Commencement: Are You Ready for the Pomp and Circumstance?

graduate blows confetti at commencement

For many college students and their parents, the finish line is in sight.  Commencement is here, or at least just around the corner.  Students have worked hard to reach this final moment.  Parents have been patient (most of the time), have supported, have worried, have encouraged (most of the time), have paid tuition again and again, and everyone has probably had moments when they wondered if this time would ever come.

But the season of Commencement is finally here, with all of the ceremony and pomp and circumstance that accompany it.  Most college students have experienced a high school graduation, which may or may not have been as formal as college Commencement.  Some students, and their parents, may be wondering what to expect, and what the experience will be like.

What happens at Commencement?

The format of commencement may vary according to the nature of the school, the size of the class, the weather, the location, or the particular traditions of the institution.  Some ceremonies are very unique, however, many factors may be similar no matter where the ceremony occurs.

Commencement is the capstone experience of the student’s academic career.  It is generally a dignified, formal occasion and marks the formal action of conferring and receiving academic degrees.  Degrees are conferred on the candidates by the presiding officer (usually the college president) after they have been recommended or presented by another official (often a dean or provost).

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It’s a Special Season for Parents: Graduation and Gifts!

Graduation is a special season for your student – and for you!  Whether your student is graduating from high school or from college, the event marks a milestone.  Your student is proud, you are proud, and everyone should celebrate. This is an achievement worthy of praise and of celebrating accomplishments – and the future.

For many families, graduation also means gifts, and many parents stress over finding just the right gift for this big occasion.  We’d like to share a few thoughts – and then offer some help to get your creative juices flowing as you try to think of the perfect gift.

What should you think about as you decide on a gift?

  • Of course, gifts of money are always appreciated. This is especially true if you know there is something that your student would like that might be a big expense, or something that you know your student would like to pick out himself.  Cash is always welcome.
  • As you think about a gift, think about everything that you know about your student. What does she love?  What are her interests?  What kinds of things excite her or are especially meaningful to her?  You know your student better than anyone.  Build on that knowledge to make your gift especially personal.
  • Think about the transition that your student is making. What’s next?  If your student is finishing high school, will he go on to college, living on his own, a new job, technical school?  If your student is graduating from college, is he going on to graduate school, career, a first apartment?  Find a gift that speaks to that new phase in his life.
  • Perhaps you’d like to focus on something commemorative and lasting. Something that your student will cherish and that will always show your pride in him.
  • You might like to aim for something sentimental. Perhaps there is something from childhood or a gift that represents earlier generations of the family.  You might share a piece of family jewelry or a treasured family heirloom.
  • And nothing can be more personal than a handwritten letter from you expressing your pride, your dreams for your student’s future, and your love.

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Is Your College Student Considering Graduate School?

It may seem as though it was only yesterday that you were worrying about the college admission process and then sending your freshman off to her first year of college.  How can she be at the point that she is now considering graduate school?

Seeking a graduate degree is on the minds of many college students.  Obviously, some students are just ready to be done with school (at least for a while) and can’t wait to finish college.  Others, however, may have been inspired by a topic or field of study and are considering further study.  Some students have chosen a career that requires a graduate degree for employment or certification.

If your student is considering graduate study, be prepared to be less involved in the process this time around.  Your student is in charge.  One area where you may be most helpful in the first stages of considering graduate school is in helping your student think through whether more school is the right move.  Attending graduate school is not as automatic after college as college often is after high school.

What should your student consider in making the decision about graduate school?

Help your student think about her reasons for graduate school and the realities of that path.  Here are a few questions you can ask her to consider:

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When Your College Senior Hates Their Major

You’re almost at the finish line.  You’ve made it through that somewhat scary freshman year, the potential sophomore slump, junior year, and your student is now top of the heap – a senior!  It’s time for celebration and planning for Commencement.

But then it happens.  Your student decides that they hates their major.  They’re devastated.  You’re devastated.  You’re both at least a little scared.  Perhaps it’s the courses they’re now taking that sealed the deal.  Or perhaps they had an internship or opportunity to get out in the field and hated the experience.  Your student’s upset, depressed and at a loss.  And so are you.  What now?

It’s a very difficult situation and it’s natural to be upset.  Discovering late in the college experience that your major doesn’t seem right can feel overwhelming.  And, as is often the case, it’s almost harder as a parent to watch your student be so unhappy.  But the situation is not unique.  Many students have second, and third, and fourth, thoughts about major and career – even in their senior year.

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Book Review: Freshman Year of Life

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone.  Visit our Resources page for suggestions of important books for college parents and their students.

Freshman Year of Life: Essays that Tell the Truth About Work, Home, and Life After College is an easy-to-read volume of essays that students about to graduate from college or recently graduated from college will find helpful.  The fact that each essay is presented by a different author means that readers hear many voices.  Students will like the brevity and personal nature of the essays.  The stories feel real.

Many books have been written for students as they transition to the college years, but less is available for students who are about to enter the world beyond college.  Equating the first year(s) out of school to freshman year of college is a wonderful analogy.  How to navigate careers, bosses, friendships and real world skills, is information young adults need – and they need to hear from others who have also struggled to figure it all out.

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Boomerang Kids: When Graduation Means a Move Back Home

They’ve been called many things – the Millennial Generation, Generation Y, Echo Boomers, Digital Natives, Tightrope Generation, Generation Next, Generation Me.  Now they are earning the title of the Boomerang Generation.  If you have a recent college graduate, or a college student due to graduate in the next few years, chances are that you should be getting that bedroom or basement ready to welcome your student home again.

It may be reassuring to some parents with students moving back home, and to those students as well, to know that they are not alone.  One survey suggests that 85% of college seniors expect to move back home, at least for a time, and a 2016 UBS survey found that 63% of millennials actually do move home after graduation.

Although career prospects have improved, as more young adults graduate with high college debt, face rising rents and stricter mortgage standards, they are apparently postponing marriage and starting families and choosing instead to live at home – at least for a while.    According to a Pew Research Company analysis of recent census data, approximately 32% of 18-34 years olds live in their parents’ homes.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States has the highest percentage of young adults living at home since 1940.

So it is clear that for many graduates moving back home not only makes sense, but may be their only option.  Some may stay for a short while and others may settle in for the long haul.

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What Matters for Your Student’s Career?

We want our students to have good careers when they graduate.  We’ve worked hard to get them through their early years of school and to send them to college.  We are ready for them to launch.  But are they prepared?

For the most part, the answer is yes.  Students who take their college work seriously, who take advantage of opportunities and of resources available, graduate ready for their career.  The schools that our students attend, from kindergarten through high school and then college, work to give students the education that they need.  However, students and parents alike may be surprised to learn that some of the skills that benefit students the most in their careers are not learned in the classroom.

Parents can have a lasting influence on how their students learn the key skills that will help them succeed. Some recent studies have shed light on the importance of some of these “softer” skills. We think it’s important for parents to see this information so that they recognize the value of their influence.

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Your College Senior: Preparing to Finish College

There’s a lot of focus on the transition for students from high school to college.  We know that students heading off to college face a whole new world.  But sometimes we underplay – or completely forget – that as students prepare to graduate from college, they are also entering a time of tremendous transition – and the whole new world of employment or graduate school.

As parents, we’ve worked throughout our student’s college career to loosen our grip, at least a little, and to recognize and celebrate our child’s growing independence and responsibility.  We know that the college senior year transition is our student’s transition to handle.  Hopefully, they will keep us informed of their progress along the way, but our role is (or at least should be) much less.  However, it helps to know what’s ahead and to be prepared.  Perhaps we can still do at least a little bit of nudging in the right direction.

We’ve collected a list of our posts that should be most helpful to parents of rising seniors.  Take a little time to read some of them and think about how you might help your student make the most of this final year – and prepare for the transition ahead.

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Whose Responsibility Is It to Find Your College Graduate a Job?

You send your child to college.  He chooses a major.  He takes the appropriate classes.  He graduates.  And then . . . ?

Many students, and their parents, may assume that after college, after all of that tuition, after preparing the resume and sending the cover letters, the perfect job will materialize.  Sometimes it does.  But more often, there’s a lot of work that goes into finding – and landing – that job.

The question of how much responsibility the college or university has for helping your student secure a job is currently a controversial topic.  Should the college focus on academically educating the student and leave it up to the student to find a job, or should the college be preparing the student for and helping the student secure a job?

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College Experiences That Lead to Well-Being After Graduation (Part 6): Participating in Extracurricular Activities

This is the sixth and final post in a series of articles about experiences in college that can affect graduates’ engagement and well-being after college. Be sure to read the first five in the series as well: Part 1 – Getting Excited, Part 2 – Feeling Cared For, Part 3 – Having a Mentor, Part 4 – Long Term Project, and Part 5 – Having an Internship.

A recent poll of nearly 30,000 college graduates conducted jointly by Purdue University and Gallup, Inc. looked at the relationship between college experiences and college graduates’ lives post-graduation. The study examined workplace engagement and graduates’ sense of well-being as well as factors influencing students’ life while in college.

According to the results of this study, six factors emerged as important influences on graduates’ engagement and well-being. Over a six week period, our series, College Experiences That Lead to Well-Being After Graduation has examined each of these factors and how students can take control of their college experiences to make sure that they participate in the activities in college which will help them in the future. We hope parents will share these ideas with their college students to help them work to pursue these important experiences.

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