Commencement is about five weeks away.  I was talking last week with the parent of a junior, and it feels like yesterday that she arrived at school.  By the look on her father’s face, I think he feels the same way.

There is a website full of Commencement information, and if your student is graduating this year, I’d urge you and your student to go through that completely and make sure you know everything you ought to know.   Here are a few tidbits that might be helpful to know in addition to the official information.

Baccalaureate (Sunday, May 20th)

  • The Baccalaureate service on Sunday morning is similar to a religious service.  While non-denominational, it does feature a sermon.
  • Students march in to Wait Chapel in cap and gown and sit as a group (not with their families).  There is no individual recognition of the graduates, and they do not receive anything (the diplomas are on Monday).
  • Each student can have 3 tickets for Baccalaureate for family members.  HOWEVER, having tickets does not mean you are guaranteed a seat (Wait Chapel only has 2,400ish seats).
  • Families can line up outside Wait Chapel on Sunday morning.   The doors open to families at 9:45 am.  Typically we admit a certain number of parents to the balcony and parts of the lower level of the chapel, but we have to save a large section for students and faculty.  After the pre-set limit is reached, the doors close and the parents remaining in line wait until all students and faculty have marched into Wait Chapel.  Once we know how many seats the students have taken, we fill all available remaining seats with those families still in line.
  • The service is piped onto the Quad weather permitting.  If you do not wish to wait in line, you may elect to arrive later and hear the service on the Quad.
  • Some students and families elect not to go to the service at all.  It is not a required activity.

Commencement (Monday, May 21st)

  • Watch the weather forecast and plan your wardrobe accordingly.  We can have 90+ temperatures (as in my graduation year) or it could be a crisp 55.  You just never know in May.  Best to have layers you can add or subtract based on temperature.
  • If it calls for rain, bring rain gear.  We have held Commencement outdoors in light mist before.  Students and parents beg us to continue the tradition of holding the ceremony on the Quad, even in less than ideal weather.
  • Do not wear your best shoes to Commencement.  With 10,000 people treading the same paths in the Quad grass, it can get muddy if we have had recent rain.  Very thin heels can also sink down in the grass, so be aware.
  • Sunscreen is a must.  There is not a lot of tree coverage for shade, so be sure you do not get a sunburn.  Sunglasses are also a good idea.
  • Related to this, a 3 hour ceremony in the morning sun is not for everyone.  My family elected not to bring my grandmother to graduation.  She would not have done well with sitting outdoors for so long in the sun and in a plastic chair, and doing a fair amount of walking.  For families with anyone with health concerns or the elderly, you may want to consider carefully with them whether they would enjoy the experience.   This year we are offering a chance to view the ceremony from Pugh Auditorium in the Benson Center.  This might be ideal for someone who wants to sit indoors and with easy access to restrooms.
  • Speaking of restrooms – there are a lot of people here at one time.  Instead of waiting for the closest bathroom, you may wish to walk to the Benson Center or Scales Fine Arts Center rather than wait in line.
  • People ask what time to arrive for the 9 am ceremony, and that is a matter of preference.  Some parents, like mine, arrived right at 6 am as the gates opened, others roll in later.  My best advice is that if you have very specific wants about your choice of seat, those who arrive earliest get the first pick.
  • We do read each graduate’s name as they walk across the stage.  You’ll be able to review the list in the Commencement program and see where your student will fall in the list.

General things

  • Academic departments hold open houses on Sunday at 3 pm.  Think about going.  Your students will get to introduce you to the faculty in their major, and this is always a really nice way to connect with the people who have been instrumental in your student’s education.
  • Take a lot of pictures.  Of your student in front of buildings, together as a family, with your student’s friends, etc.  Your student will want to remember all this later.
  • Understand if your student is a bit grumpy, scattered, sad, etc.  This is a big transition and the Next Step can be scary to contemplate.  Be gentle with your student’s feelings.

We hope you enjoy Commencement.  And let’s put the power of positive thinking to work now – start willing the day to be about 73 and sunny with a gentle breeze!

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