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What is Class Day?


What is Class Day?

Actor Will Ferrell was the featured speaker at Harvard's Class Day in 2003.

Douglas McFadd/Getty Images

You know all about graduation and chances are, you know what baccalaureate is too. But class day?

At some universities, the series of graduation week festivities include an entire array of events with varying levels of formality, from the cap-and-gown ritual of commencement, complete with inspirational, wonderful speeches, to the lakeside dunkings at Wellesley. Harvard, Yale and a number of other schools hold Class Day, as well as family picnics, departmental receptions, baccalaureate and graduation. Class Day is a more light-hearted and personal affair than baccalaureate or commencement. It typically includes speeches by the senior class president and one or more guest speakers. In 2012, for example, Harvard's senior class invited Andy Samberg, of "Saturday Night Live" fame, and congressman - and Harvard alumnus - Barney Frank. In 2011, Amy Poehler was the speaker.

At Yale, Class Day includes awards and speeches, and graduating seniors wear their academic gowns. But instead of donning that signature mortarboard, they can wear anything they'd like on their heads - a turban, a fez or an awesomely silly hat. When actor Tom Hanks spoke in 2011, he paired his gown with a baseball hat, but you should see what the engineering students wear. (Both those links take you to the Yale Admissions website, by the way, which has posted some wonderful photos.) The silly hats are one of that school's most endearing college traditions.

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