Studying and Living in Finland LUT Alumni Experience by Aisulu Harjula

High School Graduation Party – Ylioppilasjuhlat

White hats – that’s what Finnish high school graduates and university students wear in respect to their obtained high school diplomas and having completed most of their university applications.

In this post I would like to share some interesting facts I have learned about Finnish primary degree, especially because this year I have been to my husband’s sister’s high school graduation party.

20160604_143558Three of us wearing white huts!

Finnish high school degree

  • Finnish comprehensive education takes 9 years, after that students study for 3 years in a high school if they want to continue in a university. Everyone is about 19 years old when they graduate high school.
  • It takes about one and half months to write all high school graduation exams (they are held approximately from March to the end of April). Students make applications to universities separately and pass entrance exams according to universities’ schedules.
  • Everybody who passed graduation exams and accepted to graduate receives a white hat. Wearing a white hat is respectful. Two generations ago many Finns didn’t finish high schools but they worked for the sake of the country in factories and at countryside. Nowadays they are grandparents of recent graduates and it really means a lot for each member of a Finnish family when their kids graduate high school. Getting low degrees in some subjects is not bad and families are happy if children manage to graduate.
  • List of high school graduates is published annually at, national Finnish broadcasting company
  • High school graduation is in June, students from all over the country graduate in the same day.

How it is in my country

  • It takes 11 years to complete the primary education and a high school, and everyone is about 18 years old at time of graduation.  (That’s why we graduate universities at 22 years old and by age 28 already have 4 years of job experience and even more if started earlier. Also in my country pension age is 55 for women and 60 for men. In Finland it’s 65 years of age for everyone.)
  • At the time when I graduated we didn’t have a graduation exam, we had a four-hour test on four subjects that defined a professional direction. There was also no separate exams to universities. It was only one test that defined whether you passed to study in a university or not.
  • We have no hats for graduation but we get a band over a shoulder.
  • It is bad to get low degrees because universities accept only students with high degrees. And everybody strives to get the best marks.
  • This point is the same – high school graduation is in June and students from all over the country graduate on the same day.

One notice: This is perhaps true that the next generations on average are always taller, although I didn’t check what science says about that. When I graduated I was one of the tallest girls in the school (180cm) and there were very few guys that were taller than me. At the time when my parents graduated the tallest person was 170 cm. This year all male high school graduates were taller than me, and I was on high heels! (Look how tall they are at the front image in this post).

Graduation party at home

All graduates receive their white hats in a school graduation in the morning. After this official part it is common that everyone has home celebrations with relatives. Finns invite guests to home and say that coffee with cake will be served. Typical Finnish coffee with a cake includes a buffet of sweet and salty food that they have prepared themselves. It looks very nice and delicious.20160604_121551

Graduation cake with a white hat on the top =)


Finnish coffee table with sweet and salty food

The party itself goes nicely. Guests are chatting and enjoying coffee with food. During the party the graduate receives a lot of attention (of course!). Celebrations are the only time when no one takes their shoes off inside (but usually people do take their shoes off, even in public celebrations). Guests bring their gifts and sometimes don’t give it to the receiver straight away (usually they give it as soon as they enter the house). At a certain time during the celebration everybody comes to sit in a round and the receiver of gifts opens them one by one in front of everyone.

Guests stay only for couple of hours at the celebration and by 4pm it’s over. After that the graduates can continue their celebration together.

And how is the high school graduation in your country?

About The Author

Researcher at LUT, Master of Economics, LUT & GSOM Saint Petersburg State University. Focus on Strategy, Innovation and Sustainability. Background in natural sciences.

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