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
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
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 8:45 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.
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. 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
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 (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.