Frequently Asked Questions

The information below pertains to Commencement Week 2024. 

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Commencement on the National Mall


What is Commencement on the National Mall?

University Commencement brings together students from all of the George Washington University's (GW) schools for the conferral of their degrees. The ceremony takes place on the National Mall and is open to all 2024 graduates, from bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, to come and celebrate their achievements. This event includes remarks from GW leadership and other speakers. No individual names are announced and no graduates walk across the stage at this event; the deans will call each of their schools to rise as the degrees are ceremoniously conferred.

When and where is Commencement taking place?

We will celebrate the Class of 2024 on Sunday, May 19, on the National Mall at 10:30 am. Graduates must be seated by 10:15 am. More details about graduate and guest arrivals will be available in the "Know Before You Go" email to graduates in the coming weeks

I am a summer or fall graduate. When is my graduation ceremony?

The university invites summer 2023, fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 graduates to participate in graduation events. As the only institution to hold a university-wide Commencement on the National Mall, GW is proud to devote its resources to offering graduates this #OnlyAtGW opportunity of a lifetime each May, the traditional time of year for commencements. Summer, fall, and spring graduates are also invited to attend school and college celebrations in May, where they will walk across the stage and be recognized individually for their achievements. It is at the discretion of schools and departments to hold specific events for summer or fall graduates.

How do I notify the university that I plan to participate in Commencement Week events including school celebrations and Commencement on the National Mall?

Students must submit a graduation application and graduation survey to be eligible to register for Commencement Week events.  You must have either completed your degree requirements or be enrolled in classes that will complete those requirements, to submit the graduation application.  The graduation survey opens in Spring 2024.

Registering for Commencement Week events is the only notice needed for your participation.  For more information about registration, please see that section below.

Who is the Commencement Speaker for 2024?

Jen Psaki, host of MSNBC's "Inside with Jen Psaki" and former White House Press Secretary for President Joe Biden, will be the Commencement speaker for 2024.

Who is the student Commencement Speaker?

We invited the Class of 2024 to enter the Student Speaker Competition for a chance to address their classmates, and other members of the GW community, at Commencement on the National Mall—an #OnlyatGW opportunity of a lifetime.

Yahya Aliyu has been selected to address the Class of 2024 and other guests at Commencement on the National Mall.

 

 

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School Celebrations

 

What are School Celebrations?

All schools and colleges will host a celebratory experience for their graduating students in May. Graduating students will receive individual recognition, including having their names announced, walking across the stage, and having an individual photo taken. These celebrations include remarks from school leaders and other prestigious speakers. No diplomas are presented at school celebrations; they are mailed to the address listed in the graduate’s record.

When and where will School Celebrations occur?

Please visit the Commencement Week Schedule for dates, times, and locations of school and college celebrations. More details about graduate and guest arrivals will is available on the Know Before You Go page.

 

 

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Registration

 

When does registration open?

Registration for Commencement Week events, including Commencement on the National Mall, is now open for the Class of 2024. Students who had their degree awarded in summer 2023 or will complete all their degree requirements in the fall of 2023, spring of 2024, or summer of 2024, are eligible to participate in school celebrations and Commencement. They must register themselves and their guests to attend Commencement Week events.

Who needs to register?

Tickets are required for all guests who will be 2 years of age, or older, by Commencement Week 2024.  Any guest who will be younger than 2 years old does not require a ticket and must sit in the lap of a ticketed guest.

How do I purchase tickets or additional tickets?

The opportunity to request additional tickets has ended.  If you know another graduate with extra tickets to a school celebration for which you need more tickets, you may ask them to send you their extra tickets.  You would then forward those tickets to your guests.

Note:  Tickets to all events in the GW Commencement Week registration system are complimentary and not for purchase or sale.

When does registration end?

Graduating students have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, April 22, to record their names.  They may continue to register and claim tickets through Friday, April 26, but will not have the option to record their name; their name will be read live at their school celebration.

Faculty may register through Friday, May 3.  Faculty do not have the option to record their names in the registration system and have no guest tickets.

What is a GradPass?  How do I pick up my GradPass?

GradPasses are electronic passes that contain unique QR codes for graduates to use at their school celebrations.  You will scan the QR code in your GradPass to activate the voice recording of your name that will play as you cross in front of the stage.  The QR code also activates the digital display of your name on the in-room screen (if one is available) and the livestream of the ceremony.  (The SMHS-MD Celebration will not use this feature and no students’ names are called or displayed at Commencement on the National Mall.)

If you did not record your name, or if you register after April 26, you will be issued a GradPass.  It will indicate that your name should be read live at the event.

GradPasses will be emailed to registered students, at their GW email address, on May 10.

 

 

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Regalia and Keepsakes

 

Where can I find more information about regalia purchase or rental?

All students participating in school celebrations and Commencement on the National Mall must wear regalia. Active service members may wear their dress uniform in lieu of regalia. Graduates may order regalia online through April 2; students are not required to purchase from the university’s preferred vendor(*).

Can I order keepsakes?

The GW Campus Store offers alumni clothing and gifts.

Why have I received (or not received) information about the yearbook?

The Cherry Tree yearbook offers portrait appointments through its website. It is an independent student organization that is not affiliated with University Events.  If you feel that you received a message from them in error, or were excluded from their mailing list, please visit their website for contact information.

(*) If students choose to wear regalia from another vendor, gowns should be black or navy blue.

 

 

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Plan Your Visit

 

Parking

For information about parking on campus and around the National Mall, please visit our Accessibility page.

Lodging

There are many options for lodging across the D.C. area, including some options that are close to the National Mall. Be sure to ask any hotel if they offer a discount for the weekend of GW’s Commencement.

Travel

The George Washington University is conveniently located in the heart of Washington, D.C., close to three major airports, including Ronald Reagan Washington National, Washington Dulles International, and Baltimore Washington International, as well as to Union Station.

Metro, taxi, rideshare, and Capital Bikeshare are available to help you navigate Foggy Bottom and the National Mall. Stay tuned for additional information in the spring. 

International Guests

Letters of Invitation can be used by current students to invite friends or family members to the United States.  Students must have applied for graduation to request a letter of invitation for the graduation ceremony.  The request must include the proper spelling of each visitor's name and his or her relationship to the student requesting the letter. 

For more information, and to request a letter of invitation, visit the Office of the Registrar's website.

  • Click on the “Request for Certification Services” link
  • Under "Request Type", select "Letters We Can Write"
  •  Under "Letters We Can Write", select "Invitation Letter"

 

 

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Accessibility

 

GW is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. Please visit the accessibility page for more information.

 

  

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Alternate Site Plan

 

All school ceremonies and Commencement on the National Mall will be held as scheduled, rain or shine, unless we are directed to move by the National Park Service or if conditions do not allow us to safely conduct the ceremony as planned.

If the ceremony moves to an alternate site, all graduates and members of the platform party should report to the Charles E. Smith Center, 600 22nd Street, NW.  For alternate site plan information, please visit commencement.gwu.edu.

Families and guests would watch the full ceremony online at commencement.gwu.edu.

The university will closely monitor the weather for Commencement on the Mall. In the event of severe weather (e.g.: earthquake, lighting strike or other unforeseen circumstances) that necessitates a change to the ceremony, information and updates will be communicated through the following:

 

 

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Celebrating Online

 

What if I can’t attend the in-person ceremonies on the National Mall and for schools and colleges?

Commencement on the National Mall will be live-streamed on the web and social media on the day of the event. Viewing options will be posted on the Commencement homepage on the day of the event.

School and college celebrations will be live-streamed on the web and available on their Commencement pages on the day of the event.

What if I can’t tune in for the Commencement or school and college celebration live streams? 

Following the live streaming of the event, video recordings will be posted on the Commencement website and school and college pages for later viewing. Recordings will be posted soon after the original airing.

 

 

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COVID-19 Health and Safety

 

What are GW’s COVID-19 protocols during Commencement Week?

We ask all of our guests to self-monitor for COVID symptoms throughout the week. If you develop any COVID-19 symptoms before or during your arrival to campus, please stay home and/or seek medical attention.

Currently, masks are not required for indoor Commencement events, and while the university encourages guests to be vaccinated and fully boosted, visitors are not required to produce proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. We will continue to monitor transmission rates of COVID-19 on our campuses and in the region, and we will review and adjust our public health guidelines as necessary. For more information on GW’s COVID-19 health protocols, visit coronavirus.gwu.edu

 

 

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Honors

 

It is at the discretion of schools and departments to decide how they will recognize graduates that have earned Latin honors (magna cum laude, summa cum laude) or academic honors.  Please contact your school or department for more information.

 

 

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Faculty Regalia

 

How do faculty purchase or rent regalia?

We encourage faculty to participate in their school celebrations and Commencement on the National Mall.  You must register when registration opens and provide your own regalia.  

Faculty regalia may be purchased online through April 2 and should represent the university where you received your last, or your highest, degree.  Please be sure that you are ordering from the “Fine Quality Regalia” category.  Faculty will be reimbursed up to $200.00 for regalia purchases; receipts must be submitted within 60 days of your order date. Review instructions on how to receive reimbursement (PDF).

If you choose not to purchase regalia, you may rent regalia from the Campus Store starting April 11.  Rentals are not eligible for reimbursement.

 

 

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Lost and Found

 

How do I find an item I lost?

Items lost on the Foggy Bottom Campus will be turned in to the university’s Lost and Found location, which is open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week.

Items lost at Commencement on the National Mall will be turned into the Information Tent located at the event.  If items are not claimed before the event ends, please contact the Commencement office at [email protected].

 

 

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Photos and Videos

 

Can I take photos and video at Commencement on the National Mall?

No individual graduate names are called at Commencement on the National Mall and graduates do not walk across the stage.  University-designated photographers and videographers will be onsite to capture the event. For the safety of all graduates, guests, and participants, they are the only ones allowed near, or on, the stage. 

Commencement on the National Mall will be live-streamed on the Commencement website.  The video, and photos from the event, will be available on the website after Commencement Week.

Graduates and guests are welcome, and encouraged, to take photos and videos in all other locations at Commencement on the National Mall.  Please tag the university’s social media accounts (Twitter/X, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn) and use the hashtag #GWCommencement if you post them online. 

Can I take photos and videos at my school celebration?

A university-designated vendor will be at each school celebration to capture photos as graduates walk across the stage.  Students will be able to purchase the photos after Commencement Week.  For the safety of all guests and graduates, these are the only photographers allowed near the stage.  No private or personal photographers are allowed near the stage, nor will they be given access to any media risers; they are allowed in other areas of the venues that are open to the public and around campus.

A university-designated vendor will livestream and record all school celebrations.  Those videos will be available on the schools’ websites after Commencement Week.

 

 

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Graduate Check-In

 

Where and when should graduates check in for Commencement on the National Mall?

Graduates should proceed directly to their school’s designated seats at Commencement on the National Mall.  Check the Commencement website’s Know Before You Go page in the days leading up to Commencement on the National Mall for the location of your school’s seats.  All graduates should be seated by 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 19.

Where and when should graduates check in for school celebrations?

For school celebrations in the Smith Center, graduates should report to Funger Hall (2201 G Street, NW) one hour before their ceremony begins to line up for processions.  No guests are allowed in Funger Hall; guests should proceed directly to the Smith Center.

For school celebrations in Lisner Auditorium or Betts Theatre, please check with your school for lineup location and report time.

 

 

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Faculty Check-In

 

Where and when should faculty check-in for Commencement on the National Mall?

Faculty should report to the backstage check-in tent no later than 9:30 a.m.  Marshals will line up faculty for the procession.  Please bring your regalia with you.

Where should faculty check in for school celebrations?

For school celebrations in the Smith Center, faculty should report to the control desk entrance located near the corner of 22nd and F Streets, NW.  Please bring your regalia with you.

For school celebrations in Lisner Auditorium or Betts Theatre, please check with your school for the faculty check-in location.  Please bring your regalia with you.

 

 

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Bag Policy

 

May I bring a bag, purse, or backpack to graduation events?

Please note that there is no coat or bag check available at any school celebration, nor at Commencement on the National Mall. Bags larger than 18” x 6” x 8” are prohibited,  permitted bags are subject to search.

 

 

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Prohibited Items

 

Guests and graduates are prohibited from bringing the following into the event space on the National Mall and at all on-campus ceremonies, receptions, and events before, during, and after Commencement:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Aerosols
  • Ammunition
  • Amplified sound devices, e.g.: noisemakers, bullhorns, megaphones, speakers 
  • Bags larger than 18” x 6” x 8” (permitted bags are subject to search)
  • Balloons
  • Explosives
  • Firearms
  • Fireworks
  • Flags
  • Glass containers
  • Laser pointers
  • Mace/pepper spray
  • Structures, e.g.: folding tables, chairs, tents, etc.
  • Signage, e.g.: posters, banners, flyers and any item that could obstruct the view of guests and graduates 
    • Note: At the National Mall, the university will provide an approved Commencement-themed fan/sun blocker.
  • Supports for signs
  • Unmanned aerial systems, e.g.: drones, remote control aircraft
  • Weapons 
  • Any other item determined to be a potential hazard

 

 

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Diplomas

 

When will I receive my diploma?

No diplomas are distributed at Commencement Week events.  They are mailed to the address on file after being awarded; it takes 6-8 weeks for them to arrive at U.S.-based addresses, 8-10 weeks for international addresses.

 

  

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Disruptions to Commencement Week Activities

 

Commencement Week events are to celebrate the many accomplishments of our graduating students. Therefore, speech and/or actions that disrupt any university activities, operations, or threatens, endangers, or harasses others is not permitted at any Commencement Week event, on campus or on the National Mall within the event space perimeter. This includes the use of visible displays (signs, balloons, banners, posters, flyers, or any item that could obstruct the view of guests or graduates) and/or amplified sound items (noisemakers, bullhorns, megaphones, speakers). In the event of a disruption, an event representative will issue a warning and ask the individual(s) to discontinue the disruptive behavior or leave. If the disruption continues, they will be told to leave immediately or they will be removed by law enforcement.

 

 

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Emergency Notifications
 

In the event of an emergency, information and updates will be communicated through the following: 

 

 

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Food and Beverages

 

May I bring food or drinks to events?

No food or beverages are allowed inside school celebrations on campus.  They are allowed at all other locations on campus unless otherwise noted in the venue.

Food and beverages are allowed at Commencement on the National Mall as the National Mall  is a public park.  Please dispose of all waste in the proper trash or recycling containers available at the event site or take it with you when you leave.

 

 

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Free Expression and Reasonable Limitations

 

Colleges and universities are laboratories for social and intellectual growth; activism, engagement, and freedom of expression are essential for these things. This freedom extends to students and faculty and encompasses diverse viewpoints, including those that are objectionable or offensive to some.

Free expression, however, is not unlimited. Speech may be regulated when it is obscene, involves true threats (serious or intentional threats of violence directed at specific individuals), incites violence, or involves illegal conduct. In addition, speech is not protected when it rises to the level of prohibited harassment based on a person’s protected characteristic (examples include age, disability, ethnicity/national origin, gender, race, religion/faith tradition, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, and many others) as defined by state, local, and federal anti-discrimination laws and university policies. Finally, speech may be regulated in a way that focuses on reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that are not based on the content of the speech. One example of such time, place, and manner restrictions is that the university prohibits speech that disrupts university activities or operations or threatens, endangers, or harasses others.

At School Ceremonies: If an individual or group attempts to disrupt a ceremony and/or use any of the prohibited items, an event representative will issue a warning and ask the individual(s) to discontinue the disruptive behavior or leave. If the disruption continues, they will be told to leave immediately or they will be removed by law enforcement.

At the National Mall: The location for University Commencement on the National Mall has been reserved by the university through an agreement with the National Park Service. Those who wish to express their First Amendment rights will be directed by the United States Park Police to a separate First Amendment Zone at a nearby location on the National Mall. This follows National Park Service protocols that keep ceremonial events scheduled as planned while allowing individuals to express their opinions.

Inside the perimeter of the University Commencement ceremony, if an individual or group attempts to disrupt the ceremony and/or uses any of the prohibited items, an event representative will issue a warning and ask the individual(s) to discontinue the disruptive behavior or leave. If the disruption continues, they will be told to leave immediately or they will be removed by law enforcement.

 

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Strollers and Wheelchairs

 

Please visit our Accessibility page for more information.

 

 

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Lactation, Nursing, and Changing Areas

 

Please visit our Accessibility page for more information.

 

 

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Children at Events

 

May I bring children to school celebrations and Commencement on the National Mall?

Children are welcome to attend all Commencement Week events; they must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times.  There are no childcare facilities provided on campus.

Tickets are required for all guests who will be 2 years of age, or older, by Commencement Week 2024.  Any guest who will be younger than 2 years old does not require a ticket and must sit in the lap of a ticketed guest.

 

 

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Restrooms

 

Are restrooms available at school celebrations?

The Charles E. Smith Center, the University Student Center, and Lisner Auditorium have restrooms, including ADA-accessible restrooms, available for guests.  

Are restrooms available at Commencement on the National Mall?

Portable toilets, including ADA-accessible units, will be available for guests at Commencement on the National Mall.  They will include hand-washing stations.  

 

 

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Staff and Volunteers

 

Are students hired to work at Commencement Week events?

Students who are not graduating members of the Class of 2024 may apply to work at Commencement Week events through Student Employment.  All applicants must complete required paperwork and receive clearance from Student Employment to work during Commencement Week.

Hired students who are on-campus residents will receive extended housing through May 20.

Do you need staff or faculty volunteers at Commencement Week events?

Staff or faculty who are interested in volunteering should contact the Commencement Office at [email protected].  Volunteers must attend required orientation and training sessions.

 

    

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Traffic/Road Closures

 

For Foggy Bottom: There are no plans to close roads on the Foggy Bottom Campus during Commencement Week. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department may temporarily close roads to assist with pedestrian safety. These closures will be unannounced. If a road is temporarily closed, please follow police directions. 

For the National Mall: On Sunday, May 19, 15th Street NW will be closed from Constitution Avenue to Independence Avenue. Constitution Avenue will remain open; however, parking along Constitution from 17th to 15th Streets NW is reserved for official use only.
 

  

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WiFi Access

 

Is there WiFi access?

WiFi is available for guests on the Foggy Bottom Campus.  Please visit the Division of IT’s website for instructions to connect to the GWConnect guest wireless network.

There is no WiFi available for graduates or guests at Commencement on the National Mall.  Most major carriers have cellular access available on the site.