What Is a Graduation Commencement Ceremony?

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Whether it's a child who successfully completed elementary school, or a career student acquiring a graduate degree, the graduation or commencement ceremony is the grand finale of their hard work. As more and more schools become less traditional in how or when they hold commencement ceremonies, they may differ slightly. One constant is that a student’s graduation is the formal gathering held to recognize the achievement of completion for the student’s area of study.

Preparing For the Ceremony

In preparation for their big day, students must be sure they have completed all the necessary coursework and projects. Once they receive approval they can then begin making plans to have family and friends attend the ceremony to watch them receive their degree. For high school and college, where celebrating the ceremony is a huge production, formal invitations are sent, students purchase a cap and gown to wear across the stage and supplementary events are planned.


The commencement program varies not only in the class level of students such as elementary versus college but in the type of school. Some very traditional schools have a strict program including speeches by school dignitaries and class leaders. Some pride themselves in going against the grain by arranging celebrity speakers and entertainment during the ceremonies. For grade schools, the program is usually a short one where a teacher or two may speak to the kids, and the principal might say a few words. After the kids’ names are called, they are dismissed to celebrate.

Walking the Stage

Students who participate in the commencement ceremonies walk across the stage to greet the school principal, dean or president to pick up their diplomas. The diploma is the printed certificate of completion students use as keepsake, often framed and hung on a wall. In preparation for walking across the stage, students wear their cap and gown and are seated with their colleagues throughout the program, awaiting their name to be called. As each student’s name is called, they walk across the stage, shake hands with their school official, receive their diploma and go back to their seats. At the conclusion of the ceremony, students usually stand at their seats and are acknowledged as an entire class by the attendees.

Post Ceremony Celebrations

The after-party of a commencement ceremony is just about as popular – and for some, important – as the ceremony itself. Just as much, if not more planning goes into place. Following the ceremony, guests usually gather to await the students to be released so they can congratulate them in person, take some photos and then plan to meet new grads at another location for a private party. Food, entertainment and camaraderie are the norm for post graduation celebrations.