Graduation is a momentous occasion for students, a time to celebrate the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. But have you ever wondered why graduation is called commencement?
After all, “commencement” typically means the beginning of something, not the end. In this article, we will explore the origins and meaning of the term “commencement” in the context of graduation ceremonies.
We will delve into the rich history of this tradition and uncover the fascinating reasons behind why we refer to this occasion as a “commencement.”
Whether you are a graduate or simply curious about the history of academic ceremonies, this article will provide insight into one of the most critical events in a student’s life.
Why Is The Term Commencement Used?
The term “commencement” in the context of graduation ceremonies actually refers to the beginning of a new phase in a student’s life rather than the end of their academic career. It signifies the start of their journey beyond the institution’s walls, where they have completed their studies.
The term “commencement” is believed to have been first used in the early 19th century at American colleges and universities. At that time, graduation ceremonies were typically held in the summer or early fall after students had completed their studies.
These ceremonies marked the beginning of a new phase in the graduates’ lives as they left the academic world and embarked on their careers or further studies.
Over time, the term “commencement” became widely adopted in the United States and elsewhere to describe graduation ceremonies. It has come to represent the idea that the end of one chapter in a student’s life marks the beginning of a new one.
Despite its original meaning as a starting point, the term has become firmly entrenched in our cultural lexicon as a way to refer to the end of a student’s academic journey.
The History Of Commencement
Graduation ceremonies have a rich history in academia. It has played an important role in marking the completion of a student’s studies. The term “commencement” in graduation ceremonies is closely tied to this history.
In the Middle Ages, European universities held graduation ceremonies called “commencementes” to mark the completion of a student’s studies.
These ceremonies were typically held as a public disputation or debate, where the student would defend their thesis or dissertation in front of a panel of experts. Completing this defense would mark the student’s formal admission into the academic community as a scholar.
Over time, the format of graduation ceremonies evolved. The focus shifted from the defense of a thesis to the conferral of degrees. The first modern-style graduation ceremony in the United States was held at Harvard University in 1642.
By the 19th century, graduation ceremonies had become more elaborate, with the addition of caps and gowns, processions, and speeches.
Despite these changes, the term “commencement” continued to describe the graduation ceremony. The term “commencement” thus reflects the idea that the graduates are beginning a new journey. One that is marked by their academic achievements and the knowledge and skills they have gained during their studies.
In conclusion, graduation is called commencement because it marks the beginning of a new phase in a student’s life rather than the end of their academic career. Therefore, it is highly recommended for college students to attend their graduation.
While the term “commencement” may seem counterintuitive initially, it reflects the idea that graduates are embarking on a new journey. They are marked by their academic achievements and the knowledge and skills they have gained during their studies.
The term “commencement” in graduation ceremonies is deeply rooted in the history of academia. From the medieval “commencementes” of Europe to the modern-day graduation ceremonies held at universities and colleges around the world.
As such, the term has become firmly entrenched in our cultural lexicon. Therefore, it will likely continue to be used for many years. Whether you are a recent graduate or simply curious about the history of academic ceremonies, understanding why graduation is called commencement can provide valuable insight into the meaning and significance of this important milestone in a student’s life.