4 strategies for a truly memorable community college graduation celebration
As commencement season approaches, much attention and countless advertising dollars will be dedicated to celebrations for students at four-year colleges and universities.
If you work at a two-year community college, you’re probably thinking, “what else is new?”
Of course, what a lot of people don’t realize is that U.S. community colleges award, on average, more than 1 million associate degrees every year. Many of those students — 53 percent, by at least one count — are among the first in their families to attend college.
For these students, many of whom face tremendous cultural and socioeconomic odds on the road to academic success, the achievement of a two-year college degree is life-changing — and equally celebration-worthy.
If you’re on a committee or a team in charge of planning a two-year community college graduation ceremony, your mission is to create a truly memorable experience for graduates, family members, and guests.
What follows are four critical strategies to consider as your graduation planning moves into its critical final stretch.
1. Plan memorable moments — that work from anywhere.
Many community college students commute. Most of them hold jobs other than attending school. The same is often true for close family and friends. Clearing weekend schedules and getting everyone together for dinner, much less an on-campus ceremony — even if planned months in advance — can be tough. Harder still, if your college plans to hold its commencement off campus. Travel is expensive, and the pandemic means a lot of people are still making up for lost work. Taking time off might not be feasible.
Rather than plan an exclusively in-person ceremony, consider offering hybrid in-person and virtual options. Beyond the standard live feed or webcam, a true virtual graduation celebration promises more than grainy video of a loved one walking across the stage. Consider ways to actively engage family members and guests before, during, and after event day, and make it easy for them to take an active role in the celebration by sharing messages of congratulations to be broadcast during the ceremony. Other touches, like personalized student slides ready for the jumbotron or virtual stream, can help celebrate the uniqueness of this year’s class whether graduates participate in-person or virtually.
By being flexible, and creating a celebration experience that works from anywhere, you’ll ensure your community college students and their loved ones have an opportunity to share in the moment — even if they can’t be there to celebrate in person.
2. Keep your graduates informed — at every turn.
Community college students are notoriously busy. Once they leave your campus for the day, their lives go in any one of a hundred directions, from work to family to community and military service. Your graduates are excited for their Big Day, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a few well-timed reminders about what to do and when.
Even a handful of missed deadlines can make life immeasurably harder for your team.
As you plan this year’s ceremony, prioritize finding a reliable way to contact graduates with key information, including schedules, forms, deadlines and other important commencement details. Email isn’t going to cut it. Choose a solution that lets you customize your message for each graduate and that reaches people on the go, in their cars, or wherever life takes them when they aren’t in school.
By adopting a mobile-first approach to communication, you’ll not only ensure your graduates have access to the information they need, but that they see it in time to respond, so that deadlines get met and everyone stays on track for the Big Day.
3. Make every graduate’s experience uniquely personal.
Community college graduates are brimming with personality and pride — and deservedly so. Every student has a compelling story about who they are, where they came from, and the people and circumstances who contributed to their success.
As you plan your celebration, spend considerable time thinking about different ways you can help your students share the accomplishments and stories that contributed to their personal journey.
This could be as seemingly simple as ensuring the proper pronunciation of their name as they walk across the stage. Or as involved as producing and sharing branded personalized slides, designed to give a nod to their lived experiences and accomplishments.
4. Give students (and families) a way to shout their success to the world.
Community college students don’t always get the attention or congratulations they deserve.
Earning a two-year degree is life-changing. As you plan your ceremony, make sure your students have an easy and thoughtful way to share their successes with the world, in a format that is comfortable for them. Consider offering branded social media filters and hashtags, so they can post their big moment to their favorite networks, like Instagram and Snapchat, while showing their school pride.
By promoting and using a dedicated hashtag, you can easily pool this user-generated content and use it to share news of the Big Day with family members and loved ones not in attendance — and, later, in your own marketing efforts, as you promote your college to future students and graduates.
It’s truly a win-win.
Looking for a partner to help you streamline and improve the two-year community college graduation experience? Full Measure’s Graduation Celebration Experience offers all the tools your team — and students, families, and other guests — need to ensure the experience matches the gravity of the moment.
Text students and parents before, during, and after event day
Use the backend Graduation Studio to customize everything from lower thirds to slide design
Create, manage, and launch personalized student slides with Slide Stream
Streamline processionals with dedicated QR codes to launch student slides on the jumbotron and discreetly share name pronunciations with the reader
Give students access to branded social media filters
Want to learn more about how your team can create a truly memorable two-year community college graduation experience for students and families this year? Request a 20-minute conversation and demo of Full Measure’s Graduation Celebration Experience.