It’s graduation day. You stand in line along with thousands of other graduating students, waiting to take the walk across the stage that marks the end of your college career. As Pomp and Circumstance swells, you wait for student after student to walk ahead in front of you, until it’s finally your turn–and all you have to show for your four-plus years of all-nighters, early morning lectures and draining group projects is a blurry picture that your Uncle Hector took of your face on a screen. Oh yeah, and a couple of signatures on a piece of paper.
Although I’m graduating this semester, I chose not to walk in the ceremony (after deliberating for the better part of three weeks).
Let’s face it–literally nobody legitimately enjoys attending graduations. They’re long and boring and the people who are there to see you don’t care about the other thousands of students graduating–they’re only there to see you. In big public school graduation ceremonies, they have to sit and watch thousands of other random students walk across the stage in order to do so.
Commencement ceremonies are important because they symbolize your introduction into the real world–but they’re an anticlimactic way of doing that.
Whether or not they choose to walk in commencement, every student has to pay $100 just to apply to graduate. If students choose to walk in the ceremony, or if they don’t but just want to purchase the traditional graduation attire for posterity, they have to pay an additional $45-$70 for the cap and gown.
Each student graduating from SF State is given seven tickets to give to their family and friends who wish to attend the ceremony. Since many students have more than seven people who want to see them graduate, lots of students try to buy additional tickets from students who don’t plan on using all of theirs, sometimes for as much as $20 per ticket, further adding to the cost of graduation.
Alternatively, many departments offer their own graduation ceremonies, to which students can invite as many people they want, and the department ceremonies are typically either free or substantially cheaper than paying for an extra graduation ticket.
For department graduations, students can bring as many people as they want without any ticket limits or complicated bargaining. Although it’s nice to have all of your family and friends there supporting you, all they’ll see at school’s ceremony is you walking across the stage for a split second after waiting for hours.
I’m about to wrap up my 10th consecutive semester as a Gator, which means studying on top of the Cesar Chavez Center or on the grass in front of the Business Building, late nights at Vilmar, cramming way too many people into my Parkmerced apartment and spending more time in the Humanities Building than in my own house. To end all of this by passing across a stage and seeing pictures my (fictional) Uncle Hector took of my face on screen hardly seems like a celebration.