Events Higher Education

College Graduation Ceremony

Both 2020 and 2021 were intense years for college students. As faculty whether you teach at a liberal arts college, a private school, or one of the many public colleges across the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone. 

Because of the pandemic, many students graduating in 2020 or mid-2021 were cheated. These students were not able to participate in one of the biggest rites of passage for young adults, the college graduation ceremony. 

What Is a Graduation Ceremony?

Every year students from Universities and Colleges throughout the world gather for the event culminating their studies. Whether that is graduation from George Mason University, Iowa State University, or the University of Washington, the college graduation ceremony is special and a reason to celebrate. 

The purpose of a graduation ceremony is to celebrate the four (or sometimes five) years that it took to achieve a degree. The graduation ceremony is the time for students to throw up their hats, and feel accomplished for all of their hard work. They might be planning to head on to graduate school, or they might be going to graduation for graduate school.

Despite it being a time for celebration, there is a difference between graduation and a graduation ceremony. The graduation ceremony is the announcement of names, along with speeches by the faculty and valedictorian. Graduation is something entirely different, it is what is reported after all of the final grades are entered, and after your diploma is sent out. This will be used to apply to job opportunities, and to begin life as a professional. 

Graduation vs. Commencement Ceremony

What is a commencement ceremony?

Although you can call the graduation a graduation ceremony, you might wonder what the actual graduation ceremony in college is called? It is known as the commencement ceremony.

Commencement vs graduation comes down to this: the student can graduate at the end of any semester or quarter in college, but there is only one commencement ceremony at the end of one particular semester.

Ceremonies vary based on the college 

This may vary based on the school you teach at. For example, students at a liberal arts college might have their commencement ceremony in the spring, while those at New York University have theirs at a different time. At Grand Rapids Community college the graduation commencement ceremony is at the end of the winter semester. The most important thing is that there is a protocol for each school, from private to public. 

What Happens at a College Graduation Ceremony?

If this is the first college graduation ceremony you’re attending as a faculty member, then you might wonder what happens at a college graduation ceremony. It is nothing like a wedding, although usually there are speeches. These speeches are completed by members of the faculty or guest speakers. Typically the valedictorian will also make a speech, and someone will sing the national anthem.

How Long Does a College Graduation Last?

Typically it depends on the size of the college and the final exam date. Most graduations last multiple hours. Your college should let you know how long the projected time period will be. This is typically done through a calendar link on their website. 

Order of a Graduation Ceremony

The order of a graduation ceremony is always dependent on the student’s last name. It is nothing like a wedding. Instead, it will go down the list of people based on their last name. The schedule is usually found in a pamphlet given out to all attendees.

7 Things Attendees Should Expect at a College Commencement

Depending on whether or not the ceremony is in the summer or spring, it might dictate the pace of the college commencement. There are a few things to expect at a typical college commencement ceremony, regardless of the location where it’s held:

  • There will be a large crowd
  • It is typically a formal event with the participants wearing academic attire (cap and gown)
  • There’ll be a lot of speaking, including a commencement speech
  • You might have your patience tested as it will be a long night
  • Usually, you will see emotion from the attendees and staff
  • Reactions from family members and friends often are loud and might surprise you
  • It is customary to bring leis or flowers to celebrate the graduates

Is a Graduation Ceremony Important?

A graduation ceremony is usually an important experience for students. There are college rings, graduation caps, hoods, and gowns. There are also diplomas and the frames they go in. The purpose of the graduation ceremony is to support the students and highlight their accomplishments. 

It is recommended to attend graduation ceremonies as a faculty member because you might regret it later on if you do not. The importance of graduating from college is to support the future success of students, but is a graduation ceremony important to you? Maybe not, but family and friends will enjoy cheering the students on.

What Does Graduation Symbolize?

Generally, graduation symbolizes a time for friends and family to come together. It is a tradition for after college has commenced, to celebrate the hard work put into schooling. 

Students sometimes enjoy decorating their graduation hats. This is to add a bit of personalization to an outfit of conformity. Adding symbols to the baccalaureate graduation outfit allows students to change up the traditional style of their robes. They often consider the celebration of their family and will add something historic from their ethnicity. This might include a flag from their parent’s home country, or a traditional piece of clothing.

What Do Different Graduation Symbols Mean?

There are also many symbols for graduation and college graduation symbols. For example, some fraternity members like to put on a graduation hat symbol from their house. Students might also showcase academic achievements, such as honor societies, or certain programs they participated in. If they are a part of a health or business organization they might consider adding a symbol to describe that. Another option is to add symbols of where they have lived, or where they were once located.

Am I Required to Attend the Commencement Ceremony?

It is recommended that faculty attend the commencement ceremony along with the students, though it is not a requirement. Those who are candidates on track for awards or a doctoral degree may be announced at the commencement ceremony as well, and you might want to attend to support them. 

Many people have worked hard to become a specialist or for career development. Some students may dress up in heels and formal wear to celebrate their knowledge, and you can dress up as well. 

Graduating Soon?

If you have students graduating soon, congratulations! This should be a time for joy and excitement. As an educator, you have contributed to the graduation and education of your students and to see them graduate is a huge accomplishment. Whether you are a teacher at Arizona State University or Duke, it does not matter. Whether you are a professor of resources, business, the arts, health and wellness, liberal arts, or entertainment, you have helped many accomplish something. Now they can take what they learned on campus, and bring it into the new opportunities that they will find in their professional life.

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