18 Best Virtual Graduation Tips for 2021

Home » Resources » Virtual Graduation IdeasUpdated: September 15, 2021

You found our list of the best virtual graduation tips.

Virtual graduation tips are ways to make online graduation ceremonies and parties engaging and memorable. For example, hosting virtual senior nights, creating online yearbooks, or sending care packages. These ideas honor grads and entertain attendees while making the online event more interactive.

Online graduations are a type of virtual celebration, similar to virtual orientation weeks and virtual retirement parties.

This list contains:

  • Zoom graduation ideas
  • online graduation video ideas
  • virtual senior night ideas
  • virtual graduation party ideas
  • virtual moving up ceremony tips

Here we go!

List of virtual graduation ideas

From bucket lists to virtual backgrounds to online coffee dates, here are the best ideas for online graduations. This list includes activities suitable for students and families of all ages, from kindergarten to grad school.

1. Graduation bucket list

Graduation bucket list is similar to an online scavenger hunt. During the week leading up to graduation, students perform tasks on the list. The point of the game is to create memorable experiences for students. Prompts should be fun and relaxing.

Here is a template you can use for your game:

Feel free to customize the list with your school’s unique traditions, for instance, “grab an ice cream cone at the dairy bar,” or “rub the bear statue for good luck.”

To make the game more fun and interactive, encourage players to upload photos and videos of themselves completing the challenges to social media or a webpage for the game.

For more tips, check out our guide to virtual scavenger hunts.

2. Online graduation I Spy

Virtual Graduation I Spy Game Template

Virtual preschool or kindergarten graduations are typically shorter and less formal than college or high school graduations. Nevertheless, young children may squirm and struggle to focus during Zoom graduations. Online graduation I Spy is a great way to hold tiny graduates’ attention online. This game is a great way to get younger family members to behave during older relatives’ online graduations too.

Simply give children the game board below, and ask them to keep on the lookout for the listed items throughout the ceremony.

When kids complete the game, you can reward them with a prize like stickers, candy, or a small toy.

3. Streaming senior playlist

Departing classes often choose graduation songs. Insead of picking only one song for seniors, you can compile a collaborative playlist online.

First, create a playlist on a platform like Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube. Next, give editing access to the graduating class, and invite students to submit their favorite songs.

Streaming together gives a sense of solidarity. Creating the mix can help forge last minute friendships over shared tastes. Plus, the playlist acts as a time capsule to document the music participants were listening to at graduation time. Graduates can revisit the mix when they feel nostalgic and want to think about former classmates and their alma mater.

We recommend including some team anthems or songs for team building.

4. Online yearbook

Signing yearbooks is one of the most beloved high school traditions, especially for graduating seniors. However, virtual graduations do not give attendees the opportunity to sign each other’s pages. An easy solution is to create a digital yearbook for the outgoing class.

To gather material for the yearbook, create a Google Form and send it to all seniors. Feel free to ask for pictures, quotes, and shout-outs. You can also poll participants to determine the most noteworthy events and favorite memories of the year, and build top ten lists of the class’s favorite songs, movies, and social activities. Be sure to include pages on clubs and organizations, too.

Next, compile submissions into a digital book using InDesign or a free yearbook maker like Flip Builder. Send the finished product to seniors, and encourage them to share on social media.

You can ask recipients to write messages to classmates while collecting main materials for the book. Or, make an online space for messages, such as a forum, Google Doc, or social media page. Either way, sending personal messages is one of the most intimate and interactive parts of the experience, and should not be skipped.

5. Graduation video

If you want the audience to tune into the ceremony live, then you should keep recorded videos to a minimum. Nevertheless, you can record some graduation video to show during the event. Asking graduates to submit clips or full-length videos is a great way to get students involved in the ceremony.

Here are fun online graduation video ideas:

  • Lip syncs
  • Highlights of the past year or past four years
  • Parody songs
  • Montage of baby photos with senior photos
  • Well wishes from teachers and family members
  • Senior video competitions

To make the graduation video, either ask students to submit a full video or contribute clips. If making a compilation video, then assign a staff member to edit the clips into a single presentation. You can play the video at the beginning or end of the online ceremony. Attendees can share the graduation clips online, too.

6. Virtual Senior night

Senior night is one of the most fun graduation week gatherings. The event offers soon-to-be-graduates a chance to relax, socialize, and have fun together one last time before moving on to new adventures.

Virtual grad nights give seniors the opportunity to enjoy the festivities online. To host a virtual senior night, schedule a virtual meeting, collect RSVP’s, send the link to attendees, and plan fun activities to entertain guests.

Here are fun virtual senior night ideas:

These activities also make great virtual graduation party ideas.

Covering part or all of the meal costs is a nice touch if your online event includes food. You could negotiate a grad night discount with a local restaurant, or send attendees credits to use on a food delivery app like UberEats or DoorDash.

Be sure to also incorporate some traditional grad night activities, such as senior superlatives.

7. Digital countdown clock

Whether graduating online or in person, students eagerly count the days until their diploma is in hand. You can stoke that anticipation online by posting a digital countdown clock.

Simply create a clock on a site like timeanddate or countingdownto, or make a widget. Then, post the clock on your website or event page. Feel free to share the embed code so that attendees can post the clock on their own pages. Be sure to show the clock at zero at some point during your ceremony, and celebrate with gestures like music or confetti.

You could create a countdown clock in your Instagram stories, too, and followers can request notification for when the countdown ends.

8. Social media spotlights

To build extra buzz and make your online graduation more interactive, use social media in the weeks leading up to the event.

Here are some online graduation social media ideas:

  • Make groups for soon-to-be-grads
  • Create a class hashtag
  • Issue social media challenges. For example, before and after photos from freshmen to senior year, graduation memes, “the best thing I learned in school.”
  • Post photo frames, graphics, and games that grads can repost
  • Encourage attendees to live stream or tweet the ceremony
  • Hold contests and giveaways just for grads
  • Host a senior social media takeover, where selected seniors run the school’s account for a day

Social media offers an opportunity for peers to celebrate together while distant. Colleges can use these campaigns as a recruiting tool, too.

9. VIP guests

One of the best virtual graduation ceremony ideas is to invite VIP guests and speakers. Since your event takes place online, you can invite presenters that might not be able to make an in-person appearance. For instance, your chosen speaker might live in a different country, or have another commitment that weekend. Zoom calls permit busy and faraway presenters to join the festivities with minimal disruptions to their schedules.

Examples of VIP guests include notable alumni, politicians, media presenters, academic experts, or celebrities. Even if your organization does not have connections to famous figures, you could purchase a celebrity shoutout to the outgoing class by using Cameo.

10. Care packages

Sending care packages to graduates adds a tactile touch to an all-online ceremony. These gifts are also a kind gesture that generates excitement, because everyone loves getting presents!

Here are some suggestions for what to include:

  • Diploma frame or picture frames
  • School swag
  • Stationery
  • Portable chargers
  • USB drives
  • Blank thank you cards
  • Journal or notebook
  • Gift cards or coupons
  • Coffee, tea, or energy drinks
  • Snacks or candy
  • Sparkling cider and a plastic toasting glass
  • Handwritten card or letter
  • Sign to put on lawn

Or, instead of sending a box full of smaller gifts, you could choose one substantial present to send to each graduate. This way, vendors can ship the product directly to recipients.

For present inspiration, check out our list of the best employee gifts, which also double as great grad gifts!

11. Zoom graduation backgrounds

One of the best Zoom graduation ideas is to invite attendees to display fun virtual backgrounds during the ceremony. Zoom graduation backgrounds take the place of students decorating motorboards, and let grads show off their creativity and style.

You can take time during the ceremony to spotlight some of the most inventive or fun backgrounds, and offer prizes. Or, you can provide custom event background to attendees. Making virtual Zoom backgrounds is easy. You can include the link to download images and instructions for how to change Zoom backgrounds in your confirmation email to guests.

12. Online Senior Week coffee dates

The weeks leading up to graduation offer last chances for peers to connect and spend time together. While some students choose to spend this time with friends, others make an effort to meet new students. Virtual coffee dates are a great way for seniors to socialize, network, and overcome moving-on jitters.

First, invite seniors to a Slack channel. Then, use the Donut app to randomly match participants. We recommend setting the app to assign one match per day in the week or two leading up to graduation. Once matched, pairs schedule a short video call and chat face to face. Seniors can also socialize within the Slack channel by asking questions, playing games, and inviting channel members to impromptu video chats.

For more information, check out our guide to virtual coffee breaks.

List of virtual graduation tips

Here are practical pieces of advice to ensure your online graduation ceremony is accessible and runs smoothly.

13. Choose a platform that accommodates your crowd

While there are space limits in auditoriums and stadiums, online graduation ceremonies can accommodate much larger crowds. Nevertheless, you want to pick a platform that suits your guests. It is a good idea to send out a survey and estimate RSVP’s beforehand so that you know your software plan can accommodate all guests. Consider your crowd’s level of technological savvy, and try to pick a program that is easy to access.

For advice on virtual venues, check out our guide to virtual meeting platforms.

14. Test technology before the event

The best way to ensure online graduation ceremonies run smoothly is to test technology before the event. We recommend running an online dress rehearsal or two with all presenters to nail the timing and the technology. You can put together a run of show that includes scripts, links, and media, so that all staff have access to program materials in one central location. This way, nobody fumbles to find files or links, and backup staff can take the reins if a current presenter gets kicked off the call. Be sure that showrunners have strong internet connections and quiet and private broadcast spots. Ethernet cables can battle shoddy WiFi, and noise blocking headphones are one solution to loud houses.

On the day of your event, have all presenters join the call at least half an hour early to test out audio and software settings, and run through the schedule once more.

You should also ensure that attendees understand the technology. It would be a bummer if grandma missed the show because she couldn’t figure out Zoom. Prior to the event, send attendees instructions and tutorials for the software, as well as contact information for technical support.

Sending participants virtual meeting etiquette tips is also helpful.

15. Include live and interactive elements

Some articles advise organizers to pre-record videos to ensure a smooth ceremony, but we recommend streaming as much live as possible. Using pre-recorded videos is no guarantee that technology will cooperate during the event, and interaction is part of the fun of attending. If guests merely wanted to watch the ceremony without participating, then they could view the playback video anytime.

One of the best virtual graduation tips is to include interactive elements. To avoid audio feedback or interruptions, muting the microphones is a good idea, at least until the end of the ceremony. You should also disable participants’ ability to unmute their own microphones. However, you can encourage attendees to react and socialize in the chat.

If you have a smaller crowd and a savvy cohost, then you could even add a second spotlight and show each graduate’s family reacting to the announcement. If not, then you could queue up a photo or video slideshow as a second spotlight so that every graduate gets a close up.

You can also include interactive activities outside of the ceremony, such as social media challenges, contests, surveys and polls, and virtual social events.

16. Use breakout rooms for post-event reception

Graduations are community events, and part of the fun comes from revelling with fellow graduates and proud families. Schools often host receptions after the ceremony so that attendees have time to mingle and celebrate. By using breakout room features in the virtual meeting platform, you can replicate this experience.

Simply send attendees to random rooms for 5 to 10 minutes. Once participants return to the main room, switch up room assignments and send guests to new rooms so they have a chance to socialize with new folks.

Or, make separate wholly Zoom room meeting links for different areas of interest such as music majors, first generation graduates, international students, or Ivy-league bound grads so guests can socialize with similar minds.

17. Record the ceremony

Though online graduation ceremonies make it possible for wider audiences, there still might be some guests who are unable to attend the event. Plus, parents and students may want to rewatch the festivities later. Recording meetings in virtual meeting platforms is simple. We recommend configuring settings so that the meeting records automatically, but you can also hit the record button manually when the event begins. Once the meeting ends, the file will automatically download to the cloud or the designated drive, and you can send the video to participants afterwards.

18. Snap a picture

Family photo albums and living room walls are full of graduation photos. Attendees will likely snap behind-the-scenes photos before and after the ceremony as well as grabbing screen captures during the show. However, we recommend that organizers snap a picture for posterity too. Simply ask participants to pose, and capture a screenshot. You can invite attendees to strike a fun pose such as trying to escape the frame or making funny faces.

In Zoom, you can display up to 49 participants per screen in gallery view by updating the video settings. This adjustment speeds up the picture taking process in larger events, as does enlisting multiple photographers to grab screen shots on different pages simultaneously.

After the ceremony, send the pictures to attendees in your follow-up event email. You can also post the pictures to your website and social media pages, as long as you have consent from attendees.

Conclusion

Virtual graduation celebrations can have just as much pomp and circumstance as their real-life counterparts. Just because the ceremonies and parties take place via video call, does not mean you cannot make the events interactive, exciting, and memorable. Graduation is a culmination of students’ hard work, and online ceremonies recognize that even if attendees cannot gather in person, the event is worth celebrating.

Next, check out our list of fun ideas for online classrooms.

FAQ: Virtual graduations

Here are answers to commonly asked questions about virtual graduations.

What are virtual graduations?

Virtual graduations are online moving up ceremonies. These events might consist of many parts, including senior nights, convocations, graduation ceremonies, and receptions. Beyond watching a live Zoom graduation ceremony, guests can complete interactive online activities like games, social media challenges, graduation videos, and online yearbooks. Students and families can also participate in virtual graduation parties before and after the ceremony.

How do you create a virtual graduation ceremony?

To create a virtual graduation ceremony, first pick a video meeting platform that can accommodate your audience. Be sure that the software plan hosts the estimated number of participants, and that the program is user-friendly and easy to access. Next, recruit speakers and presenters to run the show, as well as event staff to manage the technical aspects. Then, create a schedule of events, and hold a dress rehearsal or two. Finally, send out invitations and monitor RSVP’s. When the day arrives, run your event, with a technical expert or two in the wings to help solve any technology issues that may arise. Be sure to snap photos and record the ceremony for posterity.

What are some good virtual graduation ideas?

Good virtual graduation ideas include graduation bucket lists, online yearbooks, virtual senior nights, care packages, and senior virtual coffee breaks.

What are the benefits of virtual graduations?

There are many benefits of virtual graduations. Online ceremonies allow faraway family members to attend at no cost, with no travel required. Attendance is not limited to the capacity of an auditorium or stadium. Logistically, virtual graduations are easier to plan and execute, and typically less expensive too. Recording the ceremony is much simpler, too. Not to mention, participants can attend from the comfort of their own living rooms instead of sweating in the sun or crowding onto bleachers.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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