Frequently Asked Questions
Do family members and guests need tickets to attend the Commencement ceremony?
Tickets are not required. We do ask that you limit your group size so that all the students will have room for their guests.
The only events during commencement week that require tickets are The Party on Wednesday and the School of Medicine hooding ceremony at Langford Auditorium.
To purchase tickets to The Party, click here . For more information regarding tickets to the School of Medicine ceremony, please contact Sarah Woodall (615-322-5007, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Venue and Ceremony
Will you stream the ceremony online?
Yes. Family and friends may view our Commencement main ceremony online through our live webcast. The livestream can be found on Vanderbilt's homepage, which is www.vanderbilt.edu. The stream will begin just before 9:00 am.
What time can guests begin to arrive?
You are free to arrive as early as you like, but most people begin arriving after 7:00 am. Alumni Lawn is fairly full by 8:00 am, so it is best to arrive early for optimal seating. Please note that saving seats is not permitted. All members of your party must be present to occupy seats.
How long does the ceremony usually last?
Usually 3 hours. The main ceremony starts at 9:00 am with a 10 minute break around 10:20 am for the Graduate/Professional students to recess. The undergraduates remain at the main ceremony to receive their diplomas. This concludes around noon followed by the Strawberries and Champagne reception for the undergraduate class.
Will concessions be available?
Water will be available at stations throughout campus. Local Java, which is located on the lower level of Sarratt Student Center at the back of Alumni Lawn, will be open and serving a limited menu of snacks, coffee, and other beverages. A portion of Rand Dining will be open as well.
What happens if it rains?
In the event of inclement weather, the main ceremony will be held in Memorial Gymnasium. The decision to enact the rain plan will be made by 5:00 am on Commencement Day. Announcements regarding the change will be sent via the Commencement App. If in doubt, updates will be made on this home page; you may check out our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or call Vanderbilt telephone operators at (615) 322-7311.
Umbrellas are not allowed at the main ceremony due to safety hazards in a crowded environment. Please bring a poncho.
Accessibility and Special Needs
We have a guest with special needs. Is there anything we need to do to make arrangements?
If you have a guest who requires special assistance while on campus, please read our Accessibility and Special Needs page for detailed information. You may request drop-off permits, wheelchairs, and more.
Does the person requiring the handicap drop-off permit, or wheelchair need to be the one to request it?
No, anyone from the party may request on his or her behalf.
Can my entire party sit in the wheelchair section?
Wheelchair seating is located in a designated section on Alumni Lawn. It may be viewed here. Each individual is allotted one companion seat per wheelchair. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate your entire party in this section. No advance reservations are needed to access this section. If your family member would prefer to sit with the rest of the group they may do so. The only requirement is that the chair in the row be moved to accommodate the wheelchair so as not to obstruct the path of other guests.
My parents live out of the country and need a visa to attend Commencement. Can Vanderbilt provide an invitation letter?
You may request an “Invitation Letter” for Commencement. For more information, please visit the International Student & Scholar Services website.
Does Vanderbilt host an Institute-wide celebration event for graduates and their families?
Yes. Vanderbilt actually hosts two celebratory events! The first is The Party which kicks off Commencement week on Wednesday. Tickets are required for all guests over the age of 12. Students may attend free of charge by claiming their complimentary ticket here. The second is Strawberries and Champagne, an annual event hosted by the Chancellor for all undergraduates and their guests immediately following the conclusion of the main commencement ceremony on Friday. Admission is free. The Graduate and Professional Schools have their own receptions following their individual ceremonies.
Who is the commencement speaker?
Vanderbilt differs from most universities, as we do not have a traditional graduation speaker. Instead, we have a Senior Day speaker who addresses graduates, guests, and the campus community the day before the main commencement ceremony during Senior Class Day. During the main commencement ceremony, it is university tradition to have the Chancellor be the final person to impart words of wisdom upon the graduates.
For more information on Senior Class Day, click here.
Can you confirm my eligibility at Commencement?
The Commencement Office is unable to confirm a student has fulfilled all graduation requirements and is registered to participate in commencement. Please contact the Office of the University Registrar to confirm.
What do I need to do to graduate and participate in Commencement exercises?
Students expecting to graduate in May 2019 should begin planning for commencement prior to Spring Semester 2019 by meeting with their academic adviser to ensure all degree requirements are being fulfilled. In addition to this, students need to fulfill a checklist of requirements to participate in the Commencement ceremony. For a full list, click here.
I have a question about my diploma.
Students with questions regarding their diploma should contact the Office of the University Registrar.
I am a summer 2019 graduate. May I participate in Commencement 2019?
While you will graduate in summer 2019, you will be invited to participate in the 2020 Commencement ceremony. All graduates receive their official diploma at the Commencement ceremony and therefore must complete all degree requirements to participate.
What is the difference between graduation and Commencement?
Graduation is the completion of all degree requirements as recorded on a student’s official transcript. Commencement is the ceremony that celebrates the completion of a degree.
May I decorate my cap and gown?
Vanderbilt adheres to traditional adornment policies when it comes to regalia (cap and gown). Students are not permitted to decorate their caps and gowns. The only acceptable adornments are those associated with an official university organization or group. For more information on the policy, click here .
How do I ensure my name is pronounced correctly?
There are two options for submitting the phonetic pronunciation of your name. The first is through the "YES" system where the participant may write their name pronunciation phonetically.
The second is via Name Coach which is a web service where you may upload an audio file of your name pronunciation. Emails to complete this step will go out in early spring from the Commencement office.