10 Virtual Graduation Ideas

Posted on: May 12th, 2020 by

The Class of 2020 graduates will not have their traditional ceremony. Honestly, that really stinks. They’ve worked hard. They’ve endured a lot. Michelle Obama put it best.

To the #Classof2020, I know how hard you all have worked to make it to graduation. You’ve put in long hours studying. You’ve thrown yourself into extracurricular activities and after-school jobs. And you’ve done everything you can to be there for your friends through it all.

Michelle Obama

As the parents of an 8th grader and a high school freshman, I can relate to what many parents are feeling. Last year’s graduation meant so much to my son and this year all my 8th grader wants is a graduation. He’s been talking about it for weeks. He wants to know if he will even have a graduation.

middle school student graduating from 8th grade
My Class of 2019 Graduate

Behind the scenes, knowing a regular ceremony would be highly unlikely, parents and I have been discussing virtual graduation ideas. We brainstormed, but we knew our hands were tied until the Governor provided districts with more guidelines regarding graduations.

In light of the components of Executive Order No. 107, and in the best interest of the health and safety of the public, in-person ceremonies, including graduations, all parades, including “wave parades,” that invite people to gather at a certain location, proms, and other similar celebrations violate the enumerated conditions of the order, and should therefore be cancelled or postponed until such time as these restrictions are lifted. Until such time, virtual celebrations and other remote forms of recognition should take the place of any in-person or public ceremonies.

Governor Phil Murphy
My Class of 2020 Graduate

Then Governor Murphy’s guidelines came down. I was disappointed. I understand but it still doesn’t mean I am not upset for our students. Some of my favorite virtual graduation ideas are off the table, for now. That doesn’t mean we still can’t celebrate and honor our graduates. With that in mind, here are the results of our brainstorming, ideas you can do now or ideas you can do later.

Your senior year may have been derailed. But you should still celebrate your graduation. Announcing a virtual graduation…

Posted by Herff Jones on Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Class of 2020 Graduation Update

There have been two exciting updates, as of May 13, 2020 and I expect them to have a positive affect on this year’s virtual graduations.

First it seems cars can gather together as long as they do so safely.

Gatherings of vehicles, such as drive-in movies or church services, are not a violation of my order prohibiting mass gatherings, as long as all participants remain in their cars. If vehicles are closer than six feet apart, then all windows, sunroofs, or convertible tops must remain closed.

Governor Murphy

Second, NJ state police chief says ‘wave parades’ for students OK as long as no one gathers. With that in mind, I am so happy to report that all but one of my 10 virtual graduation ideas seem to be allowed to happen for New Jersey Class of 2020 graduates.

June 1, 2020 Update Party City graciously provided us with some graduation decor, photo props, and gifts so that we could feature it in this post and make a donation of graduation decorations to my son’s virtual graduation activities. Links in this post to Amazon, Etsy, or Party City maybe affiliate links. We earn a small commission when you support Jersey Family Fun by shopping with those links.

Class of 2020 8th grade graduate with Party City black and white graduation backdrop.
My 8th grade graduate with a Party City black and white graduation backdrop.

10 Virtual Graduation Ideas

Let’s get you started with nine virtual graduation ideas that let you honor your Class of 2020 graduate while also keeping them and your family safe.

Virtual Graduation Ceremony

Similar to a ‘real’ graduation ceremony, a virtual graduation ceremony happens when the ceremony takes places without the students and their family there. It has all the elements of the traditional ceremony.

I’ve seen churches hold virtual masses. Parishioners aren’t in the pews but pictures of them are. As mass takes place cameras scan over the pictures. This same idea could happen with a virtual graduation ceremony. Administrators could set up chairs, like they regularly would. Students photos could be attached to each student’s chair. As the principal announces a student’s name the camera could show an image of the graduate.

If the school is off limits or staffing is not available to set up the graduation space, the video of the virtual graduation ceremony could be edited to show an image of the students when his/her name is announce. A principal or superintendent could conduct the ceremony form a desk or home office.

Remember, while you want to include important and motivational speeches you don’t want your virtual graduation ceremony to be too long. Since the ceremony will be live-streamed or saved to video you’ll need to consider the file size and attention span of viewers. The longer the ceremony the larger the resulting file size will be.

Where to stream and post Virtual Ceremonies Videos

Beyond Facebook and YouTube, here’s a few places to upload or stream your virtual graduation to.

  • School Website
  • School Social Media Channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Instagram
  • School’s TV Channel
  • Community/Township/District Website
  • Community/Township/District Social Media Channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Instagram
  • Community/Township/District’s TV Channel

Watch and virtually participate in these Virtual Ceremonies

While these virtual graduations may not mention your graduate by name, they do offer a way to way to feel that your student is part of a larger graduation ceremony. Gather around the screen or TV to watch these. Decorate your house with this Party City At-Home Commencement Ceremony in a Box for an added special touch.

To the #Classof2020, I know how hard you all have worked to make it to graduation. You’ve put in long hours studying….

Posted by Michelle Obama on Tuesday, May 5, 2020
screen for drive in graduation

Drive In Graduation

Think of this as the drive in movie meets graduation. Find a large parking lot that can connect to a power source and a strong Wi-Fi network. Each graduating student and their family would be limited to one car. Cars could be lined up in alphabetical order.

The ceremony takes place either at the front of the lot or is broadcast onto a large movie screen. As a student’s name is called his/her diploma could be placed on the front windshield of the car. The student could then grab it from the windshield a few minutes later for a contact-less way of distributing diplomas.

At the point of the ceremony where students would traditionally move their tassels from one side to the other, cars could beep their horns to signal the ceremony is over and the students have graduated.

Virtual graduation idea - Car Parade of Graduates
Photo Credit K. L.

Parade of Graduates

Think about those birthday parades that have been happening across communities. Now amp that up to celebrate the Class of 2020. Instead of having the graduates on their lawns, put them in the cars for the parade. Let them decorate their cars to celebrate their success!

Parades could start or end at the school. As graduates make their way through their community in cars driven by their parents, community members and well wishers could cheer on the graduates on from their front lawns.

To make decorating your car easy, Party City offers a Black, Silver & Gold Drive-By Graduation in a Box with graduation-themed car decorations.

Party City Graduation Car Decorations

Graduation on the Grass

I’ve seen this idea promoted a few times on Facebook and news shows. Some families aren’t waiting to see what their school districts will do. Instead, they are hosting Graduations on the Grass. Parents decorate a front porch or patio with graduation decor. Then, with a karaoke-style sound system parents or family members speak about their graduate praising their accomplishments. The graduate crosses their front yard in cap and gown to collect their diploma. He/she may say a few words. All the while, other family members or friends look on from the street, yard, or driveway while maintaining a safe distance from others.

Canva - Photo of Standing Woman in Blue Academic Regalia Smiling.jpg
Photo by Vantha Thang

Graduation Boulevard

In one South Jersey school district they are raising funds to have each graduating senior’s image printed on a small 18×24 sign. These signs will then be staked into the ground outside of the school’s entrance creating a Graduation Boulevard.

A graduation balloon bouquet can be a great way to add some WOW to a graduation boulevard, virtual graduation, or at home celebration. Party City provided us with this one and we love it!

Wall of Graduates

Along the same lines of the Graduation Boulevard, school districts or a community business could create a Wall of Graduates. Instead of having images printed and positioned on exterior signage, photos could be printed on regular 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper. The photos could then be hung on windows with the images facing outward. Together all those images would be like a large collage or Wall of Graduates.

Say it in Lights

Most towns have marquees and electronic display boards. A lot of schools have them as well. Ask the administrators of those boards to dedicate a day that they can post a message to the graduating class and scroll through a list of the students’ names.

If they aren’t able to dedicate the time and space, ask about the requirements to post your own message. Many will allow parents to post a message to their children for a small donation.

Graduation Mural

Why not see if your school or a business in the community can donate exterior wall space to have a graduation mural created. Every community has artists or skilled students. A graduation mural can serve as a way to pay tribute to the Class of 2020 AND provide a nice backdrop for graduation photos.

Can’t do a permanent mural? Get this black and white Graduation backdrop from Party City. Dress it up with some balloons in the school colors.

Graduate Photo Shoot

Speaking of graduation photos, graduation photo shoots have always been a thing, a way to remember that special day. Recently Porch Photos have become a thing. So with this year’s Class of 2020 why not contact your favorite local photographer and schedule a Porch Photo, but instead of using your porch, use the school your child attends.

family poses with middle school graduate

Dress your graduate up in their cap and gown. Meet your photographer at the school. Then while your photographer keeps their distance of 6 feet away or more, your child can pose in various positions around the school.

  • Playground
  • School Entrance
  • School Signage
  • Bus Loop
  • Their favorite spot
  • Bus Stop
  • Bleachers
  • Fields where they played sports
High school graduate poses for picture on football field
Photo by Feedyourvision

Grab this inflatable diploma from Party City or a custom graduation scene setter for great photo props. Party City can even make custom graduation backdrops in your school’s colors and with your student/school’s name.

inflatable diploma from party city
Party City sells an inflatable diploma for just $3.

Proud parents don’t have to be left out. Party City has Proud Parent head boppers.

Not Now Maybe Later Virtual Graduation Idea

I have one more virtual graduation idea. It’s not clear whether or not this is allowed in New Jersey. But if you don’t have restrictions in your area, or you don’t mind waiting to see if the restrictions are lifted, here is one more way to have a graduation while social distancing.

person holding diploma for a drive thru graduation, virtual graduation ideas
Photo by Ekrulila

Drive Thru Graduation

This could be done in conjunction with a Drive In Graduation or in place of it. The idea would be to allow students to drive through a loop to pick up their diplomas.

To avoid too many crowds or long waits students’ cars could be placed in alphabetical order and/or preassigned a time to pick up their diploma.

School administrators or principals could each stand at a designated spot in the loop to pass off the diploma and congratulate students.

You could even tie in the Parade of Graduates with the Drive Thru Graduation by having students drive through to pick up their diplomas at the start of the parade.

8th grade graduate student

Looking for some Unique Graduation Gifts for the Class of 2020?

Check out these products that make quite special and unique for Class of 2020 graduation gifts.

Graduation Tassel Photo Frame from Party City
Graduation Tassel Photo Frame from Party City
Graduation Balloon Bouquet 6pc - Bright Grad from Party City
Graduation Balloon Bouquet 6pc – Bright Grad from Party City

Shopping for Graduation items

One last night if you are worried about shopping online for graduation decorations, balloons, props, or gifts and not getting them in time, take advantage of stores like Party City that are offering curbside pick up.

Party City placed our order online, shipped what could be shipped including the mylar balloon bouquet. Then, I visited my local Party City and used Curbside Pickup to have the balloons inflated. It was fast. It was safe. It was convenient.

Facade of Party City showing they offer curbside service with balloons that spell it out.

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Jennifer Auer is the hyperlocal mom blogger who runs Jersey Family Fun. From New Jersey, this mom of 3 boys just can’t sit still! Her husband likes to say she’s a work-at-home mom who never stays home. Jennifer started traveling as a child and hasn’t stopped since. Instead of letting her husband and boys slow her down, she brings them along! As her boys transition from tweens to teens there’s still so many places she wants to discover with them both across the U.S. and internationally. She has been a Jersey Girl for 35+ years, and a Jersey Mom for 15+ years and a New Jersey mom blogger for 10 years, although she'd much rather be referred to as an influencer or just by name. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus on Entrepreneurship from Bryant University in Rhode Island.

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