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15 Tips for a Successful Commencement

Rebecca A. Eckland
commencement tips

It seems pretty straightforward, but commencement is much more than rolling out of bed and putting on a cap and gown! It’s an event that’s meant to showcase and celebrate your accomplishment of completing a degree—and sharing that accomplishment with those who were a part of your journey (your family, friends, teachers, and mentors.)

In order to make sure you have a great experience this year at commencement, we gathered our on-campus experts and picked their brains for 15 ways that you can guarantee that your commencement experience will be the best it can be.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Save the partying until after you cross the stage. Trust us: nothing is worse than having to sit through a ceremony when you are tired. Making sure that you are rested means you’ll be ready to tackle any nerves that might surface when you realize literally thousands of people are going to watch you cross the stage to receive your diploma (no pressure.)
  2. Shoes are key! (And we don’t just mean in a fashion sense although that’s true, too.) We realize that you’re going to wear a gown all day long, but put your best foot forward by wearing nice shoes that you can stand to stand in for several hours. This probably means not-your-highest high heels—but something nice. We also recommend steering away from flip-flops or anything else that could make an awkward moment when paired with a long, flowing gown and stairs leading to and from the stage.
  3. There's free parking in the West Stadium Parking Structure. If you and your family are driving to commencement, park in floors 2-6 of the stadium parking garage—it's free! If you park anywhere else, it’s not free (you’ll probably receive a parking ticket to go along with your diploma.)
  4. What not to bring. Bring your cameras, your family members, your friends, and your glamorous-best selfie smile! Don’t bring balloons, hard coffee cups, or hydroflasks. If you have any of these items, they will be held by Lawlor staff at the door, and balloons will be tied up at a bike rack by the student entrance where they will be subject to current weather conditions. And, you shouldn’t bring any alcohol or noisemakers. Honestly, it’s going to be rowdy enough without extra help. (Trust us on this one.)
  5. Bag inspections at the door. Typically, Lawlor Events Center imposes a clear-bag-only policy. This year, they are allowing “normal” bags (designer or otherwise) but will search them to make sure no contraband enters the building. Please do not bring items listed above or any of the Prohibited Items or they, along with items in tip #4, will be left outside by the lonely bike rack.
  6. Separate entrances and times for students and guests. Make sure you go to the right place! If you’re a student, you’ll enter through the Virginia Street entrance. Guests will enter through the main entrance. Both doors will open at 3 p.m. Unfortunately, guests cannot enter the same doors as students or vice versa.
  7. Arrive a little early. This is good advice for most things in life, but especially for commencement day. The student line-up starts at 4:10 p.m. You don’t want to be late, or you’ll miss your spot (and that is another way to make an awkward moment happen—so avoid it!)
  8. Got a 4.0 GPA? Move to the front of the line! Yes, you read that correctly. Students who are graduating with a 4.0 average will be seated first! Who knew studying could pay off—even at graduation?
  9. Assistance for students and participants with accommodation needs. The day of the event, there will be designated staff who will be available for your immediate assistance. American Sign Language interpreters will be present. The ceremony will be closed captioned and there will be a viewing screen in the venue. For more information, contact the Disability Resource Center at 775-673-7277.
  10. Riding your bike? We’ve got a rack for you. This is also where we park the balloons since you’re not allowed to have balloons (or bikes!) in the commencement ceremony.
  11. Have relatives out of town? Have them watch the Live stream! Thanks to 21st-century technology, even your distant relatives (or relatives who live far away) can celebrate your great accomplishment with you! Email, text or snail mail them the link: (Quick hack: This link is also helpful to keep your large number of social media followers and fans in the know.)
  12. The best news ever: Yes, there is a restroom.  The line, like the journey to commencement day, will be long but we promise it will be worth it. Luckily, we made sure there are restrooms nearby! Ask a TMCC staff member for directions.
  13. How to deal with the awkward cap. Unlike most caps, the graduation cap serves no practical purpose but to 1) hold the all-important tassel (see tip #15) and 2) make you feel more self-conscious than usual. But, if you have longer hair, you’re in luck: with a few bobby pins, you can attach the cap at gravity-defying angles! Your best bet is to bring a few of your own bobby pins along just to be safe.
  14. Plan on smiling—a lot. So, you might as well take pictures. Get pictures of you crossing the stage, you getting your diploma, photos with your family, photos with your classmates, your professors and/or favorite TMCC staff. Take a selfie or pose with friends, and if you post on social media, be sure to use the hashtag: #TMCC2019
  15. Tassels matter! (We bet you never thought you’d hear that from us!) The regalia—the cap and gown outfit—goes back to medieval times (which helps to explain why it looks so odd.) Traditionally, graduates who have not yet been conferred their degree wear their tassels on the right side of the cap. Once they receive the degree, they move the tassel to the left. We will instruct you on the proper tassel-protocol, but we just wanted to let you know it was coming.

Most importantly remember: a lot of people think that commencement marks the end of their college career—and to a certain degree (no pun intended), they are correct. However, commencement is also a celebration of the beginning of the rest of your life—of you taking that first step into the new roles you will occupy now that you have accomplished an important and meaningful goal.

So, congratulations, graduate! You did it!