A proud father and daughter at Wake Forest University's Commencement Exercises.Today is Last Day of Finals – and a collective sigh of relief (or maybe a groan?) can be heard from campus.  Now all eyes are truly turned towards Commencement, so it feels like the right time to give you my unofficial best advice for our P’17 graduating families.

Top 10 Things to Know or Do for Commencement (in no particular order):

10. Understand that having a ticket to Baccalaureate does not guarantee you a seat at Baccalaureate.  The process is that parents/families line up for admittance, and we fill up a lot of the chapel, and then we have to close the doors to parents until the students and faculty process in and take seats.  Once the students and faculty are seated, the doors will reopen and then they will allow the rest of the seats to be filled.

9. Choosing to watch Baccalaureate on the Quad via livestream is a really good option.  Weather permitting, the ceremony will be live streamed outside, and you and your family can all sit together on the Quad and watch it there.  This is actually how I would do it if I were graduating this year.  I like the freedom to be able to move around and to have some space.

8. Pro tip: bring some paper towels or a washcloth from your hotel (return it afterwards!) to wipe the dew off your chair on Commencement morning.  You’ll be glad you did.  While Facilities tries to wipe all the chairs, there are 10,000+ chairs and waaaaaay fewer staff to wipe the chairs.

7. Understand up front that there will be times when people get up and move around during Commencement.  It is a three hour ceremony and it is beautiful.  However, there will be folks who can’t sit that long for medical or other reasons, others with young children who need to move around and run off some energy.  So have good grace when the folks in chairs near you need to get up and go.

6. Speaking of going…bathrooms.  There will be lines.  My best bathroom recommendation is to go back to the Benson Center or Tribble Hall.  Yes, you leave the Quad and it is a bit of a walk, but there will be far fewer lines.

5. Seriously consider the comfort of elderly family members before you bring them to campus.  There can be a lot of walking, it can be hot (or cold), and it can be hard for adult children to do all they wish to do for their graduates if they are worrying about their elderly parents possibly overdoing it, falling, etc.   I don’t mean that to sound melodramatic, I just want people to be aware of what will be best for their grandmas and grandpas.  My own grandmother, who would have loved nothing more than to watch me get my diploma, did not attend because she would not have been able to move well and she was very sensitive to sun and heat.  If you have family with you who might not be able to be outdoors for so long, consider having them view it in the Benson Center (livestream) – or consider throwing a party at home after Commencement and showing your loved ones select highlights from the livestream of the ceremony, which will be archived on the website.

4. Pay attention to the weather forecast and pack accordingly.  Understand that forecasts change, so bring clothes that work in hot/cold/damp, etc.  Layer, layer, layer.  It could be cool in the morning and warm up later, so the ability to add or subtract a layer of clothing is critical.  In terms of what people wear, I’d say the majority of folks dress in suits and ties, or dresses/suits for women, but there will be others who wear dressy or dressyish clothes with no tie.  All are welcome.

3. Wear sunscreen.  We are outdoors, and if it is sunny and hot you run the risk of a sunburn if you don’t take care of your skin.

2. Do not wear your best, fanciest, most expensive shoes! 10,000+ guests walking on Quad grass that is dewy in the morning means that the walking paths are likely to get muddy.  High heels can sink down into that grass.   Please don’t ruin your favorite shoes just because they look the best.  Wear some that you wouldn’t be bothered by if they get muddy or grassy.

1. Go with the flow. Your students might pull you in many different directions, or might not make ‘solid’ plans for things like meals as much ahead of time as you’d like them to.  While they may not admit it to you, they are trying to navigate how to spend time with the people here they have come to love, and there will be many competing priorities.  They might also be feeling a lot of complicated emotions – pride at graduating, fear of the next steps after graduation, sadness about friends going in different directions.  So I would recommend not overprogramming family events, but letting your student drive where and how they want to spend their time.  This is his or her big weekend – so indulge them when you can.

And the PS – be sure to tell them how very proud you are of them, and how much you love them!

PPS – for the full and official info on all things Commencement, be sure to visit the Commencement website.


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