Graduation


What Happens During a Graduation Ceremony?

The day has come and you’re finally graduating! From picking up your gown and decorating your grad cap to making sure your parents arrive on time, you’ve worked hard for your graduation ceremony to become a reality. While walking the stage is the most important part of the ceremony, there are plenty of other things to expect. If you’re wondering what happens during a graduation ceremony, we have you covered with all of the traditions that happen on this special day below.

graduate with family at graduation ceremony

Graduation Ceremony: What to Expect

Your graduation ceremony is also referred to as “commencement” or “convocation”. After walking the stage, you’ll go from from “graduand” to “graduate” over the course of the graduation ceremony. You’ll get to hear from esteemed faculty members, guest speakers, and shake the Chancellor’s hand.

How Long Do Graduation Ceremonies Last?

When it comes to graduation day, you can expect the ceremony to last about 90-120 minutes. Most universities have about three to four ceremonies to get through in a day. As a result, ceremonial staff do their best to keep organized and start on time.

Getting Seated

Your seating area is assigned beforehand by degree type and area of study. Be sure to arrive two hours early or at the scheduled arrival time with your cap and gown so you’re prepared for the graduation ceremony. You’ll receive guidance on how to line up and where you’re sitting once you arrive, along with a name card which is given to a stage manager right before you walk the stage. If you have questions about how to wear a grad cap, staff can also help you before the ceremony. If your family arrives early, you can snap a few grad photos with them before the ceremony.

graduates lining up to walk across stage

Academic Procession

Over the course of 15-20 minutes, the academic procession which is made up of university staff and board members enter the ceremony. All of the graduands remain standing until the entire academic procession and Chancellor have taken seats.

Welcome Address

Once the Chancellor is seated, the Vice-Chancellor or president of the academic board gives a brief welcome address to all faculty, graduands, and family.

Presentation of Awards and Degrees

Degrees and awards are usually presented in alphabetical order of department. Depending on your school, different degree levels are presented first such as honorary degrees, doctoral, or masters.

graduates holding diplomas at ceremony

Walking The Stage

Walking the stage is the most important part of the ceremony. Your row will be escorted to the foot of the stage where you’ll wait in line. Once it’s time you’ll hear your name called, walk across the stage to shake the Chancellor’s hand and stop to take a photo in front of everyone. This is the part of the ceremony where your family and friends cheer as loud as possible and applaud you on this major accomplishment.

Walking the Stage – How It Works:

  • Hand the stage manager your name card for the appropriate name announcement.
  • Walk across the stage once your name is called.
  • Shake the Chancellor’s hand with your right hand.
  • Take your cylinder/diploma in your left hand.
  • Pause for a picture while shaking the Chancellor’s hand (unless cultural or religious reasons prevent you from doing this) and holding your cylinder/diploma.
  • Walk off stage and collect your parchment and alumni information.
  • Return to your seat and move your tassel to the other side to indicate that you are now a graduate!

You can relive this moment by adding your stage photo to a canvas print or creating a photo book with all of your graduation moments.

Keynote Address from Guest Speaker

A guest speaker always gives an inspirational keynote address to the graduating class. These speeches are typically given by someone who is accomplished and can offer the graduates valuable advice for the future. The keynote address last 15-20 minutes.

Valedictory Address

A student representative gives a valedictory address during the ceremony, on behalf of the graduates. The valedictorian thanks family and friends for attending the ceremony and usually gives a heartfelt speech about his or her experience over the last four years.

valedictorian giving speech at graduation ceremony

Academic Procession and Graduates Exit

Once the guest speaker is finished, the academic procession makes their departure as all the graduates are asked to stand. The graduates then follow and exit the ceremony to be greeted by family and friends.

Now that the ceremony is over, you can partake in all of the graduation party festivities and celebrate with your loved ones. From being showered with grad gifts to hearing how proud your parents are, graduation day is one you’ll never forget.