Why I decided not to go to my graduation

I know what you’re thinking, “Ali, I saw your graduation pictures!”, but I made the decision not to attend my graduation ceremony! I touched on things a bit in my Instagram post – but I wanted to write a blog post about it to help others in my situation.

University can be a wonderful time and, for some, graduation is the perfect way to celebrate three / four years of hard work and say goodbye to their classmates and all the friends that they’ve made.

I didn’t have the best university experience… (Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement.) I struggled massively with my health – both mental and physical – due to my M.E and Fibromyalgia and was left really disappointed with the lack of support the university provided. 

I remember one time in particular which sums up my whole experience as a disabled student… I was sitting a computing style exam and didn’t remember studying how to create the element needed to answer the third question of the exam. I moved onto the next question only to realise that I couldn’t attempt ANY more questions of the paper without the answer for question three. I felt sick! My fibromyalgia flared due to the anxiety and I left the exam feeling frustrated and defeated. 

The next day, I was speaking to another student about the paper and they told me how thankful they were that the lecturer came in to tell them how to answer the question.

“Wait, what?!”

Yes! It turns out that we didn’t learn how to answer it in the lectures and so the lecturer entered three different exam rooms to tell students how to answer the question. Why hadn’t he entered the room I was in? Because I was a disabled student and was in a separate room so that I could have extra time. The lecturer had a list of all of the class rooms we were in but had somehow overlooked the room I was in! It took me weeks of emails and phone calls to receive an apology from the department (and I never received one from the lecturer) and I had to sit the exam again in summer – taking time out of my holiday and having to revise a whole topic months later due to a mistake that I had no part in. Did the university consider how this would affect my health, or my feelings about whether I was a valued student? No.

I wish this was a rare experience but, throughout my four years at university, I accumulated a lot of stories like this..


I wanted my graduation to be a special day… and so I decided not to attend the ceremony.

Rather than feeling upset and let down listening to speeches about how great the university is, I decided to take photos in my cap and gown, and then head to Mal Maison Brighton for a lovely afternoon tea followed by champagne at home with my family. It really was the perfect day, spent only with people who love and care for me. 

Moral of the story? Do what makes you happy. Don’t worry about expectations or feeling as if you’re the only one having a less than perfect university experience – it’s a lot more common than you think!

Ali Hemsley
Ali Hemsley

Ali is a 24 year old lifestyle blogger. She combines her advocacy and awareness work for chronic illness and mental health with her love for fashion. You can follow Ali on social media @alihemsley


  1. July 20, 2017 / 1:09 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your shitty experience but made up that you celebrated graduating in your own way!! You look gorgeous in your pics 🙂 xx

    • Ali Hemsley
      July 20, 2017 / 1:10 pm

      Thank you so much Holly. I definitely think I made the right decision! xx

  2. July 20, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    Awe I’m sorry university was difficult. But sounds like you still got to celebrate graduating in the best way ever. Congratulation on graduating.

  3. July 20, 2017 / 3:28 pm

    Sorry to hear that Uni didn’t treat you well! I’m so glad you made the most of your day as you looked fab! xxx

  4. July 20, 2017 / 3:50 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear that your experience was negative! BUT CONGRATULATIONS NEW GRADUATE <3

    Always do what feels right xx

  5. March 6, 2019 / 2:14 am

    Hi there! Such a great article, thank you!

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