The trend of online graduation ceremonies hosted over video platforms such as Zoom has been growing rapidly since the UK went into lockdown and several universities cancelled or postponed summer ceremonies.
Some universities such as Bristol and Nottingham even hosted official Zoom graduations for final year medical students who were finishing their studies and going straight out to help in the NHS.
With so much uncertainty over when, or if, traditional ceremonies might take place this year it’s hardly surprising that students are taking matters into their own hands, looking for ways to celebrate at home and going online to mark their achievements with friends. But how can you make your online graduation stand out from the crowd?
Invite a Guest Speaker
Every graduation speech begins with an inspiring speech from a guest speaker and your online graduation should be no different! Universities in the UK tend to go down a more academic route for their commencement speeches, so you could ask your favourite lecturer if they’d be happy to log on and say a few words to kick things off.
Alternatively you could follow the example of universities in the USA which seem to be all about the A-lister appearances! And whilst you may struggle to get Kanye West or Barack Obama to log on and give you a virtual handshake don’t rule out a celeb appearance altogether… Websites such as Cameo offer you the chance to pay a wide range of celebrities for a personalised recorded message. At the bargain end of the scale you could get a Tiger King impersonator to do you a congratulatory message for a mere $25! Or if you’re ready to splash a bit more cash how about a pep talk from boxing legend Mike Tyson, reality royalty Pauly D, or comedy old-timer John Cleese? The possibilities are endless!
Get Creative with Your Backgrounds
If you’re yet to discover the customisable backgrounds on Zoom, where have you been? For the uninitiated you can essentially download any picture from the internet and set it as your virtual backdrop. For your virtual graduation you can pretend to be anywhere other than your bedroom. An obvious choice would be to select a picture of your university or the venue where your graduation was set to take place. But why go for the obvious choice when you have the whole of the internet at your disposal? You could even have a special graduation award for the person with the most original backdrop idea!
Wear a Cap and Gown
Given that most of us have found our socialising restricted to video calls it’s important to mark the occasion of your graduation and make sure this online event stands out from the rest. That means it’s time to get out of the dressing gown and PJs and put on the outfit you’d earmarked for this celebration, as well as donning the traditional graduation cap and gown. Churchill Gowns are offering home delivered gowns to hire or purchase, so there’s no excuse not to be in the full regalia!
Alternatively, if you’re feeling crafty, you could try making your own cap and gown. We were particularly inspired by the watermelon mortarboard cap that made an appearance on one of the Bristol University medics…
Give Each Participant a Moment to ‘Graduate’
Each person attending your virtual graduation should have their own moment in the spotlight. There may not be a stage to cross but a catwalk across a screen to rapturous applause from your mates might just be the next best thing. Each person could even have a member of their household shake their hand and present them with their degree certificate (a rolled up piece of paper tied with a red ribbon also does the job nicely!)
The music is another opportunity to make your online graduation moment truly personal! If the traditional pomp and circumstance isn’t your thing then why not ditch it in favour of some of your favourite nostalgic tunes from freshers week? Each person graduating could pick their own track to ‘cross the stage’ to meaning everyone gets a totally original graduation moment.
Think of Some Games or Activities
After the formal business of ‘graduating’ is over it’s time to raise a toast to your achievements and let your hair down. Lots of video calling apps have fun games built into them but you could also come up with activities for your graduation that reflect your time at university. How about a quiz about funny moments from your degree? Or comedy awards handed out for things like ‘most time spent in the library’, ‘worst freshers week fashion’ or ‘least punctual to lectures’?
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