Below are answers to frequently asked questions to help you navigate Commencement Week. If your question is not answered below, please reach out to the Commencement Office by phone at 212-854-1753 or email at commencement@columbia.edu.

COVID-19 Inquiries

As President Bollinger noted in his message to the community, due to guidance from the CDC, local government, and public health officials on the COVID-19 pandemic, Commencement will not be taking place in its traditional format on campus on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

The University and individual schools are reviewing all possible options to celebrate Class Day and School ceremonies. We will communicate details as soon as more information is available.

Diplomas will be mailed directly to students at the DP address on file with Student Services Online (SSOL). Please be sure your address is up to date on SSOL and contact the Diploma Office with any additional questions.

The Columbia Bookstore has guaranteed that all regalia orders will be refunded. 

  • Bachelor’s and Master’s degree students who still wish to purchase regalia can still order online directly through Oakhall by Monday, May 4 to be directly shipped to students. 
  • Doctoral degree students who still wish to rent regalia should email Tom Spalango at the Columbia Bookstore to make necessary arrangements.

Please contact the Columbia Bookstore directly with additional questions or if you would like to return your regalia. 

Family and friends are advised to cancel travel plans to the University for May 2020 Commencement.

Individuals in need of an official confirmation of cancelation to request refunds for their travel and accommodations can request this by contacting the Commencement Office

General

University Commencement will be held on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The degree candidate procession will begin at 9:00 a.m. General admission gates open at 8:30 a.m. The ceremony is a ticketed event held outdoors on the Morningside campus. Those invited to participate in the Commencement ceremony include students from every Columbia school or affiliate institution who graduated in October 2019, February 2020, and May 2020.

In addition to University Commencement, Columbia's sixteen schools, Barnard College, and Teachers College will each hold a graduation ceremony, sometimes called a Class Day, during Commencement Week (May 16 – 20, 2020). For more information, please visit School Ceremonies for more information.

"Graduation" is the term for completing your course of study at the University and fulfilling the requirements for your degree. In order to graduate and obtain your diploma, you must submit an Application for Degree or Certificate with the Office of the Registrar. Each of Columbia's sixteen schools and two affiliate institutions holds graduation ceremonies (sometimes called a school ceremony, convocation, or Class Day) to honor the accomplishments of the graduating class.

Commencement Day or University Commencement ceremony refers to the University-wide ceremony celebrating those who are receiving their degrees from all Columbia schools in a given year. At the University Commencement ceremony, degrees are symbolically conferred on candidates by the University President. Attending the University Commencement ceremony is not required to graduate from the University and receive your diploma. There is only one University Commencement ceremony for the year, which is held in May. All graduates from the previous October, and from February and May of the current year, are invited to attend.

For more information about graduation, please visit the Office of the Registrar.

For more information on specific ceremonies, Class Days, and receptions, as well as diploma pick-up times and locations, please reference School Ceremonies.

Degrees are awarded for all schools in October 2019, February 2020, and May 2020. They are also awarded in June for some Health Sciences programs. Every candidate whose graduation date falls during these periods is invited to participate in the annual University Commencement ceremony held in May, when degrees are officially conferred. For May graduates, diplomas are distributed only after degrees have been conferred at University Commencement.

Yes, there are designated areas equipped with wheelchair assistance, hearing assistance devices, closed caption monitors, and large print programs for guests with disabilities and their parties. Special tickets are not required.

To utilize these services, please enter campus at the following gates on Commencement Day:

  • 116th Street and Amsterdam Avenue
  • 115th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (between Wallach and Hartley Halls)

A shuttle bus will be circling the campus perimeter before the ceremony to help transport guests to the designated gates. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer special parking for guests with disabilities. If you or your party would like to access the shuttle bus, kindly ask any Event Host in a blue shirt for assistance.

Please visit Disability Services for more information.

There are designated gates for guests with disabilities or limited mobility, and the elderly needing assistance.

The following gates should be used on Commencement Day:

  • 116th Street and Amsterdam Avenue
  • 115th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (between Wallach and Hartley Halls)

We strongly recommend that guests with disabilities enter campus through the designated gates identified above. The general admission gates on 114th Street have stairs and are a considerable distance from the designated disability seating areas. The large crowds at Commencement will make movement difficult and there will be no cross-campus access on Commencement Day. Movement from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue may require traveling long distances around the campus perimeter.

Please visit Disability Services for more information.

Columbia University tradition holds that all degrees are conferred at the University Commencement ceremony, in which members of all schools are invited to participate. However, each of the University's eighteen schools and affiliate institutions also honors its graduates with a separate event, unique to each school.

Please note that these events are organized separately by individual schools, take place at various times and locations across the city, and may require tickets. Although the Commencement website is updated regularly, please confirm all dates, times, and locations with your school before making final plans, as some information may change. For more information on specific ceremonies, Class Days, and receptions, as well as diploma pick-up times and locations, please reference School Ceremonies.

Note: Any questions that are not answered on the official Commencement website should be directed to the contact listed for each school.

Undergraduates from Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences should visit GradZone for more information.

The University Commencement ceremony and individual Class Days and graduations are held in various locations. Please refer to the Schedule of Events for further details.

Please visit the Plan Your Visit section of this website for more information.

A webcast of the University Commencement ceremony is available on the Commencement website for live, online viewing the day of Commencement, as well as after the ceremony.

In addition to University Commencement, webcasts of the graduation and Class Day ceremonies are also available for viewing on the Commencement website for the following schools: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of General Studies, Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Columbia College, Columbia Law School, and the School of International and Public Affairs.

Please note: These webcasts are available to be viewed on demand via the Commencement website. There are no DVDs or downloadable copies available for purchase.

Photos of University Commencement are not available for distribution or purchase. Please direct any inquiries about photos taken at any graduation ceremony directly to the individual school. Appropriate school contact information can be found on School Ceremonies.

Pets are not permitted at any time, on campus or in any of the venues during Commencement week. Assistance animals are also not permitted, including Disability Services approved assistance animals that reside with students in University Housing. Individually trained service dogs that perform specific work or tasks for a person with a disability are welcome on campus and in any of the venues. For more information please contact Disability Services at access@columbia.edu.

 

Commencement Day

Commencement is traditionally held on the third Wednesday in May. The date is selected and confirmed by the University Senate and publicized on the academic calendar on the University Registrar's website.

All Commencement dates are subject to change. Please contact the Commencement Office with any questions. 

  • May 20, 2020
  • May 19, 2021
  • May 18, 2022

If you or one of your guests is feeling ill on Commencement Day (i.e., experiencing muscle aches, fever, fatigue, coughing, etc.), we respectfully request that you reconsider your attendance for the sake of your own health and the health of those around you. To safeguard against the spread of illness, it is recommended that anyone feeling sick remain at home and rest until 24 hours after the symptoms have passed. If you or one of your guests becomes ill during the ceremony, please notify an Event Host, an information booth staffer, or a member of Public Safety, all of whom will be able to arrange for immediate medical attention. You may also call Health Services at Columbia University at 212-854-2284.

To learn more about precautionary measures recommended for preventing the spread of illness, please visit the University's preparedness tips page.

It is Columbia tradition that the President of the University speaks at University Commencement. Many of the schools within Columbia have guest speakers at their individual ceremonies. For more information on the School speakers, please refer to School Ceremonies.

Children are welcome at University Commencement. All children over the age of three must have a ticket to attend.

Because of space constraints, it is recommended that you leave strollers at home. There is no stroller parking or storage available; however, if you must bring a stroller to University Commencement, please do not use the general admission gates to enter. Please enter at the accessible gate at Amsterdam and 115th Street.

Please keep in mind that Commencement Day is a crowded outdoor event with little space to move around and may prove to be a challenging environment for small children. However, guests can also view the ceremony from Levien Gymnasium, an indoor, accessible viewing location.

Guests should bring a printout of their University Commencement ticket for seamless entry through the general admission gates.

Plan ahead, bring your own reusable water bottle to fill up at water stations and hydrate regularly. 

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

University Commencement, as well as individual school ceremonies and the Baccalaureate Service, will take place rain or shine.

The campus will be closed to the general public until the ceremony has ended. Tickets will be checked at designated entrance gates to the Morningside campus, which open for ticket holders at 8:30 a.m.

Nongraduating students and employees with a CUID may be on campus but should not expect to attend the ceremony without a ticket, as seating is very limited.

All children over the age of three require a ticket. Lost tickets will not be replaced.

Tickets

Tickets to University Commencement are required for everyone except degree candidates and officers of the University participating in the ceremony. They are valid only for the University Commencement ceremony.

Note: A ticket will allow for admission to the campus but does not guarantee a seat. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be reserved. The selling or buying of University Commencement tickets is strictly prohibited. Please be cautious of offers to sell or buy Commencement tickets. Tickets hold no official resale value and may be unauthorized copies, therefore deemed unusable and denied on Commencement Day. Commencement tickets are solely for the purpose of allowing the friends and relatives of graduating students to attend the ceremony.

The campus will be closed to the general public until the ceremony has ended. Tickets will be checked at designated entrance gates to the Morningside campus starting at 8:30 a.m. Nongraduating students and employees with a CUID may be on campus but should not expect to attend the ceremony without a ticket, as seating is very limited. All children over the age of three require a ticket. Lost tickets will not be replaced.

For further information on ticketing, online registration, and guest procedures, please visit the Ticket Information section on the Graduating Students page.

Ticket requirements vary for the individual school ceremonies, including Class Day and graduations. Please reference School Ceremonies for further details regarding tickets.

Ticket requirements vary for the individual school ceremonies, including Class Day and graduations. Please reference School Ceremonies for further details regarding tickets.

For University Commencement: Each undergraduate degree candidate may request up to four (4) tickets and graduate degree candidates may request up to two (2) tickets. (Ticket allocations are determined by the number of graduates, along with the spatial and security constraints of campus.)

All graduating students who would like to participate in Commencement are required to register online. Graduating students do not need tickets for themselves; however, they do need to register in order to attend and to request tickets for their guests. Guests are then required to present these tickets to access the ceremony at all general admission entrances for the outdoor seating area on Low Plaza and South Field or the indoor viewing location in the Levien Gymnasium. The number of graduates, along with the spatial and security constraints of campus, necessitate a limit on the number of tickets per student.

Ticket requirements vary for the individual school ceremonies, including Class Day and graduations. Please reference School Ceremonies for further details regarding tickets, and reach out to the school contact listed on their page.

Selling Commencement tickets is strictly prohibited. Please be cautious of offers to sell or buy Commencement tickets. Tickets hold no official resale value and may be unauthorized copies, therefore deemed unusable and denied on Commencement Day. Commencement tickets are solely for the purpose of allowing the friends and relatives of graduating students to attend the ceremony. The campus will be closed to the general public until the ceremony has ended.

Ticket requirements may vary for the individual school ceremonies, including Class Day and graduations. Please reference School Ceremonies for further details regarding tickets, and reach out to the school contact listed on their page.

Unfortunately additional tickets for University Commencement cannot be accomodated. (Ticket allocations are determined by the number of graduates, along with the spatial and security constraints of campus.)

Ticket requirements vary for the individual school ceremonies, including Class Day and graduations. Please reference School Ceremonies for further details regarding tickets, and reach out to the school contact listed on their page.

For Graduates

All academic attire, including the cap and gown, is ordered through the Columbia University Bookstore. The best way to order academic attire, graduation announcements, class rings, and diploma frames is at the Graduation Fair.

The Morningside Campus Graduation Fair will be held at the Columbia University Morningside Campus Bookstore. The Medical School Graduation Fair will be held at the Medical Center Bookstore.

Undergraduates and master's candidates do not need to preorder regalia but can purchase their gowns at the bookstore. Master's candidates at Columbia do not receive hoods. PhD candidates must preorder academic attire for rental or purchase.

For further information on academic attire and the Graduation Fair, please visit Graduating Students.

Unless they have made arrangements for summer housing, graduating Columbia College and SEAS undergraduates must move out of University housing by noon on the day after the University Commencement ceremony.

Students from each of the individual schools line up on different areas of upper campus on the morning of the University Commencement ceremony. Please refer to the Assembly of Candidates map on the Campus Maps page.

Following the graduation ceremonies, diplomas for May 2020 graduates will be mailed to the "Diploma Address" that is on file in SSOL. October 2019 and February 2020 graduates will have received their diplomas in the mail up to two months following their graduation dates. Please visit the University Registrar for more information.

Please email the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at newsteam@columbia.edu to submit your story to the Commencement website.

Please confirm with your school. Some schools may extend invitations to graduates with children to have them participate in their Class Day ceremony. Students with children may be asked to register and participation may be limited to those who register in advance.

Public transportation to Morningside campus from CUIMC is recommended.

  • 1 train at the 168th St. station to 116th St.
  • M5 bus at 166th St. to 116th St. and Riverside Drive
  • CU Intercampus shuttle bus. Please visit Columbia Transportation for more information.

 

Planning Your Visit

There are limited on-campus accommodations available for guests during Commencement Week.

The Commencement room package includes a double room with two twin beds and a shared bath for three nights. The suite package includes two double rooms (total of four twin beds) and a private bath for three nights.

For more information, updates, pricing, and to make reservations, please visit the Housing Services and Commencement Housing website.

In addition to on-campus housing, off-campus accommodations for Commencement Week are also convenient. Some area hotels may offer special rates to Columbia guests. For a list of these hotels, please visit University Commencement Housing. It is recommended that you make your reservations for hotels in the Columbia neighborhood early.

Please note that if neighborhood hotels become booked, the city's numerous midtown hotels are only a short subway ride from the University.

Please see Parking & Directions for more information.

Parking in Morningside Heights on University Commencement morning is challenging and on-campus parking is not available to the general public during Commencement Week. Public transportation, such as a subway, bus, or taxi, is recommended. If you must drive, please leave plenty of time to find parking and allow time for walking to campus. There are only a few parking garages near campus that fill up quickly during Commencement Week and cannot be counted on for convenient parking.

A shuttle bus is available to take guests with disabilities and their families to designated campus gates near the accessible seating area on Commencement Day. These passengers can be dropped off anywhere around the perimeter of the Morningside campus and will be shuttled to the designated gate. There is no designated parking for guests with disabilities.

Finally, city parking rules will be in full effect during Commencement Week; please take note of meters and other parking regulations. Many streets surrounding campus are blocked off very early on the morning of University Commencement. If you park in a location near campus the night before University Commencement, please diligently check for any signage indicating street closures. Failure to notice these signs may result in your car being towed.

Please contact the International Students and Scholars Office with this request. Their contact information is below.

E: isso@columbia.edu
P: 212-854-3587
International House North
524 Riverside Drive, 1st Floor

New York, NY 10027

Columbia University will hold its annual Baccalaureate Service on Sunday, May 17, 2020, 10:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. at St. Paul's Chapel on the Morningside campus. This service is for degree candidates from the undergraduate schools: Columbia College, Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, School of General Studies, and Barnard College.

Families and friends of undergraduate candidates are invited to attend. No advance tickets are required.

As seating inside the chapel is limited and reserved primarily for the candidates, guests interested in attending the service are encouraged to arrive by 8:45 a.m. Additional seating outside the chapel with a simulcast of the service will be available.

Check the weather and plan accordingly, ceremonies will happen rain or shine. Dress appropriately and bring your own reusable bottle to fill up at water stations and hydrate regularly.

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. Locate water filling stations or find an Event Host, wearing a blue shirt, for assistance. 

Learn more about Columbia's Green Initiatives