Educational Development (GED) degree is Cecil Smith from Westlake California. He dropped out of high school in the 1920s and in January 2002 he earned his GED degree at the age of 94. 

According to Amy Roberts and Caitlin Stark at CNN, 3.4 million students were expected to graduate from high school in the 2012-2013 school year. 

Graduates with advanced degrees (bachelor, master or doctorate) have the potential to earn more than four times that of a high school graduate.  Whereas, a high school drop out earns on the average half of that of a high school graduate. 

Famous Commencement Speeches

The commencement ceremony, which marks the completion of the graduation requirements, actually celebrates the beginning of a new adventure in life. 

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, gave the commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon University in 2008.  During his speech he said, "We don’t beat the reaper by living longer. We beat the reaper by living well and living fully. For the reaper is always going to come for all of us. The question is: What do we do between the time we are born, and the time he shows up? Because when he shows up, it’s too late to do all the things that you’re always gonna, kinda get around to."

The famous author of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, gave the commencement speech at Harvard University in June 2008.  She told the graduates, "Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned."

Create Your Own Graduation Invitations with 3D Printed Customized Stamps

Tradition dictates that invitations be sent to family and friends to announce the graduation ceremony.  At WhiteClouds you can 3D print a stamp featuring your favorite graduate’s high school or college crest and motto.   You can then create unique, handmade invitations to invite family and friends to celebrate this once in a lifetime event.

Graduation Card How-To


One 5 ½” x 8 ½” black card stock

One 5¼” x 4” white cardstock

One 2 3/8” x 2 ¾”black cardstock

One 2¼” x 2 5/8” red cardstock

One 2” x 2½” white cardstock

Red scrap to cut out graduation cap, mortarboard and tassel

Black scrap to cut out graduation cap shadow and tassel

Template of graduation cap, shadow and tassel

High School WhiteClouds custom stamp

Black ink pad

Six inches ½” Black with White Polka Dots ribbon


White Signo Gel Pen

Fancy Fan Embossing Folder*

Big Shot Die Cutting Machine

¼” hole punch

Glue Stick

Tape Runner


1.      To create base card, fold 5½“ x 8½” black cardstock in half to measure 5½ ”x 4¼”.

2.      Dry emboss white cardstock with Fancy Fan Embossing Folder*.

3.      High School WhiteClouds custom stamp in black on 2” x 2½” white cardstock.

4.      Cut out stamped image leaving a small white border all around the image.

5.      Glue stamped image to red rectangle.

6.      Glue red rectangle to black rectangle.

7.      Cut out graduation hat, cap, and tassel from red scrap.

8.      Cut out graduation cap shadow and tassel from black scrap.

9.      Assemble graduation cap by gluing red graduation hat on black shadow, glue cap onto red hat

10.  Add stitched lines with white gel pen.

11.  Punch hole and add tassels with brad.

12.   Attach the ribbon with tape runner across width of the white, embossed cardstock approximately one inch from bottom. 

13.  Wrap and glue ends of ribbon to the back of the white card stock.

14.   Glue white card stock to black base card.

15.  Glue stamped card on top of ribbon approximately ½” from bottom and right side of base card.

16.  Glue graduation hat so that it overlaps stamped card.

*Stampin' Up!

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