Having gone through graduation in May 2017, I want to share some suggestions. Your student will be responsible for ensuring they have enough credits, the right courses for their major; for picking up the cap and gown, and for showing up in the right place. These recommendations are for parents and family:
- Do plan early. Arrange your lodging (Airbnb, hotel/motel, rental home (good for large families, B&Bs) a year in advance! We waited until August 2016 to book and by then, close lodging was not available. We ended up at a B&B (a llama farm!) in Northampton.
- Make reservations for celebratory dinners and also book early! There will be lots of people wanting to go out (approximately 5,000 graduates) to eat after ceremonies! When you explore possible places, don’t limit yourself to the Amherst area; there are many great restaurants in nearby towns. We ended up with a 7:30 pm reservation in Deerfield the night of graduation (and needed to change it twice because graduation took longer than expected) and a 5:30 pm reservation in West Brookfield (where my parents took me for my UMass graduation dinner in 1980 – A memorable choice). Both restaurants were no more than 30 minutes away.
- Plan on spending the weekend given the many graduation ceremonies. We drove to Amherst very early Friday morning and after checking in quickly at the B&B, drove to our daughter’s sorority for a 11:30 am luncheon, then headed to the honors college graduation for 1:00 pm, and the university ceremony at 4:30 pm. The next day (Saturday) was the School of Social and Behavioral Science (SSBS) ceremony and her second BA’s school (the latter was at the same time as the SSBS so we needed to make a choice and ended up missing this one). While the big university graduation only offers the individual schools standing up when degrees are conferred, the smaller ceremonies offer video screens, your student being called up to the stage and accepting their degree, and opportunities for pictures. I recommend families go to all of them!
- Wear comfortable shoes and plan for the free shuttle if you cannot walk the distance or have family members who are elderly and cannot. While the honors college and School of Social and Behavioral Sciences were at the Mullins Center, the university graduation was at the stadium (rain or shine – be prepared with an umbrella if needed), which is a good ten-minute sprint.
- Lastly, have fun. This is a huge day for your student and for those who love that student! But also realize that your student will want to share their last hurrahs with their friends. This is a stressful time for your student and they will need space, understanding and a balance with you and with their friends.
We are so proud of a daughter and graduation weekend was a great experience. Best of luck to all of you with graduating seniors!
Seena S. Franklin, UMass Parent Advisory member, parent of a UMass graduate, alumni, and resident of Tiverton RI.