In just two weeks, I’ll be attending my sister’s graduation from the University of Central Florida. This is an exciting time for my sister and the 10,000 others students who will be graduating with her. It’s a time when the graduates will celebrate their achievements and look forward to a new chapter in their lives. If you’re like me and will be attending a graduation this spring, here are some tips to observe in order to keep graduation a happy occasion for your family and the other families in attendance.
Expect to arrive early and stay until after the last name is called. Give yourself plenty of time to find a parking space, walk to the auditorium, and then find a seat where your entire family can sit together. Also, as a courtesy to all the graduates, you should not leave until the event is completely over.
Practice patience. Your graduate will most likely want to take pictures with his or her friends afterwards…and more pictures…and more pictures. Expect long lines at restaurants too, especially in a college town.
Silence yourself and your cell phone. A lot of schools bring in well-known speakers to perform the commencement speech and some people in the audience want to pay attention. Be considerate as this could be the first person in someone’s family to graduate and they may want to listen to every word.
Practice picture etiquette. When your graduate is quickly approaching the stage, line up to take your pictures, but then leave immediately after she or he crosses the stage. Make room for other families who also want to take pictures.
Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t scream at the top of your lungs when your graduate’s name is called because families near you may not be able to hear their graduate’s name being called afterwards. Never insult any graduate or make any negative comments about people in the program.
Leave the post-graduation questions at home. It can be very stressful for some graduates, especially right after accomplishing a major milestone, to field questions about graduate school or obtaining a job. Instead, keep the conversation light and ask questions about the graduate’s college experience or inquire about activities and landmarks on campus.
Keep the peace. Don’t let family feuds get in the way of celebrating. It’s unfair to the graduate to have to worry about seating arrangements and family tensions while taking pictures.
Jorie Scholnik currently works as an assistant professor at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, where she teaches career and etiquette classes. She has also been working under Jacqueline Whitmore at The Protocol School of Palm Beach for the past six years. She earned her master’s degree in counseling and her undergraduate degrees in public relations and psychology from the University of Florida. Her two favorite commencement speeches were given by Steve Jobs and Ellen DeGeneres.