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.
7:00 am: Gates to Zable Stadium open
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 11:15 -11:30 a.m.
The Commencement Ceremony is held in Zable Stadium (football field) and requires tickets for general admission entry. Should the rain plan be implemented the ceremony will be moved to Kaplan Arena (basketball venue). The total number of guest tickets depends upon the number of graduating students who register to attend the main ceremony. In general, graduating students are eligible to receive between 5-6 guest tickets for the ceremony in Zable. If the rain-plan is called, only 3-4 of these guest tickets will be eligible for guest entry to Kaplan Arena. This is due to the substantial difference in seating between Zable Stadium and Kaplan Arena.
Due to the seating capacity, 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 February, undergraduate students will receive a form to register for the Commencement Ceremony. Graduate students (Masters, PhD, JD, MBA, etc.) will receive the form in March. Only graduating students who respond they will participate in the ceremony may request guest tickets. Final ticket allotment will be determined by the number of those attending. 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 Zable Stadium (good weather)
Entrances and Seating in Kaplan Arena (rain plan)
Helpful things to know about the main ceremony
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.
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 8:20 a.m. in full regalia for a final walk across campus together. The walk concludes outside Zable Stadium. Anyone planning to watch the walk should plan accordingly as all guests attending the main ceremony should be seated by 8:50 a.m.
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.
General Parking Restrictions
No parking is permitted at any time in the following areas:
Parking for the Main Ceremony
Parking is on a first come, first served basis. Allow plenty of time. All parking spaces immediately adjacent to Zable Stadium are reserved for limited mobility guests in order to reduce the distance from car to entrance. All other cars will be directed to the Kaplan Arena lot, 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
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.
Golf Cart Shuttles
Saturday: 8:00 am - 2:00 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 at either Zable Stadium or Kaplan Arena, guests with limited mobility may request a Vehicle Access Pass. We recommend guests with limited mobility or other accessibility needs arrive by 7:45 a.m.
If the rain plan is called: event will move to Kaplan Arena. Vehicle Access Pass holders should use Jamestown Road to Ukrop Way for their approach to Kaplan arena. If you approach from Richmond Rd. you will be delayed by the student "Walk Across Campus" crossing 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.
Graduating Students - Accommodation at the Commencement Ceremony
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.
Guests - Accommodation at the Commencement Ceremony
William & Mary will reasonably accommodate persons in need of these services. At Zable Stadium these seating sections will be on the ground-level.
Vehicle Access Pass
Only drivers with a college-issued Vehicle Access Pass OR a state-issued handicap tag will be allowed access to the limited-mobility drop-off locations. The Vehicle Access Pass is for Saturday’s main Commencement ceremony only and does not allow you to park in handicapped spaces. You may drop off the guest needing special accomodation along with one other person to assist them. All other members of the party with general admission tickets should park where directed by staff, then enter through the main entrances and sit in general seating.
Special Seating Areas
We offer special seating areas for wheelchair seating, limited mobility guests, and guests requiring American Sign Language interpretation. These areas are displayed on the seating diagram (available in March 2018) and described in more detail below.
All guests require a ticket to enter the stadium (or arena in case of inclement weather). Graduating students who participate in the Commencement Ceremony are eligible to receive 6 tickets to distribute to guests.
Wheelchair Section: (floor seating)
Limited mobility seating: (floor seating)
American Sign Language Interpretation (ASL):
We need your assistance in planning. Please let us know if you will be utilizing these services by completing the Accessibility Information Form by April 15. Email [[commencement]] with any questions you may have. Again no special tickets for these sections will be issued they are part of your original allotment of 6 tickets.
Rain Plan for the Commencement Ceremony
In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to Kaplan Arena. If we have to move indoors you will be able to use 4 specially marked tickets due to the smaller seating capacity of the arena. Kaplan Arena entrances have a significant number of steps and once inside there are also a significant number of steps to access general seating. Please take this into account - we recommend you still request a Vehicle Access Pass for drop-off at the arena's back ramp.