William & Mary

Doctoral Candidates

Senior Class Candlelight Ceremony (Friday)

The Candlelight Ceremony provides a time for celebration and reflection. Families are welcome to attend. In the event of light-to-moderate rain, the ceremony will go on as planned in the Wren Yard. In the event of severe weather (downpour, high winds, and/or thunder/lightning), the ceremony will be cancelled. Caps and gowns (but not hoods) should be worn to the Candlelight Ceremony. The tassel should be worn on the right side of the mortar board.

Walk Across Campus (Saturday)

Degree candidates who wish to participate should gather in front of the Wren Building at 8:45 a.m. for a final walk together across campus. Class Officers will introduce the three Honorary Marshals who will lead the procession from the Wren Building to William & Mary Hall. Caps, gowns, and hoods should be worn for the Walk Across Campus. The tassel should be worn on the right side of the mortar board. Mortar boards may not have objects or inappropriate messages attached.

Main Commencement Ceremony (Saturday)
  • Arrival: Candidates for doctoral degrees should arrive at W&M Hall no later than 9:20 a.m. it is crucial that you are not late;
  • Entrance to Hall: Your entrance is on the side of building facing Commons Dining Hall; 
  • Where you need to be: Go directly into the Wightman Cup Room;
  • Staging Area: Watch for signs directing you to the appropriate staging area;
  • Check-in:  you must check-in with the staff overseeing doctoral candidate line-up. Since your name will be read by the Dean of your school at the main ceremony we must confirm that you have arrived well in advance of the start of the Academic Procession; and
  •  Academic Procession: Faculty Marshals will form the academic procession with the doctoral candidates and will lead the procession at the appointed time. 

Conferral of Degrees:  At the point in the ceremony where the doctoral degrees are conferred, the candidates will be asked to rise and the degree will be conferred on each degree category separately by the President of the University. After the degree has been conferred, you will called in alphabetical order within your respective degree category (PhD - Arts & Sciences), (PhD - Marine Science), (PhD or EdD- Education).


  • Candidates will proceed to the foot of the stairs on the (audience's) right-hand side of the stage, remain in alphabetical order. The first candidate will proceed to the top of the stairs;
  • As the Dean calls the first candidate's name, that candidate should proceed to the center of the stage to receive a substitute diploma from the President. The next candidate should move to the top of the stairs while the previous candidate is walking to the center;
  • After receiving the substitute diploma from the President, each candidate should continue across the stage, exit by the stairs on the (audience's) left side, and return to his/her seat.  The next candidate should begin walking toward the center immediately after the previous candidate has received the substitute diploma; and
  • This process will be repeated for each group of doctoral recipients.