College commencement graduates throw caps in air

How to Celebrate an Online College Graduation


According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, around 26% of all postsecondary degree seekers in the United States now study exclusively online. With more students seeking an online education, what exactly does this mean for the graduation experience?

Whether you are considering online college or already enrolled, you may be looking ahead to graduation and commencement—wondering how you can celebrate your significant accomplishment in a less conventional way.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for celebrating the completion of your online education, ranging from attending your college commencement ceremony to hosting your festivities.

Understanding Terms: Graduation vs. Commencement vs. Convocation 

First, it's helpful to understand some of the different terminologies used for college graduations and ceremonies. Specifically, there are notable differences between graduation, commencement, and convocation. 

What Is Graduation? 

College graduation occurs when you officially meet all the requirements to complete your program and receive your degree, including earning the necessary credit hours set forth in your course of study plus other requirements like finishing an internship or other placement. 

What Is Commencement in College? 

College commencement, on the other hand, refers to the actual ceremony a school hosts to celebrate its graduating class. Usually, these ceremonies are held somewhere on campus (or in a large venue slightly off campus), and dedicated speakers address the graduating class. 

What Is a College Convocation? 

While the terms "convocation" and "commencement" are sometimes used interchangeably, they do have some different connotations. Typically, a convocation is very similar to a commencement in that it is a large gathering hosted by the school to celebrate the graduating class. The core difference, however, is that a convocation generally involves a university president or other host calling individual graduates to walk across the stage, shake hands, and take photos. In this sense, a convocation is a bit more of a personalized experience for each graduate. 

Acknowledging the Significance of a College Graduation 

Whether you've completed your degree online, in person, or some combination of both, there is no denying the significance of earning your college degree. Earning a degree remotely, in particular, can pose unique challenges and require a great deal of self-motivation and discipline. In this sense, then, it is no doubt an achievement worth celebrating in a way that is meaningful to you. 

Preparing for an Online College Graduation 

As you near your anticipated college graduation date, there are a few ways you can start preparing. 

Application Process 

Find out what the process is for applying to graduate. The exact process can vary from school to school and program to program. Determine which documents you must submit as well as what kinds of fees you may need to pay, along with specific deadlines for the application itself. 

Meeting Requirements 

Your graduation requirements will depend on your specific program, so review the program requirements regularly to ensure you're on track. If you have any questions or concerns, it's never a bad idea to schedule an appointment with your program advisor. 

Completing Capstone Projects or Thesis 

Some programs may require students to complete a thesis, capstone project, internship, or similar obligation outside of the "traditional" classroom experience before graduating. Make sure you understand your program's requirements and what is expected of you before applying to graduate. 

Preparing for an Online College Commencement Ceremony 

Many colleges and universities that offer online degrees are also beginning to host online commencement ceremonies. If this is the case with your school, a virtual graduation ceremony can be a great opportunity to celebrate your success in a formalized setting without having to travel to a physical commencement ceremony. 

Determine If Regalia Is Needed 

First off, find out if you will need to wear special regalia for the event, such as a cap and gown. If so, this information should be included with your college commencement invitation or announcement. Graduation cap and gown colors can vary depending on your college, program, and other factors, so be sure to order the right regalia for your ceremony. 

Consider Business Casual Attire 

If regalia isn't required or is optional, consider donning business casual attire for the ceremony. This way, you'll still be dressed up but won’t need to purchase or rent a cap and gown. 

Send Digital Graduation Announcements 

You've worked hard to complete your schooling, so why not let your loved ones share in your excitement and pride? Consider sending out digital graduation announcements to friends and family members, letting them know you're celebrating the completion of your degree. 

Obtain Livestreaming Links 

Some schools may livestream their commencements for outside family and friends to watch—so if your school offers this service, consider sending out livestream links as part of your graduation announcements. This way, your loved ones can choose to watch and celebrate you from afar as you take the next step in your journey. If you decide to share livestream links, make sure you provide details on the exact date and time of the ceremony while making note of any potential time zone changes. 

Determine Which Ceremonies to Attend 

Different schools may host different ceremonies for online students, so it will be up to you to determine which you will attend. For example, some schools may offer an online commencement for those who cannot travel to attend an in-person ceremony. Others may offer a more intimate and personalized convocation, depending on the size of your graduating class. Do your research about all the available options before making a decision that works best for your needs. 

Online Graduation Celebration Tips 

Planning on celebrating your graduation and commencement virtually? Below are a few tips to make the most of the experience for yourself and anyone else who may attend via livestream. 

Take Screenshots and Selfies 

Though there may not be a professional photographer to capture you walking across the stage, you can still commemorate the experience with photos of your own. Don't hesitate to take screenshots at various points of the ceremony or even take a few selfies here and there. These are moments you'll want to remember for years to come, so be proactive about capturing them for yourself. 

Try Custom Zoom Backgrounds 

If you'll be attending a virtual graduation ceremony, there are plenty of fun video backgrounds you can set up ahead of time to commemorate your big day. Try playing around with different Zoom backgrounds ahead of time or even create a custom background to stand out among the crowd. (Just be sure to follow any relevant rules or requirements that may be in place through your school). 

Consider a Music Playlist 

While you'll want to keep the noise to a minimum during your virtual commencement ceremony, there's nothing quite like a little energizing music to gear yourself up before and celebrate with after the event. Consider putting together a customized feel-good playlist that you can save and listen to over and over again. 

Sharing Your Achievement With Loved Ones 

Want to share your celebration with loved ones? There are a few options to consider no matter where you live. 

Livestream and Recorded Options 

If your school offers a livestream of commencement, send the link along to your closest family and loved ones so they can celebrate with you from afar. Even if a live link isn't available, there's a good chance a recording of the ceremony will be published afterward, so keep an eye out for that. 

Virtual Graduation Toasts and Celebrations 

Consider hosting a virtual celebration with your loved ones via video chat before or after the actual online graduation ceremony. You could all partake in a special graduation toast and enjoy each other's company without having to leave the comfort of your home. 

Receiving Your Online Diploma 

After your virtual commencement or convocation, you should expect to receive your electronic diploma promptly. From there, you can print your diploma or order a printed copy directly from your school. 

Accessing Your Electronic Diploma 

Check with your school to find out exactly how and where to access your electronic diploma. In most cases, you should be able to find it posted to your student account shortly after your ceremony. 

Obtaining a Printable Version 

Getting printed copies of your diploma is also a good idea—not only for your records but also to frame and display your accomplishments with pride. Your school may allow you to order high-quality prints through them for a small fee, or you may wish to simply print out a PDF copy of your electronic diploma. 

Earn Your Degree With Champlain College Online 

Earning an online degree doesn't have to mean missing out on the celebration. With these tips in mind, you can find a way to celebrate your accomplishments in a meaningful way while involving the people who matter most. 

Seeking an online college that strives to create the best learning experience while understanding the distinct needs of online learners? Champlain College Online has a wide range of 100% online degree and certificate offerings, as well as programs designed to make your educational journey completely customizable. Get in touch today to learn more or request more information.

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