Boarding School Commencement


“My high school was very old and traditional. We had a lot of rituals and traditions that everyone had to do. One of the first ones was our convocation. From what I’ve heard most other like public schools don’t really do this for high school. It’s kinda more of a college thing but I guess because our school is as old as some of those universities, maybe it’s just like and old timey thing. Anyways, our convocation was like super serious. We had to wear a dress code that they called “special academic dress” which is basically just fancy clothes; suits and dresses etc. And then we lined up alphabetically and paired with a boy, and then every new student walked together to the chapel, kinda herded by the prefects of the dorms. Then in the chapel, we listen to a bunch of speeches by deans of teachers or something, and i think the choir sang. Honestly, some of these details are kinda fuzzy, it was a while ago and to be honest I was not paying the most attention lol. Anyway, I do remember the most important part which is when each student gets up and goes to the front to shake [principle]’s and then sign your name in this giant book. Apparently you’re like not an official student until you do this. Only then can you start your academic journey. “


AH is a current college student, and attended a New England preparatory boarding school for high school in the late 2010s. 

“Honestly, though looking back it was kinda pretentious, in the moment, it was really cool. We all had worked so hard to get into this school [admission to the school is similar to the college admissions process with various exams, essays, and interviews] so finally getting there and it be treated like a big deal was really nice. Looking back, nothing from high school was really that deep, but in the moment, it really did feel as important as they were making it. It felt like the beginning of something really significant y’know.”


A tradition such as this is typical in many elite institutions with a long history, though the semantics differ for each school. USC for example has quite a convoluted commencement ceremony that all new students must attend, however you dress in gowns and there is no book signing. Participating in a ritual that has been done by people over and over again for years before you, is quite a unique experience. To share an experience with people across time in a similar situation as you is quintessential folklore. In this context, it connects you to the people in the past that are a part of this culture which you are now entering. This is typical of most folk festivals which often aim to commemorate events of a cyclical nature, in this case the cycle of life. This commencement celebrates the students entering into a new stage of their academic career and changes their identity from children in lower education to teenagers entering the first stage of their actionable future which will lead to college and jobs.