The new COVID-19 graduation experience

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Virtual Graduation Photo credit: Mohammad Shahhosseini

A graduation without walking. This pandemic has brought many restrictions to follow and live by. For the past year and a half, BYU and BYU-Idaho have held their graduations online.

“You know, it was a bummer to spend five years of my life working so hard with other students and professors to just leave the school and be told, ‘Good luck finding a job,'” said John Millar, a mechanical engineering student who graduated in winter 2020. “It just wasn’t validating, and it felt sad knowing that I didn’t get to spend that special moment during graduation with all those people who I have learned to love and grow with. I don’t know if I felt cheated, but it definitely didn’t feel good.”

Millar commited five years to studying his degree in engineering, and he graduated without any friends or colleagues with him.

Virtual graduation was first implemented the semester Millar graduated. He described the event as confusing and disorganized.

“I didn’t watch the virtual graduation,” Millar said. “Instead, I got all my friends, and we ate cake and cookies.”

Millar also pointed out that time with his friends and family was what made his graduation meaningful.

After Winter 2020, BYU-I continued to host a virtual graduation for the following semesters to comply with local health and safety regulations.

Jared Williams, a former student who graduated in accounting in Fall 2020, said that he walked in his grandparents’ front room.

“It was the best,” Williams said. “My family was there and my grandparents got to see me graduate. I was super glad that I didn’t need to go anywhere. Spending this moment with my family was all I could’ve asked for. And I didn’t have to wait in an auditorium for two hours listening to someone read out of a phone book.”

Williams was glad that his parents, who are older, were able to be there with him during graduation. The family celebrated, and Williams said that he would have had it no other way.

“The time and moments I got to spend with my family for graduation is something I will always remember for the rest of my life,” Williams said.

Virtual graduation continued for the Winter Semester 2021, even in Provo, Utah, making a full year of virtual graduation for both BYU-I and BYU. Both universities had similar virtual ceremonies and customs for graduation during COVID-19.

On June 4, BYU-I sent out a university email to all students and faculty reporting that the school “plans to fully open Fall Semester 2021 for in-person instruction.” The university also stated that its “top priority is the health and safety of students and the entire campus community.”

BYU-I also intends to continue following “recommended health and safety protocols as advised by local public health officials” as updates are released.

To find out more about graduation for BYU-I, visit the BYU-I graduation page to learn about dates, degree applications and more.