Graduation is a time-honored tradition – a moment to celebrate your academic achievements while looking forward to what’s to come. And the Class of 2021 has weathered more than its fair share of challenges and tumult to reach this special milestone.

Spring commencement at the College of Charleston creates indelible memories each May, as graduating seniors wearing white dinner jackets and dresses process to the Cistern Yard to conclude their time as CofC students.

To accommodate COVID-19 protocols, there will be five commencement ceremonies May 6-8. All ceremonies will require social distancing and face coverings.

Here are answers to some common questions about College of Charleston commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021.

When will each commencement ceremony take place? 

A ceremony for graduates from all schools will take place at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 6, at the College of Charleston Patriots Point Soccer Stadium.

Four additional ceremonies will take place in the Cistern Yard on the following dates and times:

  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2 p.m. on Friday, May 7
  • The Graduate School; School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs; and School of Sciences and Mathematics, 6 p.m. on Friday, May 7
  • School of Business, 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 8
  • School of the Arts and School of Education, Health, and Human Performance, 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 8

Will guests be allowed to attend commencement ceremonies? 

Only graduates who chose to participate in commencement at the Patriots Point Soccer Stadium are permitted to have guests attend the ceremony in person. Each participant for the Patriots Point ceremony will receive four general admission tickets.

Because of limited capacity in the Cistern Yard due to COVID-19 protocols, no guests will be allowed to attend commencement ceremonies in the Cistern Yard. Participants in the Cistern Yard ceremonies will each receive two general admission tickets for guests to watch the ceremony via a satellite location on campus, including Rivers Green (71 Coming St.), Stern Center Garden (71 George St.) and the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building’s Courtyard (202 Calhoun St.).

Guests with tickets will be accommodated at these satellite locations on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the capacity of a venue is reached, guests will be directed to another site. Some chairs will be available, and guests are welcome to bring a blanket (no folding chairs) for the ground. There will be limited indoor seating for those who need relief from the heat.

What should guests wear? 

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

2020 Commencement

Do graduates and guests have to wear face coverings?

Yes, all attendees, including graduates, guests, faculty and staff, must wear face coverings at all times.

Graduates may remove their face coverings for three professional photographs taken during the ceremony:

  1. Before your name is called in the lineup
  2. On the Cistern or onstage at the Patriots Point field at a safe social distance with President Hsu
  3. Immediately after exiting the Cistern or stage

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

Will there be social distancing measures?

This will be a no-contact event, and social distancing is mandatory. All aspects of the ceremony will be socially distanced, including seating. Master’s graduates will process wearing their hoods, instead of the traditional “hooding” of graduates.

Is COVID-19 testing available for family members visiting for commencement? 

The College will be offering testing for students, faculty, staff, guests and the greater Charleston community at the Stern Student Center on the corner of Glebe and George streets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

What if it rains? 

Sunday, May 9, will serve as a make-up date for any weather-impacted ceremonies, 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?

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.

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

How can family and friends watch commencement at home?

All ceremonies will be livestreamed on the College of Charleston’s website and Facebook page. Recordings of the ceremonies will also be archived and made available for viewing approximately three weeks later on the commencement website as well as the College’s YouTube channel.

Can graduates take photos during the commencement ceremonies? 

Graduates (and guests attending the Patriots Point ceremony) are welcome to take photos during commencement, but we ask that everyone be respectful of others.

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? 

There is limited parking at Patriots Point Athletics Complex, but there is first-come, first-served parking at the College’s tennis and soccer fields, a grass lot next to the baseball field and the Omar Shriners parking lot (only graduates will be admitted into this lot) across the street. Additional parking will be available for graduates and guests at the parking garage at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Charleston Harbor Mt. Pleasant  ($2.00 per hour) and the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum surface lot (flat $5.00 fee), both down the street. 

For the Cistern Yard ceremonies, graduates and guests will be offered a $5 cash-only flat rate at George Parking Garage (34 St. Philip St., adjacent to CVS). Garages at 89 St. Philip St. and 81 Wentworth St. will accept credit cards at a $2.00/hour rate.

For complete details on parking for commencement ceremonies, visit the Commencement Information website.

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 or a location close to campus such as the Francis Marion Hotel, the Holy City has got you covered. For a full list of accommodations, visit the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

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.

Who are this year’s commencement speakers?

Learn more about this year’s accomplished commencement speakers.