All Dressed Up: The Meanings Behind Commencement Regalia

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Graduation is a special moment in the life of every student. It marks the end of a challenging journey and the beginning of a new one. One of the most exciting parts of graduation is the wearing of commencement regalia. These colorful gowns and caps represent the hard work and dedication put in by every graduate. The pieces displayed proudly with their attire are not chosen at random; they have deep meanings that reflect the achievements and goals of each individual.

Commencement regalia is not just a uniform. It is a symbol of pride, accomplishment, and success. Here is an inside look at some of the pieces you will see at the 202nd New Hampton School Commencement Exercises.


The Tassel

The tassel on the cap, moved from the right side to the left for high school graduations, represents the movement from student to graduate. Every year in the Academic Research Center, where the class gathers to get ready, the tassel is always a point of conversation—which side does it start on (the right), when should it move (after receiving the diploma), and why are there different colors?

New Hampton School’s most prominent school colors are green and white. The majority of the class will have a green and white tassel on their mortarboard, honoring the school colors. However, New Hampton also has a chapter of the Cum Laude Society, and simply put from the official Cum Laude description, the presence of a chapter at a secondary school is “an indication that superior scholastic achievement is honored.” These honored members wear a gold tassel.


The White Sash

At New Hampton School, you’ll often hear people indicate the number of years prior to their class indication—such as a three-year junior or a four-year senior. While this may seem curious at schools that do not use this indicator, it simply translates that four-year seniors have matriculated for all four grades. As a boarding and day school, the number of these students varies from year to year. The white sash celebrates their achievement as a four-year student, and this year, you will spot 39 white sashes in our graduating class of 2023!


The Blue and White Cords

Each year, nearly 70 percent of our juniors and seniors enroll in classes from the International Baccalaureate Programme. However, an elite group of these enroll in the full program—often referred to as the full IB. Following two years of rigorous study, the IB diploma candidates complete their final exams and prepare for graduation. You’ll easily spot these students by the blue and white cords in their regalia. Please join us in congratulating them on all of their hard work!


The Alumni Pin

The journey from student to alumna or alumnus is quick. While it takes one or more years to graduate, it takes only seconds to experience the moment from when you are a student to when you are not. There are two familiar physical signifiers of this achievement: the hard-earned diploma and an alumni pin. If the diploma represents their effort and passion, the pin itself represents their lasting connection to our community. These pins are shared with the class during senior brunch, which is held the day before commencement. Each circular, gilded pin has the official seal of New Hampton School.


Individual Cords, Sashes, and Stoles

If you see additional cords and sashes—don’t worry—your eyes are not deceiving you. The diversity of our community offers additional opportunities for students to express their creativity, achievements, self-expression, and more through regalia. Past cords have indicated many things, including, for example, students who have achieved Eagle Scout in their personal pursuits. Colorful sashes and stoles often share details about a student’s heritage or home country. These individually chosen pieces are close to the graduate’s heart and mind as they celebrate a new beginning.


Commencement Awards

Though you won’t see these until the ceremony is underway, there are a few additional recognitions you will spot on graduates each year. Among the awards and citations given at Commencement are three medals. These are the Citizenship Medal, the Intellectual Curiosity Medal, the Personal Growth Medal, and the School’s highest recognition—the Meservey Medal. The Meservey Medal is contained in a beautiful wooden box, and the other three medals are hung around the honoree’s neck on a forest-green ribbon. We look forward to announcing this year’s recipients in next week’s ceremony.


The Final Days Ahead

As our class of 2023 inches closer to Commencement, they’ll gather several times to hear about the proceedings. Who they’ll walk with, where to gather, and what to expect are all part of the preparation. They’ll march in practices and spend the week with their classmates, bonding during fun activities and reflective ceremonies before their paths lead them in numerous directions. We look forward to this culmination of their hard work, the chance to remember their journeys, and to be the first to welcome them to the alumni community. Congratulations, Class of 2023!

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