So the big day has come, Graduation day: The biggest day of your life so far, apparently. And although it feels like only yesterday you started this adventure of academia, partying, and living on a shoe string budget with your parents dropping you off at your first year halls of residence, tears in their eyes, they’re now back, Dad in a ridiculously out-dated suit and Mum in a garish feathered fascinator.
There has been a huge build-up to your graduation ceremony – you’ve got the tickets, you’ve booked some time with the photographer, measured yourself for your gown, and now all you need to do is see it through the day. What with getting your parents and yourself to the venue on time, collecting the various documents and picking up your rental gown, graduation day, contrary to parental hype, can actually be pretty stressful.
What no one mentions is that, along with the smiles and the celebrations, your university graduation day will involve long hours of sitting around, avoiding the lecturers you never liked, and getting temporarily blinded every two seconds by a multitude of flash photography.
Don’t let this put you off however, as graduation day will be a lasting memory of university life and is a day where you are the subject of pride in the eyes of your parents, your tutors and your peers, having successfully completed your degree.
To help you avoid disappointment, here’s the hyped-down version of what to expect from your graduation day…
Your parents will probably be more excited than you. Humor them.
Yes, you’re excited to be free of the ties of constant assignments and obligatory dissertation meetings, but this excitement is also tinged with the undeniable fact that you are now a fully fledged adult expected to fend for yourself and find something worthwhile to do. For your parents, graduation day probably couldn’t have come sooner, as it not only means that they’ve successfully raised an educated child but also that you might soon stop scrounging from the bank of mum and dad.
Their pride upon envisioning those new letters adjacent to the family name will no doubt lead to tears, tight hugs and even more tears. Instead of getting embarrassed and batting them away, embrace the moment, hug them back, act humble and laugh it off if you have to.
Everyone and their mum will get a bit snap-happy.
If it’s not your dad pointing his new iPad at you haphazardly while coaxing you to “say cheese”, or a friend’s mum wanting a group photo of everyone, it will be the professionals with their intimidating equipment cocomplaining that you’re holding the prop diploma scroll all wrong (apparently it does matter). Although you’ve got jaw-ache from standing around waiting for dad to find the right setting, just keep taking deep breaths and remind yourself it’s only one day. In years to come, you’ll be glad to have the many photos – even the slightly lopsided and badly lit ones – as evidence of this historic moment.
You will sweat. Profusely.
It took you months to pick out your graduation day dress/suit. But, come 11am on the mild May morning, just five minutes after donning your grandiose – yet still inevitably made of polyester – gown, you’ll have drenched your new clobber in perspiration. Expect to feel, look and smell something like an overused gym towel. Fret not, however, because unless some lucky graduate has gotten their antiperspirant on prescription, everyone will be in the same “B.Oat”. (Get it?)
In the meantime, while consoling yourself that there’s no such thing as scratch and sniff photography, keep hydrated to prevent the risk of passing out on stage in front of your principal, sweaty underarms asunder.
Named thus due to its propensity for cementing your hair to your head*, the mortarboard is every well-groomed graduate’s nightmare. Once you and the gown hire company have managed to find a cap that fits – after having to endure various comments on the weirdness of your head shape – then it will be welded into place with the sharpest hairgrips known to man. Despite these grips however, the cap will insist on slipping all over your carefully styled hair, accumulating both static friction and sweat before drying out in the overly air-conditioned graduation hall, producing an uncannily symmetrical kink in your beautiful fro. It’s for this reason, then, that the only time students look truly joyful on their university graduation day is when chucking their mortarboards as far into the air as possible. (That is until they come back to earth again and thwack you all hard in the face).
It’s tempting to get anxious about walking across the stage of your graduation ceremony in front of an audience full of peers and loudly whooping family members, especially if you’re not a theatrical arts major. You’ll begin to doubt your ability to put one foot in front of the other while looking straight ahead, all the while wondering whether to smile, look serious or to risk wiping your clammy hands on your robe before shaking your principal’s hand.
Remind yourself that if you can write a 10,000-word dissertation on the neurobiology of placebo analgesia, then you sure as hell can walk 10 steps across a stage in a fancy gown without tripping over it. Unless, of course, you’ve decided to wear six-inch heels. In this case, either switch to flats or practice how to style out a fall gracefully à la Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars.
As your parents have told you repeatedly since the grand old age of 13, sometimes grown-ups must do things they don’t necessarily want to do. For some of us, enduring the entirety of university graduation is one of those things.
Your graduation ceremony will require a lot of sitting down, standing up and applauding people you don’t know, but this doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave once your name has been called. Your peers are supporting you so it’s important that you do the same for them by clapping along with everybody else. No one cares if your mortarboard is itchy or your hands ache from clapping too hard; you’re an adult now so sit down and be quiet.
And although you’re no longer a student, all the same rules apply: switch your phone off for the duration of the graduation ceremony, make sure you go to the bathroom beforehand, and no matter how many times the honorary speakers talk about “the future” and your “hopes and dreams”, do resist the urge to laugh and/or cry.