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As the end of the school year approaches, it is undeniably springtime. The birds are chirping, the trees are blooming, and millions of high school seniors are all anxiously planning their final weeks as high school students.
These plans include prom, a senior ditch day, and of course graduation. For many high schoolers, graduation marks a noteworthy achievement.
Graduation ceremonies are some of the most cherished moments of a high school student’s academic career. But between the gowns, tassels, and graduation walk, what is with all of the pomp and circumstance?
And what’s the deal with the valedictorian and salutatorian? What’s the big deal?
What is the History of Graduation Ceremonies?
Where Did it All Start?
Graduation ceremonies started all the way in the 12th century as a ceremony to mark students’ steps into their next role.
Originally intended for higher-level scholars (think college graduates and beyond), these men marked their achievements with a commencement.
The mortarboard (aka the hat) dates back to the 1500s in the United Kingdom where the hats were more floppy. It wasn’t until the 1950s that they assumed the stiffer modernization that is still used today.
The tassel is used to symbolize the transition from high school student to graduate.
When you walk into your graduation your tassel will be on one side, but after the ceremony you will be instructed to move the tassel to the other side, marking the change in your academic standing.
What About That Song?
The music played during graduation ceremonies also follows traditions. The “graduation march” (also known as “Pomp and Circumstance”) was written in 1901 by a guy named Edward Elgar.
Edward wrote this song during his time at Yale, and when he received his diploma they played the song as he walked off the stage.
This song quickly became used across the United States to signify the beginning of the graduation ceremony.
However, your school and student body may also choose a song to play during the ceremony that is unique to your class. These class songs are typically more popular and modern choices.
Class songs are generally voted on by the student body and can have a special meaning for the students who are graduating.
Graduation, but Make it Modern
In the recent history of graduation, there are also new traditions popping up.
Traditions such as taping designs onto the top of the graduation cap, wearing special sashes to note achievements, and even wearing leis over the gown can commonly be seen at graduations today (school rules permitting).
The most obvious tradition is the throwing of the graduation cap at the end of the ceremony. This final event in the graduation is the bookend on the 4-year journey through high school.
All of these traditions, old and new, are meant to commemorate the noteworthy achievement of completing your high school career and moving towards adulthood.
What is a Salutatorian’s Job During Graduation?
The root of Salutatorian, Salut– means to greet. The first job for a Salutatorian is to greet all of the graduates upon the beginning of the ceremony.
Salutatorians will give a speech to the graduates before the Valedictorian speaks. Salutatorian speeches should be happy and celebratory, have light-hearted jokes and a strong message of growth, looking towards the future, and recognizing the past.
When thinking about crafting a Salutatorian speech, consider who helped the graduates get to the finish line (teachers, coaches, administration, parents, and friends, to name a few).
Next, shine the light on the graduate’s next step into the future. For many graduates in 2020, COVID-19 has created more questions than answers about the future.
Graduating Seniors are having to sacrifice their proms, senior ditch days, and even graduation due to social distancing.
As a Salutatorian, consider acknowledging the unknown and disappointments before talking about the hope and excitement that the future holds.
A Salutatorian’s speech will be reviewed by administration before delivery, so keep it clean, positive, and true to yourself.
Your classmates will celebrate alongside you while you deliver it at graduation!
After the introductory speech, a Salutatorian’s job is basically finished, and they can sit back and enjoy the ceremony with the rest of their classmates.
Who Would Even Want to Be a Salutatorian?
How to Earn a Top Title at Your School
In order to be named either Valedictorian or Salutatorian in your class, two factors are considered.
First, your GPA will need to be high (4.0 or better will put you in the running for this). You already know how to keep your grades up: go to class, turn in the work, get help when you need it, and always study for exams.
Take advantage of any extra credit even if it seems lame. The next factor is your class rank, which is calculated by dividing your GPA against the GPAs of other students in your class.
What happens if you and 10 other students have the same GPA? This is where weighted classes, like AP classes, come into consideration.
By taking more challenging classes and earning high grades in them, your GPA will be calculated higher than somebody who has a 4.0 by taking easier courses.
In some ways, Salutatorian could appear to be the “first loser” when it comes to class rank. Valedictorian’s, or your class’s top achiever, can be a highly coveted spot.
For many students, the recognition of Valedictorian can seem like the only option, but with many students aiming for that spot, and only one person to earn it, many high school students are disappointed when they find out they are Salutatorian.
This is completely understandable, but instead of feeling bummed about it, try to reframe your thinking to celebrate this coveted spot of Salutatorian.
By being named Salutatorian you have earned the title of being one of the top two performers in your class! This is noteworthy and should be celebrated.
In fact, there are numerous famous people have stood on the stage as a salutatorian! People like:
- John Legend- Singer/Songwriter
- Michelle Obama- Former First Lady
- Carrie Underwood- Winner, “American Idol”
- John Wayne- Actor
- James “Murr” Murray- Comedian, “Impractical Jokers”
Perks of the Job
Earning the title of Salutatorian also has its perks. Whether you are a Valedictorian or a Salutatorian, colleges see these titles as a product of how hard you worked and how strong your drive is.
This may translate into more unique or better internship opportunities. Salutatorians also earn top scores on their SATs, ACTs, and other standardized tests.
These high scores can translate into scholarships and access to America’s top universities.
Finally, the biggest perk to being named a Salutatorian is that you have already put in the hard work to get you to this point.
Salutatorians take more challenging classes, do the hard work, and as a product, they’ve earned this distinction.
Through taking AP courses, SAT prep, and more, you have set yourself up for better success during your next stage: college.
The title of Salutatorian is really just the frosting on the cake and a reason to celebrate now!
Let ArgoPrep Help You Reach Your Goals
Whether you have your sights set on becoming one of the leaders of your class or you simply want to refine your skills in certain academic classes, ArgoPrep is equipped with the resources to help you shine!
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Earning one of the top titles of Valedictorian or Salutatorian in a senior class is a highly distinct honor.
These titles mark the consistent hard work and hustle over the last four years. These achievers have earned the highest test scores, grades, and are on-track to attend some of America’s top colleges– basically, this is a pretty sweet spot to be.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that these roles are not given to the most popular, funniest, or kindest person.
These roles are earned from consistently showing up to class, working hard, completing assignments, and studying even when it sounds like it’d be more fun to do literally anything else in the world.
Of course, Valedictorians and Salutatorians are kind, funny, and popular too.
If you have your sights set on one of these distinctive honors, put in the hustle to get there.
Meet with your guidance counselors, stay on top of your schoolwork, and use ArgoPrep to help you dig deeper into your work.
Your hard work will pay off. If you have been hustling for the past four years and have landed yourself a Salutatorian spot, pat yourself on the back!
There are thousands of students each year who barely miss the mark.
Earning one of these coveted spots is the cherry on top of a long four years, celebrate your achievement! You’ve earned it!