Graduation…Commencement…Which is it?!

Graduation…Commencement…Which is it?!

Melissa W.

The ceremonies are over, dorms are empty, and campuses are quiet. The Class of 2022 is now off to accomplish bigger and better things! But, the fun and excitement leading up to and surrounding graduation day is still felt…wait…or is it ‘commencement’? Hm. The two terms tend to go hand-in-hand each spring, but which term is correct? Do they mean two different things?

It turns out that, as expected, they’re synonymous. “Commencement” is the umbrella term for the graduation and refers to the actual ceremony. According to American Public University, “Commencement refers to the ceremony, officiated by the provost of the university, where you share the excitement and importance of your academic accomplishments with peers, family, and friends. It is also a time for the university, president, deans, program directors, faculty, and staff to pay special tribute to you for the outstanding efforts you have shown in earning your degree” and “Graduation, on the other hand, is the process of submitting an online graduation application, completing all academic requirements for your degree, and settling all financial obligations, among a few other audits/assessments.” Essentially, “commencement” is the formal celebration to celebrate students who completed the work and administrative side of academics. 

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley agrees and even goes one step further, “Graduation is the completion of all degree requirements as recorded on the official transcript. Commencement is the ceremony that celebrates the completion of a degree. Participation in the commencement ceremony does not imply that you have officially graduated” which makes sense for students who are cleared to “walk” on that day who may have a few loose ends to tie up over the summer semester. When referring to the entire day, “graduation day” is acceptable. On graduation day, you attend the commencement ceremony.

So, there you have it! Don’t get us started on convocations, morning exercises, and awarding of degrees ;)


Cover photo by Jane Carmona on Unsplash

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