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Commencement Frequently Asked Questions


When should I arrive for Commencement Weekend? 

Commencement activities start on Friday evening. See Schedule of Events

Should I make any special travel arrangements? 

Dickinson is accessible by a variety of transportation methods. This is a busy weekend, and delays in traffic are not unusual. Please plan accordingly. 

How can I locate a list of local overnight accommodations and restaurants?  

Visit Accomodations & Dining to view a list of local restaurants and an unranked alphabetical listing of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts in Carlisle and the surrounding region. Please note that additional lodging is available in neighboring Boiling Springs, Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg. If making reservations for lunch following the ceremony, we recommend making your reservation for 1 p.m. or later. 

Where can I park? 

Parking spaces on or adjacent to the Dickinson campus are limited and may be particularly hard to find during Commencement Weekend. Some areas of campus may have greater availability for parking; they can be found on the college’s parking map

Are campus dining facilities open during Commencement Weekend? 

The Union Station and Dining Hall will have limited hours. See General Campus Information

How should I dress for Commencement? 

There’s no one way to dress for Commencement Weekend. Family members wear everything from suits and dresses to shorts and T-shirts. We do recommend, however, that you dress for Carlisle’s famously unpredictable spring weather, and for our walkable campus. Wear layers—temperatures can vary a lot from sun to shade, and from noon to evening—and bring comfortable shoes for walking around campus. And bring rain gear! Commencement will be held outdoors in all but the most severe weather. 

How and when does my student order his/her cap and gown? 

See Regalia and Diploma Pickup for more information. 

Where can I purchase invitations and graduation gifts? 

The college bookstore offers a variety of options for your graduate. Items can be purchased online, by calling 1-800-582-5436, or by visiting the store during Commencement Weekend. You may also pre-order flowers online from the Roots Cut Flower Farm. See Commencement Home for more information. The flowers will be available for pickup at a pop-up tent in front of Althouse throughout the Sunday ceremony. As you plan your at-home celebrations, we have pulled together fun and festive party printables from personalized yard signs and banners to candy wrappers and graduate advice cards.

Are pets allowed on campus? 

Although pets are allowed on the grounds, they are prohibited in the seating area for Commencement, all campus buildings and at all dining events. Service animals are welcome. 

Where can I retrieve an item I lost while on campus? 

Lost items will be held at the Department of Public Safety, located in Kaufman Hall. Inquiries about lost articles can be made in person or by calling 717-245-1349. 

What is the college doing to make Commencement "green”? 

Sustainability is an institutional commitment at Dickinson, and we model these actions during Commencement, as we do throughout the year. As we welcome thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni, family and guests to campus during Commencement Weekend, we are also mindful of the need to collectively reduce our environmental impacts, model social responsibility and maximize financial resources. Our efforts on that front include waste reduction, waste diversion from landfills, environmentally-preferable purchasing, energy conservation, local purchasing and community partnerships. During Commencement Weekend, we only use GreenWeaver® graduation gowns, made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. We honor seniors who signed Dickinson’s sustainability graduation pledge. We do not provide single-use plastic bottles. We compost 100% of pre- and post-consumer food waste from Dining Services. We support local businesses whenever possible, and 30 percent of the electricity we use during Commencement is generated by Dickinson’s 3-megawatt solar field. 


Are tickets needed? 

Tickets are only needed for an indoor Commencement, which occurs in the case of severe weather. See Severe Weather Plan for information about our indoor ticketing policy for the Commencement ceremony. 

How do I get indoor ceremony tickets? 

Tickets for an indoor Commencement, occurring in the case of severe weather, will be issued to graduating seniors, along with three complimentary advance tickets for brunch (graduate and two guests). Tickets will be distributed by the Office of Conferences & Special Events (CASE). See Severe Weather Plan for information about our indoor ticketing policy for the Commencement ceremony. 

Is there reserved seating for Commencement? 

Commencement seating for families is on a first-come, first-served basis. Early in the morning of Commencement, college staff will reserve seating for the graduating class and faculty, and special seating for those who have made arrangements in advance for attendees with physical disabilities and guests of the platform party. All other seats are unreserved and may be held after 6:30 a.m. There is no limit to the number of guests per student who may attend this ceremony, and no tickets are necessary, should the ceremony be held outdoors. See Severe Weather Plan for information about our indoor ticketing policy for the Commencement ceremony. 

Are there areas for handicapped seating at the graduation ceremonies? 

For an outdoor ceremony, a limited number of special-seating tickets are available for those who have difficulty walking or need wheelchair access. These may be obtained through the Office of Conferences & Special Events, 717-245-1900. For an indoor ceremony, students must exchange their general-seating tickets for special-seating tickets during the indoor ceremony ticket distribution time period. For more information, please see the Severe Weather Plan & Indoor Ticketing Policy. We regret that because of limited space, we can only accommodate one companion to the individual needing special seating. 

The college provides the services of a sign language interpreter for the Commencement ceremony. Individuals with impaired hearing who need to be able to see the signer should request special seating through the Office of Conferences & Special Events, 717-245-1900.

Those who have difficulty walking or use wheelchairs may want to arrange to be driven to the drop-off sites, which are identified on the campus map. The drop-off site for the Commencement ceremony will be the circular driveway behind Old West, accessible from W. Louther Street. If the Commencement ceremony must take place in the Kline Athletic Center due to severe weather conditions, the drop-off site will be the circular drive off W. High Street, in front of the entrance, at sidewalk level. 

Are there other areas on campus from which I can view the outside ceremony? 

Indoor viewing locations for the Commencement livestream will be available across campus to accommodate all members of a student’s party: 

  • Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium  
  • Rector: Stafford Auditorium 
  • Allison Hall: Great Hall 
  • Althouse 106* 
  • Stern Center: Great Room and Room 102* 
  • Bosler: Atrium and Room 208* 
  • Weiss 235* 

* All of the above locations are handicapped accessible. The locations distinguished by * will host live streaming of Commencement, whether the ceremony is held indoors or outdoors; the other locations will only host livestreams in the case of an indoor ceremony. 

For those who are unable to join us on campus for the Commencement ceremony, Dickinson will post a  Commencement livestream on the Commencement website.

Where do the graduates meet for the ceremony? 

The graduates will assemble at 9 a.m., forming two columns--alphabetically by last name--on the sidewalk adjacent to the John Dickinson Campus, along W. High Street. At 9:35 a.m., the entire procession will enter the academic quad at the gate at High and West streets and continue on a path, marked off by ropes across the grass, leading to the center aisle of seating. The graduates will then be escorted down the west/left side of the reserved seating area and directed to their appropriate rows.  

What takes place at the ceremony? 

Faculty, students and platform guests process onto the academic quad on the John Dickinson campus. The program begins with music and remarks from the college president. The new members of Phi Beta Kappa are recognized, followed by the presentation of the senior awards and announcement of the newly-elected Young Alumni Trustee. The honorary degrees are conferred and there is an address from a guest speaker, often a recipient of an honorary degree. Following the Commencement address, students are individually announced. Each one walks down the old stone steps of Old West to receive a diploma. Following the singing of the alma mater and the ceremonial ringing of the Denny bell, the recessional ends the exercises. 

How do I capture the big moment? 

Professional photographers hired by the college will take photos of graduates inside Old West and as they receive their diplomas from the president of the college. Island Photography of Port Washington, New York, will make these photos available on its website within two to three days of the event. If you have any questions, you can contact the company by calling 516-767-1234. 

A designated photo area will be set up along the ceremonial platform for families who wish to take additional photos. The graduates will accept their degrees in alphabetical order, and college personnel will be stationed adjacent to the photo platform to help determine when a family member of a given graduate may enter the photo area. To ensure that all families have access to the photo platform, only one family member per graduate will be permitted in the photo area. Once the graduate descends from the platform, we ask that the family member quickly exit the platform and return to his or her seat. 

Please note that this area is for photography only. No videos will be permitted to be filmed from the photo area, due to time constraints. A video of the ceremony will be available for viewing on the Commencement website

Where are the restrooms located? 

Restrooms are available in the Stern Center, Althouse, Bosler Hall and the Holland Union Building. 

When are the Commencement activities over? 

Commencement typically runs two to two-and-a-half hours, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

When will my graduate receive the actual diploma? 

At the request of past graduates and parents, we do not roll the actual diplomas. The original diplomas will be available for pickup by the graduate or a family member at the Holland Union Building Underground Patio immediately following Commencement. Please be sure to pick them up by 2 p.m. 


What is the Reception to Meet the Honorary Degree Recipients? 

Each year, Dickinson honors a small number of guests with honorary doctoral degrees. Graduating seniors and their families have the opportunity to meet each of these honored guests during a reception on Saturday. 

Do many people attend the Toast to the Class? 

This is a very popular event, and many families and students attend, as well as faculty and members of the administration. Champagne and desserts will be served. It is an opportunity to mingle in an informal atmosphere and celebrate the graduates. 

Who can answer other questions about Commencement? 

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of the President at 717-245-1323 or