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 year, undergraduate and graduate degree candidates will take to the stage in front of Randolph Hall on Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12, 2018, 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, broken up into groups based on a student’s academic school. Beforehand, graduating students must attend a mandatory rehearsal on Wednesday, May 9. Each commencement will last about 2 1/2 hours and will begin at the following times:

  • 4 p.m. Friday, May 11, 2018, for the Graduate School; School of the Arts; School of Education, Health and Human Performance; and School of Professional Studies. Bachelor of science candidates for public health will appear in this ceremony. A rehearsal is set for 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9.
  • 10 a.m. Saturday, May 12, 2018, for the School of Business and School of Sciences and Mathematics. A rehearsal is set for 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 9.
  • 4 p.m. Saturday, May 12, 2018, for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs. Bachelor of arts candidates for public health will appear in this ceremony. A rehearsal is set for 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9.

Where can I watch Commencement?

Each commencement ceremony is scheduled to be held in the Cistern Yard, located at 66 George St., but 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. Tickets are not required for admission to these sites, all of which have air-conditioning and easily accessible restrooms. They are:

  • The 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.

For guests who can’t make it to campus, live video from each ceremony will be broadcast on the College’s Facebook page and at

What if it rains?

The College has been monitoring the weather for commencement weekend around the clock. If it starts raining or 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 social media.

If commencement is moved due to inclement weather, only four ticketed guests per student 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.

What about lodging for guests who are coming from out of town?

There’s no shortage of places to stay in downtown Charleston. Whether you’re looking for a waterfront hotel like the Harborview Inn or the Courtyard Charleston Waterfront, a full-service hotel like the Charleston Marriott, a location close to campus such as the Francis Marion Hotel, a boutique experience such as a stay at the Fulton Lane Inn or an economical place to rest your head like the Comfort Inn Downtown Charleston, the Holy City has got you covered. For a full list of accommodations, visit the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

What dining options are available after the ceremony?

For larger parties, most downtown restaurants recommend reservations. Here’s a few that are more on the casual side of dining but are family-friendly and can easily accommodate larger parties:

If there’s still time to make a reservation, check OpenTable and Resy.

Where do I park?

Parking will be available at the following three CofC garages:

Fees for each garage will be reduced to $5 with a commencement program on May 11 and May 12.

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 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.

Will there be water?

There will be water for graduates and faculty. Family members and guests watching commencement can each bring one unopened bottle of water into the Cistern Yard.

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 summer 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.

Who are this year’s Commencement speakers?

Matt Czuchry ‘99, actor on such television shows as The Good Wife, Gilmore Girls and The Resident.

Bruce Howe Hendricks ’83, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.

Brian Rutenberg ‘87, a prominent artist known for his use of color who has had more than 200 exhibitions throughout North America.

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