Each year at this time parents of 1st Class cadets(college seniors) turn their attention to the Spring and graduation time. Many have already booked hotels or rental homes for the week, some have ordered announcements already. Everyone is beginning to expereince mixed emotions. They are proud of their cadet, but also uneasy at the prospect of moving on from parenting a child to being the Supportive parent of a college graduate.
If you haven’t made your travel plans yet, let me share a few insights about graduation week. The school has posted the schedule for the week on the web site. You can view it HERE. Securing your hotel or rental property should be your first task as the properties book quickly. Parents of the 4th class cadets travel to town to pick up their rising sophomores and other colleges in the area also have graduation scheduled.
One other item of business parents can do ahead of time is to order graduation announcements. Each cadet only receives eight tickets to graduation so invitations are not usually sent. Some families make a week long holiday of graduation week and invite family and friends to events hosted at their rental property or at local restaurants. Graduation announcements are mailed within the two weeks after the garduation as a way to let friends and family know of this major life milestone. Some use this as an opportunity to include the new address and contact information for the graduate. The school provides a link on the graduation site to Balfour for invitations. Some parents opt to go with other companies who offer announcements at a better price. A few companies include: Signature, Tiny Prints, Shutterfly
As you can see on the schedule, the events for the seniors begin the Thursday before the Saturday graduation. The awards convovation isn’t attended by everyone but it is something you’ll want to attend if your grad is receiving an award. The baccalaureatte service in the chapel is also optional, but many cadets and families do attend. If your cadet/grad is given a Lifetime Membership to The Citadel Alumni Association there is a nice luncheon presentation hosted by the CAA on Thursday. A Lifetime membership is a great gift for the grad and one that a group of family members can chip in together and give to the graduate.
The graduating seniors move out of the barracks Thursday evening. Some grads stay with friends others stay with visiting family. Since Friday night is for clearing out and cleaning up, the seniors stay elsewhere. It is important to note here that if you want your son or daughter to keep items from their uniform, let them inow ahead of time. Many seniors leave elements of their uniform behind, as well as items like irons and ironing boards. The cadets in other classes use this last week as an opportunity to scoop up extra items.
Friday morning of graduation week is set aside for the commissioning ceremonies. It is important to note that the ROTC cadets should be saving their stipend to pay for the dress uniform which can run over $1,000. They will get information from the ROTC department about ordering their uniform. Planning for the payment is a good idea.
Since the Army ROTC group is the largest they usually go first. Your cadet will let you know the procedure for pinning on their bars during the ceremony. The chapel fills up quickly so arriving early is a good idea if you want to be seated. Each branch of service has their own traditions around commissioning. Most, I believe, have the traditional first salute to the newly commissioned officer. At the end of the commissioning ceremony the newly commissioned officer is saluted by an NCO or enlisted service member. It is traditional for the new officer to give the person who rendered their first salute a silver dollar.
Depending on the branch of service and time of day it is held some families gather for brunch or lunch afterward. The Summerall Guards perform The Citadel series for the graduates before the Long Gray Line Parade Friday afternoon. Check with your graduate on the best place for you to stand during the parade to see them leave their company and march toward the review stands. There is usually a reception hosted by the President at Quarters One. The last two graduations I attended it rained and we opted to go dry off rather than attend the reception. If the weather is nice it is a lovely event to attend.
The graduates have a keen sense and understanding that they are ending a special time in their lives. This last week they are thrilled to be graduating, but also melancholy about leaving the friends who have become family. Many gards split their time between their famikies and their classmates these final few days. Some families host parties together so the grads can be together with the families. Be sure to talk with your cadet about what they would like to do. Some companies have traditions around graduation. It is best to check well ahead of graduation week.
Graduation on Saturday begins at 9:00am. It is open seating with some seats set aside for people with disabilities. Plan to arrive around 7:30am to get your choice of seating. If you have small children in your party be sure to pack quiet distraction toys like books and coloring books. Of course there are also electronic devices, but bring headphones/ear buds so the noise will not be a distraction to others. The ceremony lasts about three hours. The cadets are seated in alphabetical order. You can ask your cadet which side of the fieldhouse they will be on to make it easier to find them. Another tip I give families is to have a plan on where to meet once the ceremny is over. You can meet on the floor of the fieldhouse, the lobby area or just outside. Since everyone is also looking for their graduate it really does help to decide where your group will meet.
The next few months will fly by. To help you from feeling overwhelmed by it all, plan ahead.
To read previous posts about graduation week, enter the word graduation in the search window of this page.