University Commencement - to go or not to go?
May 22, 2014 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I will be graduating soon and I'm debating whether or not I should go to the graduation ceremony. On one hand, I'm proud that I finished but on the other, I can't invite my family and I wonder if it's worth doing alone. Does the ceremony even matter? If I don't go, will I regret it forever?

I did not want to go to high school commencement because of family drama, and I was right. My mother wailed and cried about how I was nothing like the excellent and successful person she thought I was. She yelled about how all my classmates are smarter than me and if I wasn't cut out for university, I should stop trying to please her and go to a trades school instead or start working. She made me feel so little that day and so useless. I graduated from high school with honours, scholarships and made it into a top 5 university in my country, but it wasn't enough for her and she made me feel like I wasn't worthy of going to university. The whole experience was just nasty. She refused to even take a picture with me. I don't even have my graduation stuff anymore because it just reminds me of how much of a failure my mom thinks I am.

Now, my university commencement is coming up. I decided at my high school commencement that I wouldn't be going to another graduation ceremony ever. However, seeing all my friend's graduation pictures make me question this decision because I'm glad/proud that I stuck it out and finished. I'm the first in my family to get a university degree and while I'm not a good student, I know that I learned lots of things in university that will stick with me for life. Is commencement the way to celebrate this?

If I go, I won't have any family there. My parents are divorced but I can't ask my dad to come without also asking my mom because she'll make a big fuss about how I prefer my dad over her. I can't ask my siblings because they probably don't care. I might have a few friends there, but does it even matter? Did you feel that commencement was a good way to celebrate the end of the university stage in your life? Was it boring? Was it even worth going to?? If I don't go, will I regret it?
posted by cyml to Human Relations (67 answers total)
I wouldn't. I went to mine to support my sister on crutches otherwise I would have blown it off entirely. Boring doesn't COVER how much a non-event the commencement ceremony was. You won't regret it for a minute. Have them send you the diploma and get on with your life.

A good way to celebrate is by getting a good job and moving away from your dysfunctional family.

Live well and congratulations!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:41 PM on May 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Do it. Don't invite mom.
posted by stinkfoot at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

I didn't go, and I regret it a little bit, but not a lot. I couldn't invite my family because they live a plane ride away and none of them had the money to come for the ceremony. I went to my boyfriend's ceremony, and it was nice, but not earthshattering.

I think I would have felt a bit awkward without a "home family" to hang out with, but most of the first half of the day was spent with other graduating students, so that part wasn't awkward. After the ceremony when everyone was taking pictures with family/friends I'm not sure what I would've done.

Ultimately do what feels right to you-- I don't think it will be a big deal either way. I do wish I had a photo of myself in graduation regalia for my future kids. That is my biggest regret!
posted by stoneandstar at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didn't go and I don't regret it at all.
posted by kmr at 1:45 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

My convocation was super boring, but in the grand scheme of things I think it would be better to go (without inviting your parents) than to have regrets later. Can you arrange something afterwards with your friends or classmates? Go our for dinner and drinks to celebrate? Don't worry about making it a family affair and focus on it being a personal celebration of your hard work!
posted by Nightman at 1:45 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

You know, sometimes, even when you're alone, it's good to be at the summit to take a moment and look around. You've earned it.

Will you regret it? Maybe. Will you regret going? Since you'll be alone and if it's an investment of maybe half a day of your life, then you probably won't. So I'd suggest you go.

Ritual is sometimes easy to dismiss when you haven't been through it. But this is something that I think you need to mark somehow even if you don't do it at Commencement because of what you've overcome.
posted by inturnaround at 1:46 PM on May 22, 2014 [22 favorites]

These are things you do (or at least I did) for the people who supported you through the process. If they didn't support you, then skip it. If they won't be there, skip it.

Nice job working through the family drama and graduating.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 1:46 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I didn't walk for my undergrad and walked for my MA. Don't regret either decision. This might be the time to do the "flip a coin" trick - if your coin flip comes down and you realize you want the opposite, do it.
posted by PussKillian at 1:46 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I didn't go to graduation: I had no mind to waste my time, I didn't want to spend the ridiculous amount of money they wanted me to pay them for the privilege, and I didn't want the almost-guaranteed family drama.

Every time I think about graduating from college, I feel a bit of relief knowing that I made the right choice to not force myself to deal with any of those things. I did a number of stupid things in college, skipping out on graduation wasn't one of them.
posted by griphus at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm the first in my family to get a university degree...

Do it for this reason alone. For yourself. And, perhaps, for your future children to see. Congratulations.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2014 [30 favorites]

I only went to mine because it was really important to my family, and everyone came out to see it happen. I have a mostly happy family, though, and tradition/ceremony is extremely unimportant to me. I would have lost absolutely nothing, emotionally or otherwise, by not going.

But it sounds to me like you'd enjoy it as a way to mark the accomplishment for yourself--good for you! That's completely fine. Stick with your friends and meet their families. (One of the few things I did enjoy about my 150 degree blazing heat commencement ceremony was that I got to meet my friends' parents and siblings, people I had heard about for 4 years but otherwise had no knowledge of.) Or find your favorite professor and hang with them. Don't worry about being "alone" because you won't be!

So, go or don't go, but let it be your choice, not one guided by your whackadoo mom.
posted by phunniemee at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you should go. I think you want to go, but you're not sure whether there's such a thing as celebrating alone. I think you're proud, but you're not sure whether you deserve to be, and I think you deserve to be. You deserve to be, no matter who else is there or isn't there. I think you should go, and be proud, and keep in mind that you have no more or less family or friends because you go or don't go, and plenty of people whose parents are there have terrible problems with them. If you didn't seem to want to go but wondered whether you should, I'd say not to. But I think you want to and aren't sure why, and I think the why is precisely that you're proud, and being proud is enough.

I think you should go. Congratulations to you, and good for you, and go.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2014 [18 favorites]

I went and the actual ceremony was fairly boring but it was nice to have an official way of acknowledging the end of this part of my life. And it is nice to have someone hand you a diploma (even if the real one will be in the mail later).

Seeing friends and their families before and after the graduation was, however, great.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:49 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

(That being said, I knew from the moment of my high school graduation that I would never attend another such ceremony unless I was invited by someone I liked a lot. I was 100% sure when I made the decision.)
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on May 22, 2014

I thought it was absolutely excruciatingly dull and I only went to my college commencement so my parents and grandparents could watch me. I skipped my law school commencement and don't regret it a bit. (A++++ would skip again)

That said, if you want to go, it doesn't hurt anything to go, whether or not you have people there. (At my college, lots of people were too far from home to have relatives attend, and that was fine! It was still meaningful for them.) You will definitely spend two hours in more boring events in your life. If you can sit with your friends, it's nice to have the moment with them and the marker as a rite of passage. I also think it makes something of a difference how large the program is -- if you're graduating with 30 people, it's a lot more meaningful than if you're graduating with 3,000.

Regarding pictures, maybe you could borrow a friend's cap-and-gown (if that's the thing you do) and take a picture so you have it? I mean, you're graduating whether you sit through the ceremony or not.

Also, if you decide you don't want to go to The Graduation Ceremony, you could probably find another symbolic way to mark the rite of passage, with a celebratory dinner with friends, or a blessing from your religious authority, or taking a meaningful trip you've always wanted to take, or something. If you don't like the idea of the ceremony, but you do want to do SOMETHING to mark this moment, pick something meaningful to you and do it!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:53 PM on May 22, 2014

I went to my high school and undergraduate graduations, but I skipped my graduate school commencement. I don't regret it at all.

My parents would have only come, and it was a long (6-7 hour drive), plus my grandparents were all either dead or very ill at that point, and needing my parents' care. I asked my mother if she'd be upset if I didn't walk, and she asked me how I felt about the whole thing.

I went to a very large state college for grad school, and realized I'd be spending most of my day in the miserable Florida heat, wearing a gown I'd only wear once, and otherwise be wishing I could be anywhere but at my own graduation. I hate being the center of attention, most of my classmates had graduated the semester before, and essentially, I was ready to move on to the next phase of my life.

There are a few things I regret about that time in my life, but skipping out on my graduation is not one of them. Do what you want. You're the one who earned that degree, after all! Congrats!
posted by PearlRose at 1:53 PM on May 22, 2014

I was in your exact situation, even down to the miserable family drama addled high school graduation.

I ultimately chose not to walk in my college graduation.

I don't really regret my decision (close to ten years later), aside from, like you, feeling a bit wistful seeing people's happy graduation photos. But I know my graduation photos wouldn't have been happy, so meh. It's more a wistfulness about a life I'll never have had (if that makes sense?) and less something concrete where I wish I had done this particular thing for real reasons.
posted by Sara C. at 1:53 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Commencements are really boring. I'd recommend the following:

1. If you plan for this to be the highest level of education you achieve (ie, you're not going to graduate school), go.
2. If you're going on to grad school, save the boredom for your highest level of education.

But of course, if you want to go, go. Just keep in mind that it is boring and unnecessary. You sit through speeches, go up, and shake the hand of some old white guy (probably) that you don't even know. If you are only going for the photo op, consider instead getting a really nice frame for your diploma and hanging it up. That will remind you of the work you put in as much or more than any photo.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:56 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would find friends, a mentor, someone I knew from the community who had been supportive of me, and either invite them to come, or (if they're already going) arrange to celebrate and take pictures with them afterwards. I don't think I would go if I was going to be all alone before and after the actual ceremony. In that case I would find some way to celebrate on my own or with friends later -- have a barbecue, buy a hat and throw it into the air, plant a tree, whatever. But commencement is only really meaningful if you are there with your peers, who have worked hard alongside you, or if someone is there to watch you get on stage and get a diploma and be proud of you.

I attended both undergrad and my Ph.D. ceremonies. Both were a mix of pleasantly meaningful and achievement-feeling and really boring. Also just getting the robes, waiting around, listening to instructions on processionals, are all really irritating.
posted by daisystomper at 1:57 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

cyml: "Did you feel that commencement was a good way to celebrate the end of the university stage in your life? Was it boring? Was it even worth going to?? If I don't go, will I regret it?"
1. Yes!
2. Most of it yes, but that moment of walking off the stage - Not at all.
3. YES!
4. Only you will know the answer.
posted by Big_B at 1:57 PM on May 22, 2014

Just keep in mind that it is boring and unnecessary.

I would more say keep in mind that to some people, it's boring and unnecessary. People are very, very different when it comes to how they feel about ritual. OP's strong reaction to the high school graduation story suggests to me that maybe ritual is meaningful in OP's particular life, in which case it's certainly not necessarily boring and unnecessary.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:59 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Point A: I went to mine, and it was meh. I could have skipped it and been totally fine. This sounds like where you are.

Point B: I work for a university and have a very large role in both planning our graduation ceremony and directing it as it happens. One of the joys for me is seeing the graduates meet up with their advisors backstage, before they walk, and how unabashedly joyful and excited everyone is. I would wish that kind of joy on anyone who's capable of it or who may be in the position to attain it, because it's just awesome.

I don't know which would apply most to you, but there you go.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didn't go to mine (I went travelling right after exams in my final year, and couldn't be bothered to plan around the graduation date), and I don't regret it at all.

However, I tagged along to the ceremony at my university the following year with two friends who were graduating then. It was boring in the way of graduations, but not terrible, and hanging out with my friends afterwards was nice. If you want to go, don't worry about going alone--it's totally fine, you won't be the only one, and if you have a close friend or two who will be there, you can borrow their families for the day.
posted by snorkmaiden at 2:01 PM on May 22, 2014

Congratulations on being the first college grad in your family! You rock!!

Nthing I think a large part of you probably does want to go to commencement and if so, you should go. Wanting to go, even a little bit, is reason enough. And it may be the very last time you and your university friends are all going to be together in the same place. Plus, from what I hear, folks generally regret the things they didn't do more than the things they did.

I have never missed one of my own commencements, but then again, I place a lot a value and importance in Rites of Passage such as these, because I think we have so few of them left in American society. And this is an honorable rite of passage indeed. But you are not me. YMMV.

I decided at my high school commencement that I wouldn't be going to another graduation ceremony ever.

I'm so very sorry your mother behaved so appallingly. You deserved better. It would be a shame if you let her abusive, completely inappropriate actions four+ years ago dictate your current life choices. You are free to change your mind.

My parents are divorced but I can't ask my dad to come without also asking my mom because she'll make a big fuss about how I prefer my dad over her.

Do YOU want your dad there? Well, your mom does not want him there and does not want anyone to have what she can't have, so I'm sorry she has shown you that she will shit the proverbial bed in order to get her way. Don't give you mother what she wants. Do not get in the habit of rewarding her bad behavior. Invite whomever the hell you want. If she protests? "Mom, you were horrible to me at my last graduation, why on earth would I have included you again?"

I can't ask my siblings because they probably don't care.

But you don't know until you ask them, right? Ask them. Best wishes to you!!
posted by hush at 2:02 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I went to my graduate school graduation ceremony alone. That milestone was for me. I worked through that degree, I wanted it, I achieved it, and I was happy to be part of the ceremony. The ceremony itself was just a moment in time - someone gave a commencement address, I don't remember who - but for me that day was the capping of 2 years of working hard, expanding my knowledge, getting a designation I wanted, and seeing the end of that road. It was good to be there, and I didn't want any drama to divert from my quiet sense of achievement.
posted by seawallrunner at 2:06 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I suggest going, not inviting your parents, and buying the photo they'll take of you getting the diploma. Frame the photo, frame the degree, and savor it.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:09 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I didn't go to mine and it was glorious. I watched world cup soccer and had a beer. Plus it rained all over my classmates and not me.
posted by Carillon at 2:09 PM on May 22, 2014

I didn't go to my grad school commencement because I was alone, I didn't care about the school, and I was on crutches. And I regret it!
posted by TrixieRamble at 2:10 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh! And introduce yourself to the person on your left and the person on your right sitting next to you for the ceremony. Enjoy the moment together.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:10 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Go by yourself. Maybe you'll be bored and waste a few hours. But you'll never miss those hours in the future. So no downside really.
posted by mono blanco at 2:10 PM on May 22, 2014

I didn't go to mine. I was SUPER proud that I graduated and so was my dad, but we all didn't feel the need to sit for HOURS to wait for my name to be called. Plus my husband even said "I would go if you wanted me to, but.. I don't want to have to."

I regret nothing. I worked and was in the process of moving, so I had other things going on. I did however purchase some graduation tassels since I wasn't buying a cap and gown. (And they did kinda look at me funny when that's all I had to pick up...)

But if you're okay being bored for a while just to do it, then go for it. I don't think you'll regret going unless it would make you sad that other people aren't there for you. I would have hated sitting through mine, but I'm not one for ceremony really.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:12 PM on May 22, 2014

I think a lot depends on the details. Where I was an undergrad, there was a commencement ceremony and then separate departmental graduations. Most people skipped the commencement and went to the (smaller, faster) departmental graduation, which is what I did. I don't regret that decision, but I think I wouldn't have regretted skipping the departmental graduation had my family not insisted on coming. I sort of regret my grandad not being there, but it wasn't practical for him to come. I was person number two in his family to get a degree (my mom being the first) and he thought it was exciting. I'm at the tail end of a PhD and didn't go to the commencement this spring. It felt weird because, while I'm nearly done, I'm not quite done, it's expensive, and there's one graduation for all the grad students, so it'll take forever and make the speeches super generic. The graduation 'ritual' stuff in my department centers much more around the defense than around the university ceremony, so few people go. (Where I was an undergrad, there are no PhD defenses, which makes grad students a little more inclined to go to graduation, I think.)

I think it mostly depends on the details whether it's worth going if there's no one you feel like you want to or can invite. Is everyone going to be in alphabetical order or can you sit with friends? Is it going to take five hours? Is there free champagne? Does the cap and gown cost an arm and a leg?
posted by hoyland at 2:17 PM on May 22, 2014

Didn't go for my BA or my MSc, no regrets whatsoever.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:17 PM on May 22, 2014

I didn't go for my college graduation and I have no regrets. I'm in a masters program now and I don't think I will plan on going to it either. To me, it's just a ceremony and feeling accomplish/proud is all I need. Is there a small departmental graduation? Maybe you can invite one parent to the big ceremony and another parent to the departmental one?
posted by zw98105 at 2:22 PM on May 22, 2014

I think you should go, and invite friends only; no family -- or, go alone.

My family was considerably more supportive of me, so I went to my undergrad commencement ceremony, though most of my friends were a year behind me and so they had all left campus and didn't attend (though one friend who lived locally to the university did show up to my commencement).

For graduate school, however, I didn't attend my commencement. This was primarily because although I had lots of local friends, none of them wanted to attend, and my family didn't want to make the trip up. Secondly, I graduated at an odd time of year (August 2003, as opposed to May or January), because my employer (who had been paying my tuition, books, and half my salary) said I had to finish a two year program within one calendar year. I asked to be allowed to walk at the May 2003 commencement, but because I hadn't actually graduated yet, the university said I could only walk at the May 2004 commencement. In my mind, that was too far afield of my graduation date; by May of '04 I was well settled back in my employed life. For those reasons, I decided not to walk in May 2004.

I regret not walking in my Master's degree commencement; I worked my ass off -- at an accelerated pace, no less -- to earn that degree, and looking back I think it would have been nice to have been recognized. On the other hand -- recognized by whom? My grad school friends all either graduated in May 2003 or January 2004; only the few January folks would have been walking with me. My family wasn't coming up, nor were any of my local friends or undergrad friends. Still, I think it would have been nice, even if I were there alone.
posted by tckma at 2:23 PM on May 22, 2014

INVITE ALL YOU DEARLY LOVE. THEY WILL COME OR NOT. GO. It is all BS but it is a big step in your life and this will nail it home for you. You will never regret going but might well regret not going.
posted by Postroad at 2:28 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wasn't going to go to mine. I didn't even bother inviting my family; I knew none of them would make the effort. Then I told a friend (also at uni but not graduating yet) and she said she'd come, with her baby daughter and mother. Then another friend piped up and said he'd come too. A couple of other friends said they'd tag along too (free food!).

I ended up going.

My graduation photo sits on my desk where I can see it while I study for my next degree. I have a huge smile on my face as I collect my degree from the State Governor. I LOVE THAT PHOTO with my hat and gown holding my degree! I am so glad I went. It shows me everyday what I can do when I commit myself.
posted by Kerasia at 2:29 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I didn't go, and I have zero regrets. I have since been through a few ceremonies for other family members and for the most part they have been utterly dull experiences. (A recent one was the exception, but it was a very small and personal ceremony, and mercifully SHORT, which made a big difference.) I think for some of us, the actual ceremony is just not a big thing. Only you can decide whether that is you.

I do recommend you do something to commemorate this big event in your life, but it doesn't have to be the school-sanctioned event. You could invite a close friend, or a giant gaggle of friends, out to a big celebratory dinner. You could get yourself a tattoo, or a beautiful work of art or jewelry, to commemorate. You could go on a special trip somewhere. You probably would regret not taking a little moment to celebrate your achievement in a way that is meaningful to you, but you get to decide what that way will be.
posted by Stacey at 2:36 PM on May 22, 2014

Go alone. Your degree is your victory - wear it with pride.
posted by Chorus at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I didn't go and have no regrets. For one thing, undergrads don't walk across the stage at my university - they pretty much have you stand up by school/department and then sit down. For another, I graduated in December. I've mentioned in a previous question that I took a five-year hiatus from college before I went back to finish. I didn't know anyone else who'd be graduating that year - much less in December! That really did make a big difference to me. When I graduated high school, most of our class had been together all four years of high school, and graduation really felt like the culmination of something we all did together. (It was also the last time we were all together!) It just wouldn't be the same sitting in a crowd full of strangers.

I had a celebratory dinner with my family once my diploma actually arrived in the mail. That was enough. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 2:41 PM on May 22, 2014

I could have easily skipped my high school graduation and not missed or regretted a thing.

For college, I would have walked if no one I knew showed up, and I really feel like I would have missed out on something if I didn't, but commencement at my university is a bit more grandiose than it is at most schools. I actually wore a tux, our graduation consisted of walking down a 200 year old green space designed by Thomas Jefferson, and my diploma is poster-size and was handed to me by the dean of my school tied up in a school-color ribbon. I wasn't missing that whether my parents showed up or not, and I don't remember a single thing any of the speakers said or even who they were.

I also went to my wife's commencement where she received her PhD - if I were undergrad at that ceremony I might not have bothered. It was in the basketball arena and the ceremony was for just one school at the university rather than the whole graduating class at one time.

If this is something you do without inviting anyone, which I think is totally fine, I don't really see that it would create any negative situations, so I'd just go ahead and do it and hope for the best. The worst that could happen is you'd be kind of bored for a bit.
posted by LionIndex at 2:42 PM on May 22, 2014

If you don't go, you'll always wonder whether you should have. If you go, you'll never wonder whether you should have... what, watched Star Trek Into Darkness on Amazon Prime? If there was something you would be doing instead, sure, do that thing. But don't not-go just because your mom screwed up your last ceremony.
posted by Etrigan at 2:50 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you should go - it would be a good way to put the negativity of your high school graduation behind you and it seems like it's important to you. I say this as someone who attended my own undergrad and graduate school graduation ceremonies but has no particularly fond memories of either. The worst-case scenario is you go and you're bored and maybe feel a little alienated.
posted by mskyle at 2:51 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Go for yourself. Go for all the first-generation students.

I almost didn't attend my Master's graduation, but my adviser pushed me. She said--"Go so all the first-generation, (insert multiple underrepresented student status) can see someone like themselves walk successfully."
posted by inevitability at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Commencement is a ceremony and like any other ceremony, it contains just about exactly as much value and meaning as you personally attach to it.

If you want to stand up in front of your peers in recognition of your achievements, then by all means, go to commencement.

If you don't want to sit in a hot, stuffy room and listen to people with PhDs drone and then watch as the same 'name -- handshake -- diploma' scene replays itself 500 times in order to be handed a piece of paper you could have had mailed to you, then don't go.

I went to mine, I don't regret it, but had I not gone to it, I wouldn't have regretted that either.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:06 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

It probably isn't a big deal either way, but if anything, do it for the photograph(s) and for your future self.

It's just an afternoon. You don't need to invite anyone. It's for yourself.

In 20 years, that photograph of yourself, young, blooming, in academic robes, fresh with your degree, surrounded by graduates; it's the end-cap of an important time in your life and the beginning of another important time. It's a nice bit of your own personal history to have.

It's also participation in a cultural rite of passage. On the radio yesterday, people were discussing university commencement speeches. That would become a discussion you could take part in from a place of experience.

(I had your attitude but I was made to do it, and I'm glad that happened.)

And apply the same thing going foward in life; generally when the question is "Should I do this unique thing I haven't done before that is awkward/inconvenient and it would be much simpler to not do it and I'm also quite busy already", set the default answer to "yes", and all manner of rich experiences will follow. Not because each experience is rich, but because being put outside your routine puts you in touch with so many people you wouldn't otherwise meet, things lead to other things, you end up in crazy amazing situations, you find the door of opportunity is in all sorts of unexpected places.
posted by anonymisc at 3:16 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I went to undergrad and grad school commencement (just the one for my department, not the big university-wide one) and honestly, I spent more time and energy with my friends/classmates than my parents. Yeah, my family was there but that event was really all about me and my friends celebrating being DONE. Also, not all of them are boring - my undergrad one was rowdy and actually pretty fun to experience. Classmates were cheering for each other.

You should go. And you should plan to attend some party or bar crawl or something with your friends later that night. The energy will make you feel happy for you.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:21 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I went for both undergrad (age 34) and grad (age 50). I even got the real diploma at the undergrad one, since the school was so small. I waited all my life, as a first-gen high school grad, to go to those graduations.

But that's me.

I agree with everyone who says to go, but inturnaround said it best.

If you don't go, I do urge you to do something commemorative and mark the commencement of your next stage of life.

I have a neighbor who did not go to her (traditional-age) graduation. Her parents were coming to town to go to dinner for her master's, but she didn't want to go to the ceremony.

I said she should do it, because, "What are you going to do? Just stay home and change the litter, or something?"

Find friends and go!
posted by jgirl at 3:33 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's three or four hours, you'd just blow it on metafilter anyway. Meet up with friends afterward.
posted by flimflam at 3:42 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had planned in skipping my PhD graduation until my parents announced they were buying plane tickets to come watch.

I ended up being really happy that I walked.
posted by leahwrenn at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2014

I was coming in here to say don't go. I didn't go and I don't regret it.

But you are the first in your family. You achieved this even with your mother not supporting you. You made it into a top 5 university. These are all thing that you did, yourself. You are a success and I think you should honor that. If not by going to the ceremony, then some other right of passage. But I do think getting that photo as a reminder of your achievement would be pretty cool and it would be historic within your family.

Also, a right of passage into adulthood is detaching from your parents and making your own decisions, so invite who you want, if you want. If you want your dad there ask him, if you don't want your mom there, don't invite her. However makes you feel best for yourself.
posted by Vaike at 3:56 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, that reminds me -- I desperately didn't want to go to my Master's commencement, but I did, and struck up a conversation with one of my professors who is now a personal friend, so I'm glad about that.
posted by Etrigan at 4:23 PM on May 22, 2014

I didn't go to my highschool graduation either for somewhat similar reasons. I don't regret not going at all. I did go to my college graduation, but to be honest I wouldn't have gone if it weren't for my family. It was just something I did for them, but after I did it I realized it would've been very awkward for me to be alone there as it was much a family event. So I think this is something that can really only be answered by you because it really depends on how much this kind of thing means to you.

For example: If I had gone through what you did during your HighSchool graduation, I would definitely go. Why? Because when someone ruined your first graduation your reaction was to deny yourself the fun of all graduations there after. That means your mother not only won that day, but you're also going to let her win every other graduation. And the only person that loses is you. Don't let her win. It's your graduation and your life. YOU decide. I would just invite my dad and not my mom. I wouldn't care one lick that she would cause drama for not being invited. That would be her cross to bear and not mine as far as I'm concerned. She ruined your first graduation. You're now an adult and you get to choose who is at this graduation. It may also send a very clear message to her as to how she might have to change to have a better relationship with you in the future, if that's what you want. But that's me. You seem to want to go so I would say, do it and invite only who you would like to be there.
posted by manderin at 4:44 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I attended the hooding ceremony for my husband's MS degree over the weekend. It sounded to me like a lot of the cheers and support came from the friends of the graduates as well as the families. Perhaps you have friends who could attend and support you.

(I walked for my BA and didn't for my MA. I regret not walking. YMMV.)
posted by immlass at 5:49 PM on May 22, 2014

Didn't go, don't regret it. I worked at a popular commencement-celebration restaurant and made tons of money that day/night.

However, had that not been the case, I would have definitely regretted not attending. Go alone and celebrate YOUR accomplishment!
posted by brynna at 6:03 PM on May 22, 2014

I went to my high school and undergraduate graduation ceremonies, and I am very glad I did. My high school graduation was small and hugely personal, and my undergrad one was huge and impersonal but at a prestigious institution so it had high value speakers and a truly exceptional level of pomp, my family attended, and I sat amongst friends and felt accomplished.

I did not go to my graduate school ceremony in part because it was at a huge state school wherein the ceremony would've been even more impersonal and unending than my undergrad one, the speaker was not interesting to me, I'd already had a comparable but better experience, and none of my family would have attended because they attended my thesis art show instead (the reception of which performed admirably as a graduation ceremony for me). Plus I didn't really want to invest in regalia. I have no regrets.

I am now a professor at a university, so I go to these once a year now from the other side. (And I had to invest in the regalia anyway, ha!) From being a professor of first generation college students - even if you're at a more impersonal school* - and from the content of your question, I would say you should go. Worst case scenario is you lose a couple hours of your life. You do that all the time (watching TV/playing computer games/waiting in line at superstores). It sounds like this graduation might be an opportunity to have a graduation to yourself, untainted by your mother's antics.

*If you're at a small school, definitely go. You would know some if not most of the graduating students and you would know your professors very well and they would be there cheering you on and, at my school at least, schmoozing with you in a post-graduation lemonade and cookies gathering. You could take sentimental pictures with faculty and friends and the whole thing would be comparatively quick.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:14 PM on May 22, 2014

Most graduations go on for 3-4 or up to 6 hours, are super crowded and hot and noisy, and are really boring unless anything super weird happens (my high school one was a lulu!) or there's an interesting speaker. So for that experience--eh..... I did the walking for the relatives, basically. But this isn't the case for you. If you have a few friends who would want to go, then walk, but leave the jerkass mom (I am so sorry she's bitching you out. Good lord, woman, most people would kill to have a kid that smart!) and codependent dad out of it.

As for graduation pics: these days a lot of people take pictures in cap and gown at random places around campus. You can always borrow a friend's stuff and take pictures on your own, they don't have to be at a ceremony.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:16 PM on May 22, 2014

Yeah, a big part of the reason I didn't walk is that I went to a huge school and none of my close friends were even graduating along with me. If it's something that you can take part in as a member of your school community in a meaningful way, you absolutely should.
posted by Sara C. at 6:17 PM on May 22, 2014


I have regretted every graduation I have had to go to.
posted by jpe at 7:44 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've skipped three of my five graduations (and could still do two of them if I wanted to do so). I don't regret it for a second.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:58 PM on May 22, 2014

My undergrad graduation mattered to me because it was a final bright memory with my friends and favorite profs, and I'm glad I went. My grad school graduation would've been lonely and impersonal and I didn't go. I regret neither choice.
posted by shattersock at 8:00 PM on May 22, 2014

Another anecdata point: Didn't go & never regretted it.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:05 PM on May 22, 2014

I went to my high school, hated it but was glad to be done and put a stake in high school, symbolically. I went to my undergrad because I wanted to, my parents wanted to, and I wanted to support my graduating friends. I didn't go to my master's because my family didn't want to, I didn't want to, and I didn't have any friends in the department. I regret none of this. (I regret not getting kicked out of high school, but that's a different thing.)

I would say go, especially if there are people you know graduating who would like your high fives. Make sure your family doesn't show up. If you regret going, make sure you do an additional thing that's personally meaningful to make up for it.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:09 PM on May 22, 2014

I went to my high school and bachelors graduation so my family could have a photo op (i like my family). Other wise i would not have gone. They were both boring and i don't like ritual.

But i think you should go. Graduating high school adn college for me was no big deal. It was just what was expected, neither was particularly hard for me, it was just like going through some life motions. I wasn't the first in my family, I was the 5th or further. For you and your background, this is a big meaningfull accomplishment and I think you should go to give it that acknowledgement. Hang out with your friends before the ceremony and see if you can invite a professor to a meal afterwards. Don't invite drama lamas.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:31 AM on May 23, 2014

I did my undergrad later than most, and as a "mature student" (graduated when I was 27) who had virtually none of the typical ties to my graduating class because of the age gap, and who had no family on the same side of the continent who would come to watch, and who never viewed my undergrad experience as any sort of right of passage or anything, and who had plans to go to grad school and therefore will presumably have other chances to attend more meaningful (to me) commencement ceremonies later in my academic career, I initially thought HELLZ NO! to the idea of sitting through a multi-hour ceremony honouring me and 2000 of my closest friends......

....but then a very good friend of mine said something to me that changed my mind, which I will say to you: There are very few days in our lives, regardless of the path that we end up taking, that are set aside solely for the purpose of honouring the hard work and determination that we do day in and day out. Even if the format is clunky, even if it feels cheesy, and even if it feels a little self-indulgent, there is nothing wrong with standing up and receiving praise for a job well done, whether it is the end of a particular journey or just a stop along the way to something else. People aren't always going to want to say "Congratulations, you did it." why not take advantage of one of the few times that they will do so? All you have to give up is a Saturday morning.

(Her final salvo was an exhortation that its also an excuse to wear a nice dress and drink free champagne...something that is not likely to happen too often in my particular life, so that kinda tipped the scales for me. YMMV ;) )

That friend ended up being my family/cheering section/sole audience member for the ceremony. She took pictures, and bought me (grocery store) flowers, and made sure to snag me waaaay more than my allotted flute of free champagne. Then we went for dinner with friends, and I celebrated with the people I loved in a way that was perfect for me.

The ceremony was boring as hell, and the whole production of getting in line and getting robes and being marched about in alphabetical order was one of the most annoying things I've ever experienced.......but the day was great, and silly, and awesome. I'm glad I did it.

Give your ceremony tickets to a friend. Let them spoil you for a day. You won't regret it.
posted by Dorinda at 11:00 AM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

You should go. You'll always remember it and it sounds like you want to go. Plus you can replace the horrible memory of your high school graduation with a nice memory of your college graduation. Invite whomever you want. Think of this as you taking steps to own your own life and your decisions.

Your mom pitches a fit because you invited your dad and not her? Tough. This is the price she pays for being so nasty at your high school graduation. It is NOT your responsibility to manage her feelings. You CAN ask your dad and not your mom. Otherwise you're giving both you and your dad up as hostages to her drama.

Own this! Celebrate it! Mark this occasion as the emergence of the new you. You are calling your own shots from now on. Mom is unhappy? HER problem, NOT yours. Being miserable is a choice SHE is making, not something you've caused her to feel. You are a goddam college graduate! Yay for you! I'm proud of you and how hard you had to work to get to this point.

GO to the event. Invite your dad and anyone else you truly want to have there, to help you celebrate this awesome achievement. Take back your right to celebrate a milestone in your life.
posted by Kangaroo at 10:19 AM on May 24, 2014

A late add to say that it was worth it to me to go to my recent commencement, even though only one person, my husband, had time to attend on short notice, and others just watched the web feed.

My husband , who didn't go to his own graduation from college, tried to convince me not to go. We had a planned elopement, for many reasons including military service and family drama. My dear old dad told me later that year that going through a ritual like that in a more traditional manner was meaningful for what it said to your community of friends and family...that it helps them, too, acknowledge your transition. He was right! (Though eloping was still worth it for us.)

So with that thought in mind I went to my commencement seeing it as a ritual to help me go through a major transition. Yes I sat next to two annoying women yakking the whole time. Yes they mispronounced my name despite getting the phonetic pronounciation. Yes I had to listen to a windbag politician. But I will be damned if it didn't help me make that transition in my mind and my heart. We had a really nice dinner afterwards too.

You also had a previous graduation crapped on by Mom. It's worth it. Do it for you , skip the family, and go to a fancy, yummy restaurant to celebrate your achievement. Congratulations!
posted by mitschlag at 2:39 PM on May 24, 2014

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