General Information

Commencement is a weekend-long series of events celebrating students who are graduating.

The Main Ceremony

The moment you've been waiting for! This is the only college-wide ceremony of the academic year that brings together the entire university with plenty of pomp and circumstance.  


8:00 am: Doors to Kaplan Arena open
9:45 am: Guests are asked to be seated
10:00 am: The Academic Procession begins

The ceremony includes remarks by the university president, chancellor, student speaker and invited speaker, the presentation of commencement awards, and degree conferral in groups by major. The ceremony typically ends between 12:15-12:30 p.m.


The Main Ceremony is held in Kaplan Arena and requires tickets for general admission entry. Due to the seating capacity in Kaplan Arena, only those graduating students who plan to dress in regalia and walk in the academic procession may request tickets. Graduating students sit with fellow graduates and do not require a ticket for themselves. Children ages 2 and under who can sit in an adult’s lap do not need tickets. Tickets are free and may not be bought or sold.  In January graduating students will receive a form to RSVP for the Commencement Ceremony.  Only graduating students who RSVP they will participate in the ceremony may request guest tickets.  They will receive an order form via email in mid-February.  The ticket allotment will be determined by the number of those attending and the size of our venue. Tickets are distributed to the graduating students on-campus - the distribution dates/times will be sent in April.  

Live streaming of the ceremony is available for those who are unable to obtain tickets.

Degrees are conferred in groups by major, though no actual diplomas are issued at the main ceremony. Only the doctoral students will walk across the stage and be recognized by name at the main ceremony. Most undergraduates will receive their actual diploma and be recognized by name at their departmental ceremony on Sunday. Only graduate level business, education, and marine science majors will receive diplomas on Saturday at separate ceremonies.

Entrances and Seating in Kaplan Arena
Helpful things to know about the main ceremony
  • There are no assigned seats in Kaplan Arena.
  • Accessibility accommodations are available for guests with limited mobility and hearing impairment.
  • Commencement tickets are distributed on-campus in late April/early May to graduating students. Only the graduating student may pick up his/her tickets.
  • All guests will pass through a security checkpoint before entering the arena. Be sure to review the list of prohibited items.
  • Concessions will be sold at Kaplan Arena prior to the start of the ceremony.
  • Kaplan Arena can get quite chilly – we suggest guests bring a sweater or jacket.
Prohibited Items (Kaplan Arena)

The prohibited items list is for the enjoyment and safety of Commencement guests. This list is subject to change as conditions warrant.

  • Backpacks (exceptions: diaper bags, string backpacks)
  • Bags measuring larger than 1’ x 1’ x 1’
  • Umbrellas: Leave umbrellas at the door in an umbrella bin.
  • Outside food & drink (except for 1 factory sealed non-alcoholic beverage per person, no larger than one liter; juice boxes, factory sealed infant snacks, and baby food).  Limited concessions will be sold in the Hall.
  • Camera Tripods / Monopods / Selfie-Sticks
  • Firearms and other weapons
  • Laptop computers
  • Alcohol, use of any tobacco products, or illegal substances
  • e-cigarettes and vapor apparatuses
  • Noisemakers, laser pointers, balls, frisbees, inflatable objects
  • Chairbacks, coolers, ice chests
  • Pets
  • Strollers (there will be a stroller parking tent near the entrance)
  • Anything deemed unsafe by police or event staff
Departmental Ceremonies
Events on Saturday

Many programs offer receptions on Saturday for students and their guests. This is an ideal time for families to meet the faculty who have been so important in their student’s education. Please note that no undergraduate diplomas will be presented at these Saturday events (only graduate-level Business, Education, and Marine Science issue diplomas on Saturday). Check the Commencement schedule for times and locations.

Events on Sunday

Schools and departments hold individual ceremonies to present diplomas to graduating students. Typically, departmental ceremonies do not require tickets. However, we recommend students check with their department to find out if there are any seating limitations. 

Recommended Parking for  ceremonies

Graduation Event Traditions
Baccalaureate Service (Friday afternoon)

This multi-faith service celebrates the graduating class through music, readings, and prayers representative of several major faith traditions. Each year, an invited speaker offers words of wisdom for our graduates as they prepare to embark on their new journey outside of William & Mary. The service is planned by Campus Ministers United (CaMU) and leaders of the senior class. Graduates sit with their families for this service and no regalia are worn by degree candidates. 

Candlelight Ceremony (Friday evening)

The senior class selects one student, one administrator, and one member of the faculty to give brief remarks to the graduating class. The ceremony provides an opportunity for the senior class to celebrate and reflect on their time at the university. Families are welcome to attend, but please be advised there are no chairs for seating at this event. Graduating students wear cap and gown (tassel positioned on right side of mortar board).

Walk Across Campus (Saturday morning)

Degree candidates gather in the Wren Courtyard at 8:45 a.m. in full regalia for a final walk across campus together. The walk concludes at the Student Rec Center (undergraduates) and Kaplan Arena (graduate students). All guests attending the main ceremony in Kaplan Arena should be seated by 9:45 a.m. Spectators should plan accordingly if you plan to watch any of the walk along the route.

Alumni Induction Ceremony (Saturday evening)

This ceremony formally welcomes students as new W&M alumni. Following a brief reception, graduates will receive their alumni pins, recite the alumni pledge, and sign their class banner. No regalia is worn for this event. Dress comfortably.

Parking & Transportation
General Parking Restrictions

No parking is permitted at any time in the following areas:

  • Fire lanes
  • No parking zones
  • Jones Hall lot
  • Handicapped spaces (without proper permits)
  • "Reserved For" spaces
  • Meters at the Muscarelle Museum
  • "Official Vehicle" or Service/Vendor spaces
  • Grass and sidewalks (unless directed by a parking officer)
Parking for the Main Ceremony

Parking is on a first come, first served basis. Allow plenty of time. Parking in lots around Kaplan Arena fill up quickly. Once the lots around Kaplan Arena are full, cars will be directed to the parking deck and other satellite parking locations. The university provides a limited number of golf cart shuttles for certain areas on-campus for guests who may have trouble walking distances.

Starting on Friday (Commencement Weekend) guests may park in spaces marked Faculty/Staff, Resident Student, or Day Student. We recommend you consult the parking map (pdf) ahead of time for recommended parking lot locations for each event. 

Please pay attention to signage at all times related to no parking areas. These regulations are enforced 7 days/week, 24 hours/day. Pay attention to all temporary signs related to parking restrictions on campus.

Road Closures on Saturday 
  • Compton Drive (from Monticello Ave) is closed Saturday morning until 1:00 p.m.
  • The Walk Across Campus will block traffic on Ukrop Way from both directions starting at about 8:45 a.m. on Saturday. At this point, cars will be turned around in order to park in satellite parking areas.
Parking Regulations for City of Williamsburg

Streets surrounding the campus are controlled by the City of Williamsburg and enforced using color-coded decals. Do not park on streets that require a resident decal. Parallel parking is permitted in designated areas along Jamestown and Richmond roads on both Saturday and Sunday.

Parking for Departmental Ceremonies

To assist you in finding the best available parking for departmental ceremonies, we offer recommended parking zones and lots for each event. Please note, the suggested areas are not a guarantee that parking will be available in those locations. Parking throughout the weekend is limited and is first-come, first-served.

RECOMMENDed Parking for ceremonies 

Golf Cart Shuttles

Saturday: 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Shuttles are provided primarily for those who may have difficulty walking distances. Shuttle stops will be available at the following locations:

Shuttles will have set routes. On Saturday, they will primarily shuttle guests to and from Kaplan Arena to the stops above. On  Sunday, carts will run set loops across campus to assist guests from the stops above.

Vehicle Access Pass (Saturday's main ceremony only)

In order to access the limited mobility entrance (pdf) at Kaplan Arena, guests with limited mobility and/or wheelchair tickets may request a Vehicle Access Pass. We recommend guests with limited mobility or other accessibility needs arrive by 8:45 a.m. After 8:45 a.m., guests with a Vehicle Access Pass should approach Kaplan arena from the Jamestown Road side of campus (via Ukrop Way). If approaching from Richmond Rd., guests will be delayed due to the student "Walk Across Campus" crossing Ukrop Way in front of Kaplan Arena. 

Handicapped Parking Locations

Handicapped plates and hangtags from any state are valid for parking in handicapped-designated spaces. Accessible parking can be found around campus on a first-come, first-served basis.

Accessibility Services

Graduating Students

Students who need special accommodations for either the main ceremony or departmental ceremonies should contact Student Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office. The Dean of Students Office is located in the Campus Center, Room 109 or can be reached by phone at 757-221-2510.


William & Mary will reasonably accommodate persons in need of these services. The main entrances to Kaplan Arena have a significant number of steps and once inside, there are also a number of steps to access general seating. We strongly recommend that anyone who may have difficulty with stairs request a Vehicle Access Pass for drop-off (pdf) at the back ramp of Kaplan Arena.

Vehicle Access Pass

Only drivers with a college-issued Vehicle Access Pass OR a state issued handicap tag will be allowed access to the ramp (pdf) at Kaplan Arena.  Those who have a wheelchair or limited mobility ticket should use this entrance along with one extra person may accompany them for assistance. The Vehicle Access Pass is for Saturday’s main ceremony only and does not allow you to park in handicapped spaces.

All other members of the party with general admission tickets should park where directed by staff, then enter the arena through the main entrances and sit in general seating. 

Special Seating Tickets 

We offer special seating tickets for wheelchair seating, limited mobility guests, and guests requiring American Sign Language interpretation. These seating areas are displayed on the seating diagram (pdf) and described in more detail below.

Wheelchair Section:

  • Special tickets are required for this section (floor seating).
  • Request a Vehicle Access Pass for access to the Kaplan Arena ramp.
  • One additional person may sit with him/her in this section. 
  • The university is not able to provide wheelchairs.

Limited mobility seating:

  • Special seating tickets are required for this section. 
  • Request a Vehicle Guest Drop-off Pass for access to the Kaplan Arena ramp.
  • Please note this section requires the negotiation of approximately 3-12 steps.
  • One additional person may sit with him/her in this section. 

American Sign Language Interpretation (ASL):

  • For deaf and hard-of-hearing guests who require ASL interpretation.
  • Request a Vehicle Guest Drop-off Pass for access to the Kaplan Arena ramp (for closest access to this section).
  • If possible, we will try and accommodate all members of your party in this section.
  • ASL interpretation is also available at the departmental ceremonies upon request.

You may request any of the above services by completing the Accessibility Request Form by April 15. Email [[commencement]] with any questions you may have.