Dear Heather

Dear Heather,

I’m an AU student and am almost finished my degree. I wasn’t planning to attend the graduation ceremony in June, because I always find graduations to be very long and boring. However, people keep telling me I should go, and I’m starting to reconsider. What do you think, is it worth the trip? Will I regret it if I don’t go?

Dan, Oakville ON

Hi Dan:

It’s hard for me to say whether you would regret missing your graduation ceremony, since I don’t know you personally. The formal ceremonies of life are very important to some people, and are less important to others (that’s why some people get married at City Hall, while others spend two years and untold dollars planning an elaborate wedding). You may just have to ask yourself where you fit within that range. I know a lot of people who went to their graduation and hated very second of it, while for others it was a special day they’ll never forget. I also know a few who skipped the ceremony, and don’t have any regrets. So, it’s a personal thing: you have to ask yourself whether the accomplishment itself is enough for you, or whether you’d like a little pomp and ceremony to mark the occasion.

Of course, having done your degree by distance education makes yours an unusual situation. You don’t know your “classmates” or your instructors very well, and you have no particular attachment to the campus. On the other hand, attaining a distance education credential is a monumental accomplishment (perhaps even more so than graduating from a conventional school, because of the tremendous self-discipline involved). It does seem appropriate to celebrate that accomplishment somehow. You can do that in whatever way you think is fitting: a weekend of fly-fishing or a dinner with family and friends might be more meaningful for you than a cap-and-gown ceremony.

If you’ve never been to the AU campus, you might enjoy seeing it. It’s a beautiful school, in a beautiful setting- surrounded by hectares of gorgeous northern Alberta forest. Quite a contrast to your typical urban university! It’s very incongruous, actually, because the school is fairly large, and is as modern and well-equipped as any university I’ve seen, but it’s in the middle of nowhere. The town of Athabasca itself is very small, and reminds me of the small towns of my childhood: everyone is on a first-name basis, everything is walking distance from everything else, there’s not a Starbucks (or even a Tim Horton’s) in sight, and people leave their cars unlocked while they do their shopping. I think it’s worth the trip just to discover that that sort of place still exists!

With respect to the AU convocation ceremony itself, I’ve never attended one. However, one of my co-workers graduated last year and said the ceremony was very nice, and was unlike other university graduations she’d attended. Because the number of graduates is relatively small, she said the ceremony isn’t one of those six-hour marathons. They do, however, take the time to say a little bit about each graduate, which she thought was a nice touch. She certainly felt it was a worthwhile experience.

However, this decision is entirely a personal one, and what’s right for you depends on how big a milestone this is for you, and on how you typically like to celebrate milestones in your life. Don’t go just because other people tell you that you should. Formal ceremonies aren’t for everyone. If you do decide to go, do it for yourself. If not, do find a way to mark the occasion in your own way. Depending on the type of person you are, you may not regret missing your graduation. What I think you would regret, however, is letting this accomplishment pass completely without fanfare. Finishing your degree is a major accomplishment, and you should reward yourself with whatever sort of celebration is right for you – even if it’s just an evening at home with a bottle of champagne and a toast to no more textbooks!



E-mail your questions to Heather at Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. Heather is an AU student offering objective advice to her peers; she is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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