How to host an epic and memorable virtual graduation


Graduation season is upon us – final exams are being administered, teachers are wrapping up the semester, and students are preparing for summer break. The highlight of this season is usually the graduation ceremony, but unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states and school districts are enforcing strong regulations or opting for a mix of virtual or in-person. Despite these circumstances, it is still important to celebrate this major milestone in your child’s or student’s life. Some schools are getting creative, like UC Berkeley’s “UC Blockeley commencement” – a virtual commencement ceremony held on a student-built replica of the campus on a Minecraft server.  While you don’t need to dedicate hours to creating an entire virtual campus, there are still creative ways you can celebrate your new graduate this summer.

Before you host the best virtual graduation ever for your child or students, consider checking out our tips on how to securely host a Zoom meeting. Graduation is meant to be a special moment for your students, so don’t let a hacker ruin the event.

Get creative with custom virtual backgrounds

Now more than ever is the time to get creative with any tools available. You can find new and exciting ways to celebrate your student’s hard work for the year with custom virtual backgrounds using tools like Canva. Virtual backgrounds can be used in a variety of creative ways such as the following:

  • Spotlight high-achieving students like the Valedictorian and Salutatorian
  • Award students with fun superlatives like “Most likely to be friends with everyone.” Pro tip: use a ranking activity type to list names that your students can then vote on
  • Create a unique background for students in your class to use during the school-wide virtual ceremony to easily identify and unify your students

Take advantage of social media

If you’re a parent and you want to celebrate your new grad, consider sharing it on social media. We aren’t recommending Sharenting – the act of oversharing photos of your children on social media. If there ever is a great time to post about your child, their graduation is definitely it. Be creative with what you share by creating beautiful collages or highlight videos. Consider putting together a slideshow of your child’s first graduation to their last to show their progression. Once you post, encourage your close friends and family to share kind words in the comment section. Your graduate will feel the love of their community without having to physically gather. There are endless possibilities, but just make sure you get your child’s permission before sharing. Wouldn’t want your teen getting mad at you for sharing their adorable baby pictures.

Send a digital graduation card 

We are pretty big fans of e-cards here, we use them to appreciate our team and celebrate their anniversaries, or ‘Polleversaries’, as we call them. The benefits are endless: no more lost or coffee-stained paper cards, chasing people down who keep forgetting to sign, or feeling like your family that lives in a different state, city, or country doesn’t get to participate. Digital cards are easy to keep track of, simply email all your friends and family who wish to congratulate the graduating class with a personalized note. Poll Everywhere offers endless customization options, including adding a unique background image to the card. Maybe a silly photo of the graduate?

Create a heartwarming highlight reel 

Four years is a lot of time to make lasting memories. As the long-awaited graduation ceremony approaches, that first year as a freshman can feel like eons ago. Bring some of those memories to life by creating a sentimental video of your graduate’s high school or college experience. Include photos or videos from their first day on campus, at the prom, or their first day moving into the dorms. Feel free to crowdsource footage from the grad’s friends and family. You never know what hilarious videos your grad’s friends may have in stock. They might come as a surprise to the graduate, too!

Host a virtual trivia game

Graduation day should be about one thing only: your grad. Extend the celebration beyond the online ceremony by creating a virtual trivia game all about your new graduate. Crowdsource questions about them from friends, family, and teachers to keep everyone on their toes. For added difficulty, have your grad design the questions and watch everyone else try to guess the correct answer. Need inspiration? We have you covered. Here are 6 done-for-you virtual trivia games you can copy directly into your Poll Everywhere account. Don’t have an account? Sign up here.

Support local businesses

At some point, the world will go back to normal. Or, something similar, at least. Give your grad something to look forward to by gifting them a ‘senior care package’ full of gift cards to their favorite local restaurants, clothing stores, concert venues, or movie theaters. This gift has the added benefit of supporting local businesses, so it’s a win-win. Some local bakeries are even creating graduation-themed cakes and pastries to be delivered to the homes of the graduating class. It may not be quite the same as cutting the cake amongst your peers, but at least it creates a shared culinary experience.

Throw an online commencement ceremony

The opportunity to walk at graduation is a unique and irreplaceable experience, but you can use the power of the internet to your advantage and make your virtual graduation a special one. Create a structure that mimics an in-person graduation ceremony as closely as possible: setup dedicated time slots for students to ‘walk on’ (or join the meeting) and recruit special surprise speakers. Great options include notable alumni, leaders in your community, or even international luminaries that may not have otherwise been able to join due to hectic schedules or travel inconveniences. End the ceremony on a high note by having a few students share a special memory from their time at school, or you could even turn this into a video reel to present at the end and then email to the class to keep forever. For a fun final activity, consider creating a custom graduation trivia game all about fun facts about your school or key moments from the last four years. The options are endless.

Host a drive-by graduation parade

Drive-by parades are becoming the new norm as social distancing regulations remain in place. These can be a fun and creative way to get the graduating class out of the house, but still a safe 6 feet away from their peers. Invite the members of your household to participate in a banner decorating party. Share your wishes for the grad, words of encouragement, and any photos you’d like to include. Decorate the front of your home with banners and balloons to honor your grad, and sit outside with them to watch as their parade of friends and family drive by and shower the graduate with words of encouragement.

Get creative with a cap decorating contest 

One of the most coveted moments of any graduation is when the class collectively throws their caps at the sky to celebrate the culmination of their time in school. Although there’s no real way to replace this virtually, organizing a cap decorating contest and accompanying at-home photoshoot is a close second. Order your caps well in advance and have them sent to the homes of the graduating class. Provide a few simple decorating instructions, and a link to a Dropbox or Google Drive folder where the graduates can upload their photos of them wearing their personalized Graduation Caps. You could even use a ranking poll to award students with Superlatives for various categories: most creative, most likely to win a design award, funniest, most ‘out of this world’, etc.

We hope the ideas shared above inspire you to create a truly unique, special, and memorable moment for your graduate. We’d love to hear from you! Share your virtual graduation ideas with us on Twitter.