Frequently Asked Questions

What is Commencement?

All university degrees are formally conferred during the Commencement ceremony on Old Campus. The name of every degree candidate has been submitted to the Yale Corporation earlier for approval; during the Old Campus ceremony, the dean of Yale College and deans of the Graduate and professional schools formally present their approved candidates to the president. The president, in turn, confers the degrees and admits new graduates to each degree’s “rights and responsibilities.” Student marshals from each residential college and school accept symbolic diplomas from the president on behalf of their colleagues.

Candidates for honorary degrees are presented to the president by the provost.

By tradition, the identity of Yale honorands is kept a secret until the day of Commencement. Read more about Yale honorary degrees

What is the date of Commencement?

Yale’s Commencement takes place on the Monday before Memorial Day. 

Where is Commencement held?

Commencement takes place outdoors, regardless of weather, on Yale’s historic Old Campus. Guests may enter Old Campus through gates on College, High, Chapel, and Elm Streets. 

What time does Commencement start? End?

Streets surrounding Old Campus are closed to traffic at 9:45 a.m. for the Commencement procession, which leaves from Cross Campus promptly at 10:00 a.m. (Cross Campus is the area in front of Sterling Memorial Library, bordered by Wall, College, Elm and High Streets. The Commencement procession is composed of all graduating students and faculty.) Seniors process through the New Haven Green and enter Old Campus through Phelps Gate on College Street. Graduate and professional school degree candidates enter Old Campus through gates on Elm Street and High Street. The ceremony on Old Campus begins at 10:30 a.m. and lasts until about noon. Diploma ceremonies follow immediately in the residential colleges and the graduate and professional schools and last until approximately 1:30 p.m.

Who participates?

All degree candidates—undergraduates, as well as candidates from the Graduate School and the university’s professional schools—participate in the ceremony on Old Campus on Monday. The ceremony is outdoors, rain or shine, in order to accommodate the more than 15,000 friends and family members who wish to attend. A more intimate atmosphere—under cover if the weather is bad—exists in the separate diploma ceremonies for each residential college, the Graduate School, and the professional schools. These diploma ceremonies follow the Old Campus ceremony and typically start at noon.

What is the difference between Commencement and the diploma ceremonies?

Degrees are conferred upon all candidates during the Commencement ceremony, but students do not receive individual diplomas. At the Old Campus ceremony, symbolic diplomas are presented to student marshals, who accept them on behalf of fellow degree candidates. Individual diplomas are distributed at a separate ceremony in each residential college and professional school. Diplomas for the Graduate School are presented in Woolsey Hall and Horchow Hall.

Diploma ceremonies in some colleges and schools may last until 1:45 p.m., so lunch could be later than usual for many guests. A packed snack might be prudent, especially for younger or older family members.

Suggested guest attire?

It can be mild and sunny or cold and rainy in Connecticut in May. Recent Commencement weekends have had both weather extremes, so flexibility and practicality are good planning principles. Dress with an eye to the weather and comfort. Low heels or flats are appropriate for navigating the grass and mulched pathways of Old Campus. Rain gear, including water-impervious footwear, is important; and rain ponchos are preferred over umbrellas so sightlines are not blocked. Sunglasses and hats may also be useful. Woolsey Hall, site of Baccalaureate services for undergraduates and the Graduate School’s diploma ceremony, is not air-conditioned; layers of clothing is a suggested strategy. A jacket and tie or collared shirt and sports jacket is appropriate men’s attire for most events.

Do I need tickets for Commencement weekend ceremonies?

No tickets are required for Baccalaureate, Class Day, or Commencement. There are no limits on how many guests each student may bring.

Who is the Commencement speaker?

By tradition, Yale does not have a Commencement speaker, although an exception is made when a sitting president is awarded an honorary degree, as was the case in 2001. Class Day, which takes place the Sunday before Commencement, features a notable speaker chosen with suggestions from the Yale College senior class. Recent Class Day speakers have included U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Barbara Walters, Tom Hanks, and Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Vice President Joe Biden. 

What happens if it rains?

Rain, unfortunately, is not an infrequent occurrence in Connecticut in May. Unless weather conditions are dangerous or severe, Commencement and Class Day will take place outside on Old Campus, although processions and programs may be shortened. Diploma ceremonies in some residential colleges and schools may be moved to alternative locations, which are posted to the website in spring; other diploma ceremonies will take place under courtyard tents or in previously announced interior locations. Ponchos are the rain gear of choice, both for unimpeded sight lines and for the comfort of guests who would otherwise be on the receiving end of umbrella runoff.

Class Day and Commencement, in addition to the Graduate School Diploma ceremony, are available to stream live from the Yale YouTube Channel. Livestreams of major ceremonies will also be posted to this site’s homepage on the weekend of Commencement.

Simulcasts of Class Day exercises will be available for viewing at the following locations, all of which are wheelchair accessible: 

  • ​Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High Street
  • Battell Chapel, 400 College Street
  • Levinson Auditorium, Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street

Simulcasts of Monday’s Commencement ceremony will be available for viewing at Linsly-Chittenden Hall and Battell Chapel. 

Should I reserve rooms for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday or Saturday, Sunday, and Monday?

Commencement events for Yale College seniors begin Saturday afternoon, with the first of three Baccalaureate services. (See the Schedule of Events to find out which service your graduate will attend.) This is followed by the President’s Reception for all seniors and their guests. Sunday’s events for Yale College seniors include back-to-back Baccalaureate services in the morning and Class Day in the afternoon.

Monday’s ceremonies, which include all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, begin at 10:30 a.m. and end at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Yale College seniors are permitted to stay in their rooms until noon on Tuesday. Guests reserving rooms in dormitories on campus may stay Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings. See the Accommodations page for more information. 

Though Commencement exercises on Old Campus do not take place until Monday, campus is bustling with activity all weekend long. Beginning Friday evening with the Yale Symphony Orchestra concert and the Yale Dramat musical, there are many performances and events for you to enjoy no matter when you choose to arrive. The Graduate School and some professional schools also host events throughout the weekend. New Haven, home to great food trucks and restaurants, shopping, museums, historic places, and more, offers a wealth of fun places to explore. 

What happens at Baccalaureate?

Since Yale’s first century, Yale College seniors and faculty have gathered on the Sunday before Commencement for the Baccalaureate ceremony, a ceremony with a Baccalaureate sermon at its heart. The sermon of days past has given way to an address by Yale’s president, although religious overtures remain with the participation of the university chaplain and the singing of hymns and an anthem. Of the three main events of Commencement weekend – Baccalaureate, Class Day, and Commencement – Baccalaureate is the most formal.

In order to accommodate all seniors and their guests, the ceremony is repeated three times: at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. Sunday. Each ceremony lasts one hour.

Seniors and their guests are assigned to one of the three services based on residential college affiliation. Students wear academic regalia and process from Cross Campus to Woolsey Hall, located on the corner of Grove and College Streets. The wheelchair-accessible entrance to Woolsey Hall is via Wall Street and Beinecke Plaza.

What is Class Day?

Class Day, a Yale College tradition, takes place on Old Campus on Sunday at 2:00 p.m., and includes the awarding of academic, artistic, and athletic prizes; the celebration of undergraduates; and an address by a notable speaker. Seniors wear academic gowns with headgear of choice and process from Cross Campus to Old Campus. A colorful, informal event, Class Day lasts approximately two hours and takes place outdoors rain or shine.

How do I obtain tickets for the Yale Whiffenpoof and Whim ’n Rhythm concert, Yale Glee Club concert, and Yale Dramatic Association musical?

Parents of Yale College seniors are mailed ticketing information in March about the following events and activities. Families and friends of all Yale graduates are invited to purchase tickets.

  • Yale Whiffenpoofs and Whim ‘n Rhythm concert
  • Yale Glee Club concert
  • Yale Dramatic Association musical
  • Commencement meals

Information about these ticketed events and other weekend activities are also posted to the Commencement Weekend Performances and Events

If I have questions about on-campus dining, where can I find more information?

Yale Dining will offer brunch in Commons on Sunday and lunch in residential colleges following the diploma ceremonies. Please see the Dining page for more information.

If I have a question regarding my diploma, whom should I contact?

Information about diplomas can be found on the Office of the Secretary website. You may also email diplomas@yale.edu or call 203-432-2311 with questions.

Where is the lost and found located?

If you lose an item during Commencement weekend, please call the Yale Security Department at 203-785-5555. A dispatcher will assist you in finding the proper lost and found location. 

Is there an official video program of Commencement? How do I get one?

Collegiate Video’s Commencement programs have been an institution with Yale graduates for over 20 years. Families can choose between professionally edited videos on either DVD or USB Flash Drive. The latter option contains a high definition file for archiving to personal computers or uploading to cloud accounts. The cost of any format is $70 plus $7 shipping and handling. Visit the Collegiate Video website to learn more about the contents of their unique programs or call them at (802) 379-3635. Additional information can also be found on the Commencement Orders page.

Whom may I contact for additional Commencement information?

Please email university.events@yale.edu with all Commencement inquiries.