Frequently Asked Questions

Spring 2020 Commencement | Winter 2020 Commencement

Spring Commencement FAQ

Graduation is a rite of passage at every university. But at the College of Charleston, Spring Commencement is truly a one-of-a-kind event – a quintessentially Southern tradition that bonds generations of CofC alumni and creates indelible memories in an iconic setting.

Clad in white dinner jackets and dresses, graduating seniors each May process to the bucolic Cistern Yard for one of the most visually stunning commencement ceremonies in the country. This coming spring, undergraduate and graduate degree candidates will take to the stage in front of Randolph Hall on Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, 2020, to celebrate their academic achievements.

And if you’re one of the thousands of guests attending, get ready for a graduation unlike any other. 

Here are answers to some common questions about College of Charleston Commencement ceremonies:

When is Commencement?

There are three commencement ceremonies this year, with students broken up into groups based on their academic school.
Beforehand, graduating students must attend a mandatory rehearsal on Wednesday, May 6.

Each commencement will last about 2 1/2 hours beginning at the following times:

  • 4 p.m. Friday, May 8, 2020, for the Graduate School; School of Humanities and Social Sciences; and School of Professional Studies. A rehearsal is set for 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6.
  • 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9, 2019, for the School of the Arts and School of Business. A rehearsal is set for 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 6.
  • 4 p.m. Saturday, May 9, 2019, for the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance; School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs; and School of Sciences and Mathematics. A rehearsal is set for 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6.

What kind of bag can I bring into Cistern Yard?

The College of Charleston has implemented a Clear Bag Protocol for its ticketed events, including, for the first time, Spring Commencement. Attendees can only carry approved bags, packages or containers into the ticketed Commencement venues (TD Arena and Cistern Yard).

Clear Bag ProtocolApproved Bags:

  • Clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags that do not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12″ in size. A logo no larger than 4.5″ x 3.4″ can be displayed on one side of a permissible clear bag.
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar)
  • Small clutch bags no larger than 4.5″ x 6.5″ – approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap
  • Medically necessary items (after proper inspection)

Prohibited bags include:

  • Purses larger than a clutch bag
  • Camera Bags
  • Backpacks
  • Fanny Packs
  • Cinch/Drawstring Bags
  • Luggage of any kind
  • Computer Bags
  • Diaper Bags
  • Binocular Cases
  • Briefcases
  • Non-approved seat cushions, which include large traditional seat cushions that have pockets, zippers, compartments or covers

For more information regarding the bag check protocol and a complete list of prohibited items, please visit the College’s Prohibited Items webpage.

Where can I watch Commencement?

Each commencement ceremony is scheduled to be held in the Cistern Yard, located at 66 George St. A ticket is required for admittance. Each graduating student received four tickets during the spring semester to give to family and guests.

There will also be four satellite viewing locations where additional guests can watch the ceremonies live on large video screens. Tickets are not required for admission to these sites, all of which have air-conditioning and easily accessible restrooms. The satellite viewing locations are:

  • Stern Student Center Ballroom on the fourth floor of the Stern Student Center at 71 George St.
  • Child-friendly rooms on the second floor of the Stern Student Center at 71 George St.
  • The Recital Hall of the Simons Center for the Arts at 54 St. Philip St.
  • The Emmett Robinson Theatre at the Simons Center for the Arts at 54 St. Philip St.
  • Rita Hollings Science Center (Rooms 101, 102, 103) at 58 Coming Street.

For those who can’t make it to campus for the ceremony, the College will stream live video from each ceremony on the College’s website at

What if it rains?

The College has been closely monitoring the weather for commencement weekend. If it starts raining or if there is other inclement weather before the ceremony, the President’s Office may move one or all of the ceremonies to TD Arena. If any ceremonies have to be moved indoors, announcements will be made on, local TV and radio stations and on CofC social media.

If commencement is moved indoors due to inclement weather, only ticketed guests will be admitted to TD Arena.

Visit the commencement web page for more information about the inclement weather plan for commencement.

Can babies or toddlers enter the Cistern Yard without a ticket?

No. Due to fire and safety restrictions, everyone who enters the Cistern Yard must have a ticket, regardless of age. Children without tickets may be accompanied by an adult to the kid zone on the 2nd floor of the Stern Center (or any satellite location).

Where do I park?

Parking will be available in the following three parking garages:

Spring, 2019 parking fees for each garage were reduced to $5 with a commencement program on May 10 and May 11, 2019.

If you’re trying to get around campus during commencement, try to avoid the area around the Cistern Yard. The following streets will be closed to traffic before and during the ceremonies:

  • St. Philip Street between Calhoun and George streets.
  • George Street between St. Philip and Coming streets.
  • Glebe Street will be closed to thru traffic between George and Wentworth streets.

What should I wear to the ceremony?

There is no particular dress code, but please take the heat and humidity into account. Women typically wear sundresses and men tend to wear khakis and blazers, seersuckers or some other lightweight fabric.

Can I take photos?

You are welcome to take photos of the event, but please be respectful of other guests. If you want to leave your seat to take a photo of your graduate crossing the stage, you may do so, but please quickly return to your seat so others can see their grads cross the stage.

GradImages will also be providing professional photography at each ceremony. Videos of each commencement will also be posted to the College’s YouTube channel a few days after the ceremonies.

Visit the commencement page for more information about photography of commencement.

Are bags allowed in the Cistern Yard?

Only clear bags and small clutches are allowed in the Cistern Yard. Please read the Bag Check and Prohibited Items List. Clear bags will be for sale on George Street on graduation day.

Who are this year’s Commencement speakers?

Speakers for the 2020 Commencement Ceremonies are forthcoming.

Want to nominate a future commencement speaker? Or view the list of previous honorary degree receipients? Visit the Committee on Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients webpage.

The Commencement Speaker for Winter, 2019 was: 

  • Michelle "Mitsy" Mangum '86, Managing Director for Lakeview Capital Partners. 


When will my student get a diploma?

Diplomas will be ordered for students who graduate successfully in the term in which they apply after their degree has been conferred. Diplomas will be mailed four to eight weeks after conferral, provided the graduate doesn’t have a financial hold.

Visit the commencement Diplomas page for information on how to check your student’s mailing address, full legal name and eBill account.