Planning for University Commencement

Graduates smiling together in front of Washington Monument.

Commencement Week is an exciting time at the George Washington University (GW). With a variety of events and many visitors on campus, it’s important to be prepared.

For University Commencement, graduates should find their line-up maps ahead of time, but can look for their school flag and get into place no later than 9:00 a.m., as the procession will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m. Wear your cap and gown with your tassel hanging to the right.

Guests can arrive as early as 7:00 a.m. and must be seated before 9:30 a.m., when the ceremony begins. Remain in the seating area behind the graduates and clear the aisles for processions.

Remember that the ceremony is a joyful, yet formal event. Please express your excitement in an appropriate manner that does not prevent others from hearing and enjoying it. Turn off or silence your cell phone.

All attendees, including graduates and guests, should review the Alternate Site Plan in case of emergency. Check Campus Advisories to find updates on the status of the ceremony. If you are in need of assistance, security and emergency medical personnel will be on site and first aid stations will be available. You can also find ushers in bright red t-shirts and a Commencement cap.

Alcohol is not permitted on the National Mall. Water stations will be on site but we recommend that you also bring your own. Wheelchair-accessibile seating areas and restrooms will also be available. Lost and found items can be given to ushers. Lost items on the National Mall are given to the First District U.S. Park Police, who can be reached at 202-426-6710. Please use provided recycling bins for paper and plastic materials.

University Commencement Schedule on Sunday, May 19, 2019 

8:00 a.m. Metro service begins

8:30 a.m. Graduates should arrive wearing their regalia and line up by school

8:30 a.m. Faculty should arrive wearing their regalia and report to the backstage area

9:00 a.m. All guests should be seated

9:30 a.m. Academic processions begin

10:00 a.m. Ceremony begins

11:30 a.m. Ceremony concludes

Commencement Week

Behind the stage of the Athletics recognition ceremony.

Individual Recognition Ceremonies

Besides University Commencement on the National Mall, other ceremonies take place to honor graduates of specific schools, programs, organizations and departments. If you have questions about any of these individual events, the host will be able to best answer them.

Find your ceremony on the schedule
A group of graduates at Commencement on the National Mall

University Commencement

Graduates from all degree types, schools and organizations come together with administrators, faculty, staff, families and guests to celebrate their accomplishments at University Commencement on the National Mall. Attendees will hear remarks from the Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients, as well as the student speaker. Degrees are conferred during this ceremony and tickets are required to attend. 

Attend University Commencement on the National Mall

Alternate Site Plan for University Commencement - May 19, 2019

Commencement ceremony during rainy weather

University Commencement is held rain or shine on the National Mall. However, if an unexpected situation develops, you may have to follow GW's Alternate Site Plan. On Sunday, May 19, in the event of a change to Commencement on the National Mall, information will be posted to Campus Advisories. Updates and changes also will be communicated via GW Alert (text and email), GW Information Line at 202-944-5050, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Hotel Information

Entrance to One Washington Circle, an official GW Hotel

Official GW Hotels

There are two official GW hotels: The George Washington University Inn and One Washington Circle. They are located close to our Foggy Bottom campus.

Find other lodging over map of the city

Alternative Lodging

There are many alternative options to stay in across the city and larger area, including some lodging options that are closer to campus. Be sure to ask any hotel if they offer a discount for GW’s Commencement.

Transportation & Parking

Icon of Metro car


We encourage you to take the Metro to University Commencement on the National Mall. You can use the yellow, green, orange, blue and silver lines. The most convenient exit stations are the Smithsonian Metro Station and Federal Triangle Metro Station. Use Metro’s trip planner and take travel time into consideration. 

Icon of a taxi

Driving & Taxis

Parking is extremely limited around the mall and we encourage you to use the Metro. Taxis are available throughout the city and should be able to get you to the National Mall. Pricing depends on distance and the number of people. They are usually available after the ceremony concludes.

Icons of cars parked in rows


We urge guests to take the Metro, walk or take taxis to get to Commencement ceremonies. If you do drive, parking is not guaranteed. However, all GW parking garages are wheelchair accessible. While you may be redirected to seek parking in public locations off campus, GW Transportation & Parking Services has more information. If your car is towed from campus, contact the GW Police Department.

Icon of a bicycle

Alternative Transportation

You can walk to the National Mall and should plan accordingly for the time it takes to get there. There are also various Capital Bikeshare stations around the city, including near our campus and the mall.

Accessibility at Commencement

Icon of a wheelchair user with a graduation cap

Graduates with Wheelchairs

All campus buildings are wheelchair accessible but if you have additional needs, contact GW Events, Events and Venues as soon as possible to make the necessary arrangements for University Commencement. For needs at school celebration ceremonies, contact your school directly. 

Icon of graduates standing next to an icon of a wheelchair.

Guests with Wheelchairs

At Commencement on the National Mall there will be a section of reserved seating for guests who are wheelchair users or who have limited mobility, plus one guest. Complete the form to reserve a space. Commencement staff will be on site to assist. While all campus buildings are wheelchair-accessible, contact your graduate’s school for additional needs.

Icon of sign language

Sign Language Interpreters

Sign language interpreters are provided at Commencement on the National Mall. If a graduate and/or their guest need to be seated near one, submit a request to make arrangements. Interpreters will be provided at school celebrations and other events upon request. If a graduate and/or their guest need to be seated near the ASL interpreter at these events, contact the school directly.



Icons representing sign language, wheelchair, cognitive impairments and person using walking stick

Accessibility Contacts

Accessibility for all members of the community, including graduates and guests, is a priority for GW. For specific needs at school ceremonies, contact the school directly. Visit Disability Support Services and Transportation & Parking Services for additional information. Please note that all campus buildings are wheelchair accessible. 

Accessibility at National Mall

The ADA seating area is reserved for guests who are wheelchair users or who have limited mobility, plus one guest. There will be a designated ADA drop-off/pick-up area. The drop-off/pick-up area is located within close proximity to the ADA seating area on the mall. A downloadable sitemap with the ADA drop-off/pick-up and seating area will be available at a later date.

Please complete this form to reserve a space for you and your plus one guest in the ADA seating area. The form will be available at a later date. It is important to note that should you request ADA seating we cannot ensure that you will be seated next to your family and or friends. 

Accessibility at Charles E. Smith Center

The section of seating reserved for guests who are wheelchair users or who have limited mobility is located in boxes 6 and 10 and at the front of the yellow seats in sections 202-205. Each guest sitting in this area may be accompanied by one additional person.

The section of seating reserved for guests who have limited mobility is located at the top of the blue seats in sections 102-104. Each guest sitting in this area may be accompanied by one additional person.

We recommend the use of either the Box Office entrance or the northeast entrance, located at the corner of G and 22nd Streets, NW, to access the Smith Center, because both entrances offer ample ramp access. Please review the Smith Center map. In addition, we suggest an early arrival to ensure that you reach your seats comfortably. There is no special parking at the Smith Center. Guests who are wheelchair users or who have limited mobility can be dropped off at the Box Office entrance. Smith Center ushers will be available to assist with seating.

Accessibility at Lisner Auditorium

The section of seating reserved for guests who are wheelchair users or who have limited mobility is the last row of seats in the auditorium, before the orchestra seating section. Each guest sitting in this area may be accompanied by one additional person. Please review the Lisner Auditorium map.

Early seating is provided for guests who are wheelchair users or who have limited mobility and one companion, 60 minutes before the ceremony. Lisner Auditorium ushers will be available to assist with seating.

You can review Accessibility Information and Resources in the Nation's Capital for more information. To rent or purchase wheelchairs, contact Scoot Around at 888-441-7575.