Graduation is a rite of passage that’s hard earned and years in the making. And this year the members of the Class of 2020 have waited patiently for this special moment to arrive.

Clad in white dinner jackets and dresses, graduates will finally get to process into the Cistern Yard to participate in this iconic and visually stunning tradition that bonds generations of CofC alumni.

Although commencement will look different this year, with social distancing and face covering requirements, the meaning of these ceremonies will be just as powerful – perhaps even more so. And the Class of 2020 will be the first class since 1984 to physically cross the Cistern rather than walk over the Cistern on a stage.

Four commencement ceremonies marking this special academic milestone will take place on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in the Cistern Yard.

Here are answers to some common questions about College of Charleston commencement ceremonies.

When will each commencement ceremony take place? 

Four separate ceremonies will take place on Oct. 10. at the following times:

  • 9 a.m. School of Business
  • 12 p.m. The Graduate School; School of Education, Health, and Human Performance; School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs
  • 3 p.m. School of the Arts; School of Professional Studies; School of Science and Mathematics
  • 6 p.m. School of Humanities and Social Sciences

graduation at the college of charleston

What should graduates wear?

Although our spring commencement ceremonies are taking place in October, we want to give our Class of 2020 graduates the full CofC spring commencement experience. Therefore, graduates should don traditional attire for our spring commencement ceremonies in May. The dress code is white: women wear white dresses and men wear a white dinner jacket, black pants, a bow tie and cummerbund.

What if it rains? 

In the event of inclement weather and a ceremony or ceremonies cannot be held on Saturday,  Oct. 10, those affected ceremonies will be rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 11, exact time(s) to be determined. If there is inclement weather, information will be provided on the College’s homepage ( as well as on the commencement webpage.

What kind of bag can I bring into Cistern Yard?

In order to expedite entry and provide a safe and secure environment, the College of Charleston has implemented a Clear Bag Protocol for events, including commencement. Only clear bags and small, clutch-size purses are allowed in the Cistern Yard. There will be bag checks at Coming Street and Green Way; at the crosswalk on St. Philip Street at the Simons Center; St. Philip and George streets; and George Street and College Way.

Please read our Prohibited Items List (which includes, but is not limited to, unapproved bags, alcohol, food, cans or bottles, and weapons). Please note that the College of Charleston is a tobacco-free campus.

Do graduates have to wear a face covering?

Yes. The College of Charleston is dedicated to providing graduates with the safest and most meaningful celebration of their academic accomplishments. As such, they must wear a face covering for the duration of the ceremony. Graduates will be permitted to remove their face covering briefly for photography as they cross the Cistern during the commencement ceremony.

Graduates may remove their face coverings and keep them off for these three professional photo shots:

  1. Before crossing the Cistern
  2. On the Cistern at a safe social distance with President Hsu
  3. Immediately after exiting the Cistern

Note: There will no diplomas handed out and no handshakes. After the three photographs have been taken, graduates should immediately put their face covering back on.

randolph hall decorated for commencement

Will there be social distancing measures?

This will be a no contact event, and social distancing is mandatory. All seating and processions will maintain six feet of distance between individuals. Master’s graduates will process wearing their hoods, instead of the traditional “hooding” of graduates.

Will faculty be participating in this fall’s commencement ceremonies? 

No. As part of our efforts to maximize social distancing and limit the number of participants present at commencement, faculty will not be in attendance. Only the deans from each school will participate in the commencement ceremonies.

How can family and friends watch commencement?

Due to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations limiting group gatherings over 250, we will not be allowed to have an in-person audience. No guests of any type including family members, friends or faculty can be present. The ceremonies will be attended by graduates only and will be live streamed on the College’s Facebook page and at Approximately one week later, videos of the ceremonies with additional content will be available on the commencement website.

Can graduates take photos during the commencement ceremonies? 

Graduates are welcome to take photos during the event, but we ask that everyone be respectful of others.

Graduates and their families will have additional opportunities to take their own personal photos in the Cistern Yard with CofC President Andrew T. Hsu from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, and from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 11. Photo opportunities will be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note: There will not be a professional photographer on hand. All participants must wear face coverings and practice social distancing while on campus.

GradImages will be providing professional photography at each ceremony.

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

Where should participating graduates park? 

Parking will be available as follows: $5 cash only flat rate at 34 St. Philip Street garage (over CVS). The garages at 81 St. Philip Street and 81 Wentworth Street will accept credit cards at a $2.00/hour rate.