For parents and families of graduating seniors, we like to offer you a few thoughts and suggestions on the happiest day of the year on campus: Commencement.
Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to begin saying prayers and sending positive thoughts for the ideal weather day – sunny and maybe 75. That’s your goal.
From having worked many Commencements past, here are some tips I have learned along the way. Take them as you will.
Weather: pay attention to the weather forecast for the days leading up to Commencement, and pack clothes accordingly. That could include rain wear, umbrellas, light jackets, or your warmest, lightest clothing. Keep an eye on the weather.
Attire: you will see everything from suits and ties and dressy spring suits for women, to sundresses and golf shirts and slacks. The tendency is to be a little more dressy perhaps, but Deac men should give themselves the option of taking off the jacket and loosening the tie if it gets warm. Deac women, think about if you tend to be hot or cold natured and determine whether you want the option of a jacket or sweater or pashmina.
Shoes: the Quad grass will be dewy in the morning. If you wear your fanciest and most impressive shoes, it is almost certain they will get wet, and about an equal chance of getting mud or grass on them. Use your impressive shoes if you go to Baccalaureate (as it is inside), but beware of your best pair of shoes on Commencement day.
Sunscreen: is a must. Or a hat. Or both. You will be outside for 3+ hours, and while there are some trees, there is not enough to bring huge areas of shade. If you are sensitive to light, be aware of this.
Older relatives: personal story – my grandmother wanted very much to see me graduate, but she was very sensitive to too much heat and sun, and was not great about being able to walk a long ways. While we do our best to make everyone comfortable, if you have relatives for whom an outdoor event would not be good for them, consider that before you all come. Each family needs to make the decision that is best for them. There is a live feed of Commencement into Pugh Auditorium (in the Benson Center), which is indoors. Space is limited.
Seating on the Quad: bring some paper towels or a washcloth from your hotel (please return them!) to wipe off your chairs at Commencement. While the staff tries to go through and wipe the dew off the chairs, they are not always able to get to all 10,000 chairs before guests arrive.
When to arrive Commencement Day: everyone asks this, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. My own parents were in line at 6 am because they wanted to be among the first to get on the Quad and find their seats. They then had a 3 hour wait, so they read the paper, took a stroll, etc. For other families, they might want to arrive later. You must ask yourself how important it is to you to get there early and have lots of options about seating vs. how much you want to avoid waiting. Know that there will be traffic, and there will be lines as you check in.
Bathrooms: there are many. Residence halls and Reynolda Hall are open, but there will be lines. You might fare well to consider going to the Benson Center (a short walk) or Scales Fine Arts Center (closer to the Quad) if you don’t want to wait. Because we read every student’s name, you will be able to see how long it takes as they begin and can plan your restroom break accordingly.