Hidden Costs Of Graduating

As our college years are coming to a close, my friends and I have begun to learn what we think is a pretty well-kept secret about senior year, particularly regarding Senior Week and graduation-it’s incredibly expensive. We had listened over the past four years as our senior friends talked about senior week and watched as they posted photos of their fun on Facebook. We never heard them mention and never stopped to consider, however, the cost associated with all of these activities. Just off the top of my head, I can think of over $200 worth of charges that I have incurred in the past few weeks in an attempt to “make the most of Senior Week,” the most expensive of which were a $100 Commencement Ball ticket, a $50 “Decades Dance” ticket, a $30 dress to wear to one of these events, and a $30 boat cruise ticket. Moreover, I know I’m not the worst case of this. If I wanted to bring a date to Commencement Ball, that would have been another $100 charge. If I wanted to be part of a group renting a trolley or a limo to get to the event, that, too, would have been another $50 or more. If I wanted to go to all of the Senior Week events and not just the two dances, that would have cost another $50 or so. And, all of this doesn’t include any other events of which I am not yet aware or any other expenses I will incur on days when these events aren’t scheduled.

Yet, while the expense may be frustrating, I know better than to write a column complaining about them. These are prices that my friends and I choose to pay. We clearly could make the decision not to go to these events-to spend time together doing cheaper, possibly equally fun activities on our own, independent of the senior class, the majority of which we don’t care if we spend time with anyway. Yes, an argument could be made that Senior Week is part of the senior year experience and that, as such, the cost-prohibitive nature of the tickets and the overwhelming assumption that we students will find a way to pay for them anyway feed into the criticisms surrounding privilege and entitlement on Boston College’s campus. In my opinion, however, people who seek to make this argument ignore an even more blatant example of the entitlement surrounding graduation-namely, that our seniors graduate and are required to move out of the dorms on a Monday.

Initially, I did not think much of the fact that we graduate on a Monday. All days of the week are essentially the same for me when I don’t have classes or exams, and I’m sure many other students would agree. So, I would be perfectly content to graduate on any day of the week. It wasn’t until I was watching my mom stare at the calendar, trying to plan out how many days she could afford to take off from work, that I realized the inconvenience a Monday graduation poses for non-student attendees. Holding graduation and, on top of that, move-out on a Monday morning and afternoon, respectively, assumes that parents and other guests can afford to take off at least one day of work to come watch students graduate-most likely more than that if the guest is a parent of one of our many international students or of a student who comes from a distant part of the U.S. The odds that a parent who has any amount of travel involved in attending our graduation ceremony could attend the ceremony, move his or her student out, and get home in time for work Tuesday morning is slim. Even my parents can’t pull it off, and they only have a two-hour plane ride home to Ohio. I can’t imagine the annoyance for someone who has to try and get home to California.

Confused by my new revelation, I began asking my friends about their graduation ceremonies. All of them responded saying they were graduating on either a Saturday or Sunday. As many of these friends go to school across the country, I decided to Google commencement ceremonies in the Boston area, thinking that a Monday graduation might be a local phenomenon. I quickly learned that was not the case either. Boston University, Berklee, Brandeis, Emerson, MIT, Tufts, and Suffolk all hold graduation on either a Saturday or Sunday. I was a little relieved to find that we are not entirely alone in a weekday graduation, though, since Northeastern and Simmons both graduate on a Friday and Harvard on a Thursday. My relief quickly faded, however, and was once again replaced with confusion about why these schools, too, would choose to hold their Commencement ceremonies on a weekday. I have often heard the argument that it is to space out Boston-area ceremonies to make the city less crowded for parents, but that does not seem to be a concern for all three of these schools. In Boston, the most graduations occur over the weekend of May 16 to 18. Northeastern graduates on May 2, Simmons graduates on May 9, and Harvard graduates on May 29. Moving these ceremonies to a weekend would not seriously conflict with other graduations in the area.
While we are competing with all of the other schools graduating between May 16 and 19, the fact that BC chooses to be the one school on that weekend to hold the undergraduate commencement ceremony on a weekday may not be the best message for a University which struggles with a reputation as overly privileged and entitled to send. Now, I don’t pretend to know all of the justifications behind holding graduation on a Monday. Given the inconvenience to parents and the potentially negative image it gives off to the rest of the Boston community, though, I would encourage the University to reevaluate the practicality of the Monday graduation date.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.