About the Ceremony

The Commencement ceremony dates back to 1758 and has been held outdoors on the Morningside campus since 1926.

It is a centuries-old tradition in which the President of the University grants degrees en masse to graduating students from eighteen schools, colleges, and affiliated institutions. During this ceremony, remarkable members of the Columbia community and special guests are also recognized through the conferring of medals, awards, and honorary degrees. It is Columbia tradition that the University Commencement address is given by the President of the University.

While each school holds an individual graduation ceremony, the University President is the only person who can confer the actual degrees. As part of the ceremony, each dean steps forward to request that the President confer degrees on the school's candidates; this tradition has become a memorable part of the ceremony. After the University President has conferred all degrees, cheers, applause, and celebration ensue as the class officially graduates.

With thousands of degree candidates, participants, and guests in attendance, the ceremony is an unforgettable, grand-scale celebration that appropriately marks the academic achievements of the University graduates. No degree candidate officially graduates until the University Commencement ceremony is completed.

The Columbia University Commencement ceremony of the 266th academic year will take place on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 10:30 a.m. outdoors on the Morningside campus, rain or shine. All eligible May 2020 degree candidates, and February 2020 and October 2019 graduates, from all schools and colleges affiliated with Columbia University are encouraged to attend.

Family and friends of Columbia's graduates are integral to the University Commencement celebration. Tickets are required for admission.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. with the academic procession. It ends shortly after 12:00 p.m. Gates to campus open at 8:30 a.m. and a ticket is required for entrance.


The ceremony is held outdoors on the Morningside campus, rain or shine. The Levien Gymnasium will serve as an indoor, weather-friendly, accessible viewing location for any guests with a general admission ticket.


In keeping with tradition, the University President is the Commencement speaker.

Commencement History & Regalia

University Commencement has been a Columbia tradition since 1758, when the first ceremony was held at St. George's Chapel on Beekman Street. Learn more about the history of the ceremony and some of the traditions still observed today.

What to Expect

Please read the following for important details as you plan for Commencement Day.

  • Guest admission information
    Guest Admission

    The General Admission line forms at West 115th Street and Broadway for outdoor seating. Gates open to ticket holders at 8:30 a.m. Guests with disabilities should reference Disabilities Services for more information on gate accessibility on the Morningside campus.

  • Guest seating information
    Guest Seating

    Tickets are required for entrance to the Morningside campus on Commencement Day. Find more information about ticket registration. A ticket does not guarantee a seat; seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis, are unassigned, and cannot be reserved.

  • Weather information

    The Commencement ceremony is an outdoor event that is held rain or shine. Please bring sunscreen and a hat as well as an umbrella or a raincoat should there be inclement weather. The Levien Gymnasium is also available as an indoor, accessible viewing location for any guest with a general admission ticket.

  • Green initiatives information
    Green Initiatives

    Columbia is committed to global sustainability efforts. We encourage you to bring your own reusable bottle and fill up at any of our water refill stations available on Morningside Campus during Commencement Week. For more information, visit Green Initiatives

  • Street closures information
    Street Closures

    Many streets surrounding the Morningside campus will be closed to both traffic and parking by the NYPD during Commencement Week. Updates will be posted regularly on Parking & Directions.

  • Bag information

    For security reasons and to save time, please refrain from bringing bags to campus on Commencement Day. Any bags or packages brought to the ceremony will be subject to search.

  • After the ceremony information
    After the Ceremony

    The ceremony will end shortly after 12:00 p.m. With over 30,000 individuals on campus for the day, we recommend graduates and their family choose a designated area off-campus to meet after the ceremony.