Tag Archives: boarding school tradition

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. 

Rival Bonfire


“A festival that I loved at [boarding school] was our bonfire night. It was so weird though because our grade had the absolute worst luck. For 3 out of the 4 years of high school, we weren’t able to do it. The first two years it was raining on the day the bonfire was scheduled, then we finally got to do it junior year, but then senior year COVID cancelled it. But the one year we were able to do it was really fun!

Essentially, the bonfire happens after the pep rally the night before our [rival school]’s Day, which is basically our biggest sports event of the year where we spend the entire day just doing fall sports against our rival school. Their mascot is literally a door. Which is so goofy, like they are just asking to be made fun of. Anyways, during the pep rally, our mascot breaks down the door painted in their colors, and then afterwards we all go outside and light fire to the wood from the door. Its really fun, there was music, hot chocolate, we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. And curfew was extended which is always a plus.”


AH is a current college student, and attended a new england preparatory boarding school for high school. 

“Well, I first heard about it from all of the older students freshman year leading up to what was supposed to be our first bonfire night. They all just said it was so much fun.

To me, it’s really just about school spirit and community. That entire week there are events going on that are super fun, which just encourage us to really like the school (which is sometimes hard when you’re constantly on the grind) and just get us in the mind set for the sports day.”


This is a celebration of community. It is a cyclical folk festival as it happens once a year in the Fall athletic season. It is really interesting to see miscellaneous events such as these at schools because they don’t have much to do with education, and instead are solely focused on interpersonal life and relationships. This event is also essentially a celebration of the athletes in the community, and their accomplishments. It is a notable pattern that many communities, regardless of original or main intent, always resort to celebration of athleticism. At jobs there are often recreational sports leagues and even countries play sports against each other. All typically culminating, with celebration. This is a phenomenon of folk all around the world, and it is interesting to see it on even such a small scale as an academic institution with a supposed focus on education.