Graduation is upon our family in a huge way.  The next two weeks my daughters will be moving on from Elementary School and Middle School respectively and we will be saying goodbye to their private school education and welcoming in a new era of public school. The occasion is going to be bittersweet. We have met some incredible families whom we love and will be sad to leave, but we are also looking forward to having our girls attend school in a slightly less competitive environment that is located close to home and with a bit more diverse makeup that is more representative of the real world.  Don’t get me wrong, they are still going to school in one of the best zip codes in the world – Beverly Hills 90210 – however contrary to mass perception, not everyone owns a private jet and shops on Rodeo Drive. Old apartment buildings line the city and many families can rent for a fraction of the cost of owning a home and still send their kids to the schools. It’s not as if we’re leaving the state, but it will be different. There is still a stigma associated with public school. Years ago, it was the other way around and only the problem children were sent to private. Now private is for the privileged and public is the ugly stepsister.  But, the tide is slowly turning and more families are warming up to the idea, especially those who meticulously follow the matriculation rates and realize that if their kids are not in the top 1% at private, they may actually have a better chance of getting into an Ivy League from a public education.  But I digress…

Graduating from school is a big deal at any age. With tuitions hitting record highs and academic standards reaching new plateaus, the pressure cooker to stay in school and get good grades can be debilitating. It demands a student’s fierce dedication and a family’s unwavering commitment. As a show appreciation and sign of respect to everyone who has helped you to prepare for this day, here are 7 ways for the graduate to say goodbye with grace and seize an attitude of gratitude.  

1. Cordially Invite.  Eschew the electronic invite in favor of customized printed invitations to distribute to family members and close friends two months in advance.  While you want to make everyone feel special, tickets are typically limited to attend the ceremony. Circumvent hurt feelings by making sure all guests receive an invitation to the celebration afterward.  

2. Dress To Impress.  Although you may be covered from head to toe in cap and gown, graduates should dress to impress in appropriate commencement attire. Ladies should wear a dress, slacks or skirt with a nice blouse. Flats or low heeled shoes for comfort and safe walking.  Limit accessories to only those that are necessary. Gentlemen should wear dress pants or khakis with pressed button-down shirts and a belt.  Tied shoes or loafers for footwear.  If applicable, caps are worn flat on the head with the tassels on the right side unless otherwise instructed for photos, etc. Caps are removed by gentlemen only as a sign of respect during the National Anthem.

3. Glean Jewels from Commencement Speeches.  This is not the time to take a snooze. Put down your phone, sit up straight, perk up your ears, and lean in.  After years of schooling, you must now apply what you’ve learned in the real world and that is no simple task. The commencement speech delivers the goods on exactly what it will take to not only survive, but thrive.  Legendary commencement speakers offer priceless pearls of wisdom that still resonates.  Listen with intent, take the advice to heart and aspire to live up to the standard your education has provided you.  

4. Receive the Diploma in a Dignified Manner.  You will rehearse countless times how to approach the stage to receive your diploma, but here are a few extra pointers to be mindful of. Posture, posture, posture! Stand tall, shoulders down and back and walk with dignity being careful not to trip on your gown. Make good eye contact, administer a solid handshake with your right hand using two pumps, and use your left hand to accept the diploma. If applicable, move the tassel on your cap if directed by the photographer and be sure to smile with your eyes, as well as your teeth.  Continue offstage confidently and return to your seat. 

5. Split Time Sensibly between Guests & Grads.  Guests have come far and wide to witness the occasion and they deserve a little quality time and undivided attention before running off to party with your friends. If your family is hosting a celebratory luncheon or dinner on your behalf, make it your mission to be charming, gracious, interesting, interested and grateful.  Connect with each guest and personally thank them for coming.

6. Allocate Announcements.  If you have extended family and friends whom you’d like to share in your joyous occasion, limit announcements to those who actually know you are graduating.  “No gifts please” should be added so recipients understand this is purely a gesture to include them in your achievement.

7. Handwrite Appreciation.  Hopefully, you own personalized stationery or a have a box of thank you notes stashed in your drawer as you are going to need it. Thank you notes should be written within a one to two-week period.  Monetary gifts may include a sentence on how the money will be used such as towards future savings or special purchase. Being the gracious graduate you are, an expression of gratitude will also be mailed to those who came to support you but did not bring a gift.