Commencement FAQ

The Commencement Ceremony

When is commencement?

Georgetown’s 2020 Commencement Weekend will take place from Thursday, May 14 through Sunday, May 17. The Georgetown College Commencement ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 16 at 9:00 a.m. 

What if it rains?

In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will move to McDonough Gymnasium and be held twice: 9:00 a.m. for graduates with last names A-K, and 11:30 a.m. for graduates with last names L-Z. Students will report to the Thompson Intercollegiate Athletic Center, where they will line up for the procession directly into McDonough. 

What is the structure of the commencement ceremony? How long does it last?

In good weather, the ceremony is held outside on Healy Lawn. Graduates are lined up in Red Square and process to the lawn before the official start time, with the procession typically beginning a half hour before the ceremony is scheduled to start. The student procession is followed by the faculty procession, and the ceremony begins as soon as the procession has concluded and faculty have taken their places on the stage. Note that the graduates process and are seated in alphabetical order by degree, with B.S. candidates first and A.B. candidates following.

The Dean of the College conducts the ceremony, which includes the conferral of the honorary degree and the commencement address from the honoree. Later in the ceremony, all graduates are recognized individually, crossing the stage as their names are read out. After all graduates have been recognized, President DeGioia offers concluding remarks, and then, following the Alma Mater and benediction, first the faculty and then the students recess at the conclusion of the ceremony.

The entire ceremony lasts approximately two hours, and all graduates are encouraged to collect their diplomas immediately following (on Copley Lawn if the weather permits, in ICC Galleria otherwise).

Is there a rehearsal for graduation? How do I know where to go and what to do?

Seniors will receive full instructions on line-up and procession from the College Dean’s Office around May 1. There is no rehearsal for the commencement ceremony, but important details will be reviewed in the classrooms to which students are required to report in advance of the procession. Thus it is imperative that students report to their assigned classrooms on time (i.e., no later than 7:45 a.m. for a 9:00 a.m. ceremony).

Do we need tickets for the commencement ceremony? Where should we sit?

No tickets are required if the weather is good and the ceremony is held outside on Healy Lawn. Seating is open and first come, first served. Please cooperate with the ushers and steer clear of the graduate seating area directly in front of the stage. We also ask that guests depart the seating area immediately after the ceremony in order to allow guests for the following ceremony to take their seats. Families and friends should plan to meet their graduates on Copley Lawn after the students have recessed.

If Commencement is held in McDonough Arena due to inclement weather, then printed tickets are required. Each graduate may claim up to six (6) rain-site tickets. No guests will be admitted to a rain ceremony in McDonough without a printed rain-site ticket, and the College cannot be responsible for lost rain-site tickets. Children ages two (2) and under are not required to have a ticket. If attending without a ticket, they must sit on the lap of an accompanying adult. All children ages three (3) years or older must have a ticket.

When students claim their rain-site tickets, they will also be able to join a waitlist for up to two (2) additional tickets. These tickets will be released via lottery in early May. McDonough Arena will be filled to capacity, so additional guests should plan to view the ceremony online via live stream, or from the tent outside McDonough Arena.

How will I know if the ceremony is being held on Healy Lawn or in McDonough Arena?

In the event of inclement weather, we make a decision three hours in advance and move the ceremony to McDonough Arena if necessary. The decision about whether to hold the ceremony on the lawn or in the gymnasium will be posted on the College website and Twitter feed, and on

If it rains, can I attend the first ceremony even though my name is in the second half of the alphabet?

No. You must attend the ceremony that corresponds to the first letter of your last name.

Someone in my family requires special accommodation seating. What should I do? 

Special accommodation seating is available by request for family members who need sign language interpretation or have mobility issues. Guests with mobility issues may be assisted by one companion. All special accommodation requests must be made by May 1 (a good faith effort will be made to fulfill requests made after this date). A request form will be circulated by the Dean’s Office in early April, and all guests and companions will be issued special accommodation tickets. In the event of inclement weather, those with special accommodation seating must present both their special accommodation tickets and their rain-site tickets to the ushers in McDonough Arena. Please note: it can be hot in Washington in late May, and there is no shade on the lawn. Guests who are susceptible to the heat may wish to view the ceremony indoors at one of the remote viewing locations; it is also streamed live on the university website.

Can family and friends at home see the ceremony? Will there be a recording they can watch at a later date?

Yes, the ceremony will be broadcast live via webcast.

Who is the Georgetown College commencement speaker?

The Office of Communications announces the names of commencement speakers for all Georgetown ceremonies about a week before Commencement Weekend. Recent speakers have included Lisa Shannon, founder of Run for Congo Women; Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., Vatican astronomer; Alexandra Cousteau (C’98), filmmaker and environmental activist; and Sister Mary Scullion, president and executive director of Project HOME.  

Where do I get my cap and gown?

Caps, gowns, and hoods required for graduation are available to purchase from Jostens at the Georgetown University Bookstore beginning on Senior Parents Weekend in February. The university offers eco-friendly gowns and hoods. Some seniors may still have the gowns that they wore during New Student Convocation. If so, they may elect to purchase only the cap, tassel, and hood for graduation. Contact the bookstore for hours and pricing.

Where can I get invitations and announcements?

Personalized graduation announcements may be ordered through Jostens. Please contact the bookstore or visit for more information.

Where can visitors park on campus? 

During Commencement Weekend, we urge families and visitors to avoid driving to and parking on or near campus if at all possible. A very limited number of daily parking spaces are available in the Southwest Garage for guests. Please visit the university’s commencement website for more information on parking options and alternatives.

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Degrees, Diplomas, and Honors

Why is my degree an A.B. instead of a B.A.?

A.B. stands for Artium Baccalaureatum, the Latin translation of Bachelor of Arts. Your diploma will be issued in Latin. You will receive a translation of the diploma at the ceremony.

How are graduation honors determined?

Honors are conferred based on the student’s cumulative grade-point average (GPA), and the minimum marks are determined according to percentiles of the previous year’s graduating class (see #11 here (new window) for a full explanation). For the Georgetown College Class of 2020 (including August 2019 and December 2019 grads), honors will be awarded as follows: summa cum laude, 3.932 and above; magna cum laude, 3.848 to 3.931; cum laude, 3.785 to 3.847. GPAs are calculated to three decimal places and are not rounded up. Students completing their degree requirements in May will have their tentative graduation honors, based on GPA at press time, listed in the commencement program. Final honors, determined after all spring grades have been included, are posted on diplomas and final transcripts.

Does the College give Latin honors cords for Commencement?

The College distributes cords to students graduating summa cum laude at the Tropaia ceremony.  Students graduating magna cum laude and cum laude will have their honors listed in the Tropaia and Commencement programs, but will not receive cords.

I’m a double major. Will I receive two degrees? Two diplomas?

No. A double major earns only one degree. Students double majoring in fields that lead to different degrees (e.g., Biology and English) receive the degree associated with their first major.

Are majors, minors, certificates, and honors indicated on the diploma?

Your diploma will include only your name, date of graduation, degree earned, and graduation honors (e.g., summa cum laude) as appropriate. Majors, minors, certificates, and departmental honors are not marked on the diploma but do appear on your official transcript.

What is the size of the diploma? Where can I buy a frame for it? How should I display it?

The Georgetown diploma measures 17 in. (43 cm.) wide by 14 in. (35.5 cm.) high. Diploma frames are available at the Georgetown University Bookstore.

At the ceremony, you will receive a rolled translation of the degree with a blue and gray ribbon. Make a point of holding on to the ribbon if you wish to display the ribbon as an element in framing the diploma. The ribbon may be unstitched, pressed, and then arranged diagonally across a corner of the diploma, or the ribbon may be left as is and displayed in the lower left hand corner. 

What happens if I owe the university money? Can I still graduate?

Though the degree is conferred, university policy dictates that any student with an unpaid balance will not be issued a diploma or transcript until the account is settled. For seniors, there will be special billings in March and April. Please check the status of your account in early May to make certain that your account is clear. All outstanding balances (library fines, room damage charges, parking tickets) must be paid before Commencement. The Office of Student Accounts will not be open during Commencement Weekend, so accounts must be cleared in advance.

What is Tropaia?

Tropaia (the name is from the Ancient Greek, from which we derive the English word trophy) is the College’s annual awards ceremony, held on the Friday of Commencement Weekend in Gaston Hall. Highlights include departmental awards, several College-wide awards for outstanding seniors, the Bunn Award for Faculty Excellence and Bunn address, and the Cohonguroton, or valedictory, address(es). See the undergraduate bulletin for a full list of awards. Students being honored will receive invitations in the spring, but all students and families are welcome to attend and celebrate their friends and classmates. A reception for all College graduates and their guests follows in the ICC Galleria. 

What is Phi Beta Kappa? Do I need to apply?

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and largest academic honors society. Generally, the top 10 percent of the Georgetown College graduating class is invited to join. Interested students need not apply, as all eligible candidates are invited in early-April. The PBK initiation ceremony is held on the Thursday evening preceding Commencement Weekend, and all are welcome to attend. 

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August Graduation

When do I walk? Can I participate in the May commencement ceremony?

The College only holds one ceremony each year, in May. August graduates may participate in either the May ceremony immediately preceding their date of graduation or the May ceremony immediately following the completion of the degree. Students who can demonstrate a plan to complete their remaining requirements (up to 12 credits) by August are eligible to participate in the May commencement ceremony preceding their graduation date. August candidates participating in the May commencement ceremony preceding their graduation date cross the stage and have their names read as usual, integrated with the May graduates, but their names are not printed in the Commencement book.

Do I need to do anything special to attend the May commencement? 

To participate in the ceremony that precedes your date of graduation, you should speak to your dean and confirm that your degree progress permits your participation. August graduates will automatically be on mailing lists for both the May ceremony that precedes and the May ceremony that follows their degree completion.

Will my name be listed in the commencement program?

No, if you are participating in the ceremony that precedes the date of your formal graduation. The program lists the names of students who have completed all degree requirements. The program printed for the following year’s May ceremony will include full name, high school, and academic honors as appropriate for all August graduates. 

When will I receive my diploma?

Diplomas for August graduates are ordered in early September. Please contact the dean’s office (202-687-4043; no later than September 30th if you wish to pick up your diploma in person. We expect delivery of diplomas from the vendor by this date, but please confirm before coming to the office. Diplomas that have not been designated for pick-up will be mailed (by registered mail) to the student’s permanent address, as reported on the Application for the Degree. If you have special instructions about where to mail your diploma, please contact the Dean’s Office.

What about Senior Week?

Senior Week is managed by the Senior Class Committee, which can provide more details. August graduates may participate in the Senior Week that precedes or follows their graduation date, but may only participate once.

How do I assure an employer or graduate school that I have graduated? 

We conduct the formal review of the August degree candidates in September each year, and notify the registrar to post the degree on your transcript. If you need a certification letter indicating the conferral of the degree, please contact the dean’s office.

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December Graduation

Is there a ceremony in December?

No, but there is a reception for December graduates and their families; this year’s reception will take place on Friday, December 13 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Invitations will be mailed to degree candidates and their families in October. For more information, contact the dean’s office at 202-687-4043;

Do I need to do anything special to attend the May commencement? 

No. We will expect your participation in Commencement the following May unless you inform us that you will not attend.

When do I get my diploma?

Diplomas for December graduates are ordered by January 15th. Please contact the dean’s office (202-687-4043; no later than January 30th if you wish to pick up your diploma in person. We expect delivery of diplomas from the vendor by this date, but please confirm before coming to the office. Diplomas that have not been designated for pick-up will be mailed (by registered mail) to the student’s permanent address, as reported on the Application for the Degree. If you have special instructions about where to mail your diploma, please contact the dean’s office.

How do I assure an employer or graduate school that I have graduated?

We conduct the formal review of the December degree candidates in late January each year, and notify the registrar to post the degree on your transcript. If you need a certification letter indicating the conferral of the degree, please contact the dean’s office.

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