Commencement. It means “beginning” but it’s often mistakenly thought to mean “ending” since it’s commonly linked to the end of college. The graduation ceremony marks the completion of studies and the awarding of degrees. It’s a milestone of great academic achievement, a grand send-off to lives filled with promise and many more treasured milestones to come.
This year, due to the outbreak, the traditional 2020 Commencement ceremony is being replaced with a virtual ceremony. While an in-person event is no longer possible, we’ll still officially recognize and celebrate our graduates and their achievements—only in a new online format.
That being said, along with our ceremony, we’d like to suggest something you can do to make this rite of passage even more personal and memorable, by hosting your own unofficial virtual graduation party—with little effort or planning. We’ve assembled some suggestions and ways to make it fun.
Start with an online video app. Now that classes have moved entirely online, you’re probably well familiar with web-based video conferencing tools. To help get you started planning your virtual graduation, choose a user-friendly communication platform like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts. (Zoom is particularly popular.) Even tech-challenged parents and grandparents should be able to use one of these.
As for invitations, invite your best friends, a favorite professor and, of course, family members (pets included!). Be thoughtful about the number of people you invite. If you have lots of friends and family members, managing the logistics of the event could get complex. So plan wisely. Use the app to invite a manageable amount of online “attendees” to your epic “eParty.”
Make a banner backdrop. While you’re on-screen addressing your family and friends, it might be nice to have some signage behind you that acknowledges those watching your virtual graduation. Your message can be short and sweet, something like, “THANKS, MOM & DAD!” “LOOK OUT WORLD, HERE I COME!” or our personal favorite, “I DISCOVERED THE NEXT VERSION OF ME!” There are no rules here. Say what you want in your own words. Express gratitude and thanks. Be bold and confident. Have fun playing up your big moment.
Set the mood with music. No graduation would be complete without the customary Pomp and Circumstance march. At a designated time in your eParty, play a track of the traditional version. Or blast the smile-inducing, danceable Pomp And Circumstance Pop Dance Extended Mix. There are all kinds of different musical genre options on YouTube to choose from. (There’s even an epic metal cover version you can air guitar to.)
If Pomp And Circumstance feels too serious, too formal or too impersonal to you, bust out one of your favorite personal playlists to be your very own virtual graduation theme song. How about a little Beyoncé. The “Shut Up And Dance” song. Queen’s “We Are The Champions”. Or “Campus” by Vampire Weekend. Choose a song that speaks to your personality, your accomplishments and how you feel at this moment in time.
Prepare a commencement address. The commencement address plays the important role of inspiring others and making a graduation ceremony something that people will remember for a long time. To make your virtual graduation inspiring and uniquely you, write a brief but engaging commencement speech that talks about things you’ve experienced during your time at BSC, expresses your gratitude and appreciation and gives a shout-out to loved ones for their support. Don’t overthink it. Have fun. It doesn’t have to be lofty or overly serious. (Unless you want it to be.)
Here are some tips for making a good commencement address: Share a story of how you overcame failure. Share a pearl of wisdom about what you’ve learned in college. And use humor to connect with those watching and listening to you. The most important thing is to be yourself.
To give you more inspiration for your commencement address, here are some brief speech examples that can get you started and creative juices flowing.
“Remember, everyone will tell you it can’t be done until you do it. And when you do it, they’ll say it was luck. Unless you do it again, and they’ll say it was your genes. But if you do it again, you show your spirit is stronger than their words.”
“Stay limber and do yoga, both mental and physical. Eat vegetables and nourish your mind. Ask that person out. Listen to an ‘enemy.’ Use turn signals. Take care of each other.”
“Graduates are exhorted to think big, have noble aspirations. Some may achieve greatly. Let’s instead accomplish what is small and meaningful: maintaining dedicated relationships, helping others, becoming skilled at what we love. There is contentment in accepting our limits and striving to fulfill them.”
Take a lesson from the masters. Maybe your commencement address has a theme or a lifelong lesson. It could be about never settling. Or having the courage to fail with the knowledge you’ll learn for it. Here are two strong examples from Steve Jobs and Denzel Washington.
“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” - Steve Jobs
“Fall forward. Reggie Jackson struck out 2,600 times in his career, the most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward. Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t know that because the 1,001st was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.” - Denzel Washington
Turn to literature. Use a poem or speech for your commencement from such luminaries as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou. Here are some words of inspiration from the bard himself, William Shakespeare, about the importance of being your authentic self.
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be, For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
While nothing can replace attending your graduation ceremony in-person, you can still celebrate this time in your life in a momentous way with your very own event. Yes, a virtual graduation can be memorable, too. Who knew.