Commencement Commences

May 15, 2024
Amélie Lemay

Commencement is not a single ceremony at Princeton. Instead, it is a multi-day series of events, ceremonies, and traditions to send off the graduating class with no shortage of pomp and circumstance. Here is an overview of what the last month as a Princeton student looks like.

First two weeks: Final exams and presentations

The first two weeks of May involve finishing final papers, presenting your thesis, and taking exams. Once these are complete, not only have you fulfilled all the requirements for the semester, but for your diploma! 

Third week: Dead Week

Between exams and Reunions is Dead Week. Most students have left campus, and there are few events going on, making the campus seem relatively "dead." A number of seniors take a trip to the beach, which is why the week is sometimes called Beach Week. I didn't go to the beach, but I did go home to visit my family in Philadelphia.

Fourth week: Reunions

The campus comes back alive, in full strength, with Reunions. Alumni in all shades of orange and black descend on campus in their class jackets to reconnect with their friends. The highlight of Reunions is the P-rade, where alumni, led by the Old Guard of classes past their 65th reunion, march through campus. The graduating class members are invited as special guests to the P-rade to experience their first alumni event.

Last Sunday: Baccalaureate and Prom

The next day, the official commencement events begin with the Baccalaureate ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Seniors wear their cap and gown and file into the chapel for an interfaith ceremony. That evening, senior prom takes place in Jadwin Gym. The class of 2024 also had a prom in sophomore year, so this will be our second class prom together.

Last Monday: Class Day and Step Sing

On Memorial Day, seniors gather on Cannon Green in the morning wearing their class jackets to listen to the Class Day speaker and for the distribution of several prizes. In the afternoon, each department has their own individual ceremony. My thesis advisor, Dr. Bourg, is the acting Director of Undergraduate Studies this year and will lead my Civil and Environmental Engineering Class Day ceremony. In the evening is Step Sing, when the class gathers on the steps of Blair Arch to sing several pop songs specific to their class year and the traditional "Old Nassau."

Last Tuesday: Graduation

Tuesday morning is the official graduation ceremony, where the valedictorian and salutatorian deliver their speeches, the university president makes his remarks, and students finally get to walk through FitzRandolph Gate. And with that, you are officially a Princeton graduate!

I graduated high school in 2020, the year when most ceremonies were cancelled due to Covid-19, so I'm especially grateful to have all these festivities for my college graduation. I'm looking forward to treasuring these last few moments as an undergraduate at the Best Old Place of All.