How Do You Feel About Your High School Graduation Ceremony?

I do not remember having this photo taken at my graduation.

Half my lifetime ago, I graduated from high school.

While I have mostly fond memories of my high school–I’m very fortunate to have been in an environment where the vast majority of students were eager to learn–the actual graduation ceremony is almost completely inconsequential in my mind.

So why am I writing about my high school graduation ceremony? Because Saturday Night Live featured a video on the topic a few days ago. I think it’s worth a watch, as it pokes fun at a number of ceremonial tropes.

Personally, I recall sitting at my graduation wondering why all the ceremonial pomp and circumstance was necessary. Is it something we do–in America, at least–simply because we’ve “always” done it? Is it more for the teachers, students, or parents?

I think perhaps the reason it didn’t resonate with me is because it was so anticlimactic. It was no surprise to any of us that we were graduating. We knew that for months.

So I have a proposal to make high school graduation ceremonies more meaningful. I propose that they look a lot more like the ceremonies in at the beginning of every young adult dystopian novel.

Take The Giver, for example. At the beginning of The Giver, young people participate in a ceremony when they’re assigned their new jobs. They enter the ceremony with complete uncertainty about their future, and they leave with a sense of purpose.

The closest real-life equivalent is the colleges students are accepted into. What if instead of colleges sending acceptance/rejection letters to student applicants, they send them to the high school, and the results are revealed student by student at a live ceremony? Now that’s a ceremony I’d remember for the rest of my life.

That’s just me–your experience might be quite different than mine. How do you feel about your high school graduation ceremony?

16 thoughts on “How Do You Feel About Your High School Graduation Ceremony?”

  1. My memory is pretty limited to pictures I take. Which I just happen to do alot of in certain situations. Lol but mostly it was my graduation party that I remember. Mostly because I was running around taking selfies (which an actual digital camera) with all my family members and I was being a goofball. I remember a few people from graduation and the venue, but not much else. Like you said graduation wasnt much of a surprise. I feel like your idea probably wouldn’t fly, cause of how many ppl don’t apply/get accepted. Tho the acceptance reveal party is becoming popular, I doubt it can replace the actual graduation ceremony.
    I guess we do it as a ceremonial milestone type thing. Imagine how much more anticlimactic finishing high school would be if we didn’t have an actual ceremony. You take finals then you wait for the results and that’s it.

  2. I remember two things from my ceremony the most:
    1. Thinking how much I’d rather be sitting in my “normal” spot in the band playing for it than sitting on the stage.
    2. How vehemently some people did NOT want me to be sitting on that stage.

    The first is pretty self-explanatory. For the second: I graduated HS a year early after deciding in the fall of my Junior (then Junior/Senior) year that it really wasn’t worth my while to be a big fish in a small pond for another year. There were many “real” seniors (and even more so parents) who thought I didn’t deserve to walk for graduation because I hadn’t spent 4 years.

  3. From what I remember of my high school graduation, it was just a couple hours of being mostly bored and wanting to have it over with since my high school held it outside on the football field (good idea, bad execution since late May in the greater St. Louis area is best spent indoors, especially when wearing dress clothes and the standard polyester graduation robe).

    There were a couple of memorable moments, such as the honorary diploma given to the parents of a classmate who passed away just before the end of the school year (I remember crying at that part and being thankful that someone had the foresight to stage tissue boxes throughout the rows of chairs that were easily accessible), but it felt largely like every other graduation ceremony, down to the upbeat speech from the student body president/valedictorian (same person) how we are the future and today our lives begin.

    I also remember a mishap with one of my shoes, where I forgot to fully buckle the strap and had to do a hobble-shuffle of sorts while walking from the far end of the football field to the opposite side where our chairs and the stage were setup, and only after being seated was I able to fix the strap to make sure my shoe stayed on while going up the steps to accept the empty diploma folder thing.

    I’d be on board for either no ceremony or a complete restructuring where something new/exciting happens. Not sure about the college acceptance reveal idea, since that seems like it would be devastating for a person to open a letter of rejection in front of their peers and loved ones.

    • Sorry about the wardrobe malfunction, Katy!

      Just to clarify, the school admins would see the acceptances/rejections in advance–they wouldn’t actually be opening the letters on stage. Rather, they would just say the student’s name and the schools they got into. That way if a student didn’t get into any schools, the admin could prep the student in advance.

  4. I really enjoyed my graduation ceremony! Because we were the class of 2000, in kindergarten we had buried time capsules with personal notes and drawings we had each done. We’d then received these mementos with our diploma when we walked the stage (those of us that had been in town since kindergarten, anyway). It was awesome and a little bittersweet to open those up and see how far we’d come in the last 12 years. I remember sitting there in my cap and gown, looking at the tiny handprint I’d traced on a sheet of paper at 6 years old and feeling really sad it was all ending.

    I’d also graduated high school a semester early, but came back to walk for graduation. I think I had a different perspective on it than a lot of people because of that. I already knew how different our lives would soon become and how we would drift apart and go our separate ways. Everyone else was bored and just wanted to be done, but I knew this was our final moment as a group and wanted to cherish it. I probably remember far more about it than most people from my school because of that.

    My family also yelled, “Way to go, Midget!” when I walked across the stage, so that happened.

  5. I gave a speech at my high school graduation. I don’t remember the words well, but in hindsight I wish it’d been more unique. I never came up with a great theme, insightful wisdom, etc, and I’ve always been a little disappointed that it wasn’t a proud moment in my personal history. (I remember a classmate telling me the most important thing was to keep it short, so perhaps more people were checked out than I realized anyway.)

  6. I’ve got a bit of a different perspective having graduated from high school twice, once in Canada and again in the United States. My Canadian graduation was definitely very different and consisted of a dinner held in an hotel ballroom just before Prom. Everybody is dressed up for the dance, no cap and gown, and we get called one by one during the dinner to get our diploma. Once dinner was over, parents left and we celebrated with our classmates at Prom. It was a very nice way to cap off high school but definitely not as momentous an occasion as in the United States due to a slightly different educational system that makes high school graduation “expected”.

    After moving to the US, I went back to high school to work on my English and establish residency. I clearly remember to this day feeling like I was in a movie with the funny graduation hats, the black gowns, students sneaking in beach balls and bouncy balls to throw during the big formal ceremony, and the teachers trying to unsuccessfully intercept them. Definitely a very memorable experience but not necessarily for all the right reasons!

  7. I honestly have limited memories from my high school graduation..other than it was rushed. The names were being read at a different time than people were walking across stage. It was hot and boring. However, I have seen it as a different circumstance as a teacher. I have met students who didn’t think they would get the chance to graduate either due to a terminal illness or lack of work throughout high school. Watching them work extremely hard to get there and having that moment was more memorable than any graduation experience I have ever had.

  8. Jamey,

    I don’t remember very much of my graduation, but having graduated from a magnet (basically an entire T&G-focused school) high school in Philadelphia, the moderator did announce where every student was going or what they would do post high-school, be it college, military service, or joining the workforce.


  9. I remember almost nothing! And agree that it felt non-important. I can’t speak for anyone else but I want to note that I imagine that’s largely due to my privilege. I never really entertained the notion that I wouldn’t graduate. It was expected of me my whole life and it felt like a normal thing rather than a personal accomplishment. And while I knew my family was proud, I didn’t imagine that they weren’t necessarily wildly impressed (just because it was such a given). But in families where someone might be the first person to do so, I’d imagine that ceremony feels quite different.

    Also just wanted to share that what you proposed is happening! (Sort of) I’ve seen a recent trend of kids finding it college acceptance news surrounded by community. If you ever need a feel good video, just google it!


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