Graduation is a rite of passage at every university. But at the College of Charleston, Spring Commencement is a truly special event – a visually stunning ceremony that bonds generations of CofC alumni.

Each May, graduating seniors clad in white dinner jackets and dresses process to the picturesque Cistern Yard for one of the country’s most indelible commencement ceremonies. This year, undergraduate and graduate degree candidates will take to the stage in front of Randolph Hall on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, 2023, to celebrate this academic milestone.

Here are answers to some common questions about College of Charleston Commencement ceremonies:

When is Commencement?

There are three commencement ceremonies this year, with students broken up into groups based on their academic school. There are no rehearsals this year. Each commencement will last between 2 and 2 1/2 hours beginning at the following times:

  • 4 p.m. Friday, May 12, 2023, for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs.
  • 10 a.m. Saturday, May 13, 2023, for the School of Business, School of Education and School of Health Sciences.
  • 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, 2023, for the Graduate School, School of the Arts and School of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering.

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. Approved bags include the following:

  • Clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags that do not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12″ – A logo no larger than 4.5″ x 3.4″ can be displayed on one side of a permissible clear bag.
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar)
  • Small clutch bags no larger than 4.5″ x 6.5″ – approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap

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.

Can infants 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.

Barring any unforeseen changes due to COVID-19 restrictions, each graduate may request up to the maximum of four tickets for the appropriate ceremony in Cistern Yard. Tickets are ceremony specific and may not be used for any other ceremony. With no pandemic pivots, tickets will be loaded directly to the graduate’s CofC email account:

  • Friday commencement tickets will be sent out on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, by noon
  • Saturday morning commencement tickets will be sent out on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, by noon
  • Saturday afternoon commencement tickets will be sent out on Thursday, May 11, 2023, by noon

There will also be satellite viewing locations where additional guests who do not have tickets can watch the ceremonies live. Tickets are not required for admission to these sites, all of which have air-conditioning and easily accessible restrooms. The satellite viewing locations are:

How can family and friends watch commencement at home?

All ceremonies will be livestreamed on the College of Charleston Facebook page and the College of Charleston YouTube page. Recordings of the ceremonies will also be archived and made available for viewing approximately four weeks later on the commencement website.

What if it rains? 

The College of Charleston monitors the weather for Commencement weekend 24 hours a day. In the event of rain or other inclement weather, ceremonies will be moved to the College’s TD Arena.

If inclement weather occurs, the President’s Office will make an announcement that will be prominently displayed on the homepage of the College of Charleston website ( as well as on local TV and radio stations. There is a possibility that this will delay the start time of the ceremony, and if so, this information will be included in the announcement.

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, seersucker or some other lightweight fabric.

Can I take photos?

Family and friends are welcome to take photos of the event, but are asked to 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.

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

Spring Commencement at the College of Charleston.

Where should graduates and guests park? 

Garage parking will be available in the core of campus at the following locations:

  • The George Garage, located at 34 St. Philip Street between George and Liberty streets (next to CVS)
  • The College’s St. Philip Street Garage, located at 81 St. Philip Street between Vanderhorst and Calhoun streets (next to the BellSouth building)

The hourly rate for these locations is $1 per half hour, or portion thereof, with a daily maximum of $18 per day.

There is also a City of Charleston surface lot located at 31 George St. Parking at this location is pre-paid at the entrance, with a daily maximum of $40 per day.

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 and honorary degree recipients?


  • Commencement speaker: Cynthia P. May, Professor of Psychology
  • Honorary degree recipient: Leon Stavrinakis ’88 State Representative


  • Commencement speaker: Will Ward ’93, Founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based business development firm Forward Venture


  • Commencement speaker: Todd McNerney, Professor of Performance in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Associate Dean of the School of the Arts