In ergonomic chairs bearing their university's colors, students sat wide-eyed and eager on graduation day. Partly because someone at the end of the seventh row swiped a handful of pills from her mother's Kate Spade bag, by the time the ceremony began the Anthropology Department was almost as high as their field's unemployment rate. Around them photographers their parents had hired snapped pictures to capture their enraptured expressions. The near-graduates expressed envy for those with divorced parents; they got two photographers and therefore twice the amount of photos to post on Instagram.
A good fraction of the undergrads donned decorated graduation caps bearing phrases like "Thanks, mom and dad!" Joseph Engle said he really wanted his to read, "Thanks, mom and dad, for funding talk therapy when I sank into a paralyzing depression following the release of my second semester grades. I was pledging a fraternity and they made me put my dick in a minigolf hole. It was really hard on me, and you were so understanding." But it didn't fit on the 10" x 10" cap.
Engineering student Anne Lowe chose a more practical design for her cap. She leased the valuable real estate to Under Armour. The company paid $10,000 to display an advertisement to the student body and their loved ones.
Ms. Lowe remarked, "I didn't necessarily want a picture of the new Port Covington headquarters on the back of my head, but the university didn't give me much financial aid this year, and the student loans are really piling up."
Lucy Kelley, who sat a few rows up from Lowe, made a counter-cultural statement with her lack of graduation cap. According to Kelley, the university forced her to buy a cap, but she spent three hours at Corbin Salon this morning while her friends were at brunch, and she'd be damned if the polyester and cardboard monstrosity messed up all she had worked so hard for. Besides, the cap would have distracted from her pre-graduation gift—diamond earrings courtesy of Tiffany & Co. and her college sweetheart, who will leave her exactly 18 months from today.
As the final students settled into their seats, an orchestra played a slightly unsettling rendition of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." One of the provosts thought that emphasizing the class of 2017's feigned togetherness might distract them from the looming lack of social gratification that follows living with one's parents at age 22.
As the ceremony commenced, students sent Snapchats of the highest-profile speakers, hoping to remind friends from high school that they were accepted into a top-ranking university, according to the U.S. News and World Report.
The university's president took the stage first, welcoming the class of 2017 and thanking their parents for sustaining the long-held tradition of increasing his exorbitant salary annually. He spent the next 13 minutes explaining that almost every student is capable of achieving their dreams.
"If there is one thing I hope you take away from your four years here, it's that you can do whatever you please—go to space, develop an iPhone app, even assault someone—as long as you have the right racial makeup, financial background, and gender identity," he said before ending his speech with the ceremonial "dab," indicating to students that he is young and hip, and therefore credible.
The remainder of the ceremony was long and rather repetitive. Those who had mastered the art of sleeping with their eyes open put their collegiate skills to good use while they still could. Due to the uncertainty of their futures, most of these students will be afflicted with severe anxiety and will therefore have a hard time getting sleep without the aid of sedatives. The conscious portion of the student body passed the time by playing games on their iPhones while their peers received diplomas. More than one student was seen roaming the aisles in search of Pokémon.
When the formal proceedings came to a close, the new graduates filed out of the arena and into the parking lot, breathing fresh air for the first time since the seven-hour ceremony began. Members of the class of 2017 searched for their loved ones, using the make and model of their families' luxury SUVs to guide them. Unfortunately, there were 63 silver Lexus GX's, which caused quite a bit of confusion.
As families united, parents scanned the grounds, silently playing a mass game of Whose Is Bigger with custom bouquets and greeting cards stuffed with personal checks. As the night drew to a close, students reflected on the day's festivities.
Gerald Sapps might have said it best when he remarked, beaming, "I think I may have just peaked."