Frequently Asked Questions

Q:   When are the April Commencement ceremonies?
A:   The April Commencement ceremonies will be held on Friday, April 28 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 29 at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the Van Andel Arena, downtown Grand Rapids.

Q:   What ceremony do I commence in if I have more than one major?

A:   If you have multiple degrees, check MyPath to confirm your first major. The college of your first major is the ceremony you will be assigned.

Q:   How do I get my cap and gown?
A:   Caps, gowns, tickets and other graduation information will be available at GradFest. Please see the GradFest page for important information!

Q:   What Commencement gowns are approved to wear at the GVSU ceremony?
A:   Only the blue gowns made by Oak Hall will be accepted to wear at the ceremony. If your gown was manufactured by Oak Hall and previously used in a GV ceremony, you may use it!

Q.   How many tickets will I receive? And where do I get my tickets for guests?
A:   Each graduate will receive 9 tickets. Tickets will be available online beginning April 10. Please be advised that the last day to apply and be able to receive tickets for the Commencement ceremony through the online ticketing system is April 26 at 5 p.m.  

Q: How can I be sure my name will be listed in the Commencement program?

A: You MUST complete a graduation application by March 10, 2017 in order to be listed. Fill out an application online here. Completed applications may be emailed to or they can be returned in person to the Student Assistance Center in Allendale (150 STU) or at the Grand Rapids Pew Campus (115C DeVos), by fax to (616) 331-2000, or by mail to the Registrar's office, 150 Student Services, Allendale, MI, 49401

Q: How do I get cords or stoles to wear with my cap and gown?

A: Many organizations have cords or stoles to wear with their cap and gown. Check out this list to see if your organization is qualified! Please contact your respective organization, well in advance, if you think you may be eligible. 

Q: When is Toast with T. Haas?

A: Toast with T. Haas is on Wednesday, April 19  from 6 - 7:30 DeVos Center (Building C)! You can register online here!

Q:   How long does the Commencement Ceremony last?

A:   Typically, the Commencement Ceremony will last approximately two hours.

Q: Who is the guest speaker for the Commencement ceremony?

A: Shelley E. Padnos will be the guest speaker at Commencement on Friday evening, Sean P. Welsh at the Saturday morning ceremony and Erion Veliaj will be the guest speaker at Commencement on Saturday afternoon. All three of the speakers will also receive an honorary degree.

Q: Who are the Honorary Degrees Recipients?

A: Along with our three speakers, Gary L. Verplank will receive an honorary degree at the Friday evening ceremony. Ellen Thompson and Nancy M. Tweddale will receive honorary degrees at the morning and afternoon ceremonies respectively.

Q: Who are the other special guests?

A: Eglantina Gjermeni will be honored as the Distinguished Alumni on Friday night, and Sheryl Vlieststra will be honored as the Outstanding Educator on Saturday afternoon. 

Q:   Are tickets required for young children?

A:   Tickets are required for everyone over two years of age. Children under the age of two will not need a ticket as long as they sit on a lap. 

Q:   Where do I get announcements?

A:   Custom graduation announcements will be available online through Signature Announcements at or Jostens at Please allow two (2) weeks for delivery.

Q:   Where can I purchase flowers and t-shirts ahead of time?

A:   Commencement Flowers provides graduates and guests with the opportunity to pre-order their flowers online. The website, is available so that customers can purchase and reserve their flowers ahead of time and have them available for pick-up at Commencement. 

Q:   I studied abroad; how do I order my International Graduation Sash?

A:   E-mail Vicki Wenger in the Padnos International Center at

Q:   What about accessible access to the arena?

A:   Guests who need alternative access accommodations should enter the Arena at the southwest corner on Ottawa Avenue.  Arena staff will direct guests upon entering the facility to identified accessible locations.  Access to most of the arena seating requires climbing or descending steps.  Due to the high number of guests who may need accommodations, it may not always be possible to have entire families seated together. 

Q:   Where can graduates put their purse and/or other valuables during the ceremony?

A:    Since there are no lockers available, graduates are discouraged from bringing purses or other valuables with them to the ceremony. (Another option would be to leave your purse or other valuables with your guests)

Q:   Which side of the student’s cap is the tassel supposed to hang when entering the arena?

A:   All tassels are to be on the right side of the cap for Bachelor students. During the ceremony, undergraduate students will move the tassel to the left when instructed. Masters/Doctorate students will process into the arena with the tassel on the left where it will remain for the duration of the ceremony.

Q:   Where do graduates meet guests after the ceremony?

A:   Prearrange a meeting spot outside of the Arena with your families and guests after the ceremony. Approximately 9,000 people will exit at the same time and it is difficult to locate your family and guests. Consider meeting at a lunch location. Reservations are recommended.

Q:   May family members take photographs?

A:   Photos may be taken from seats. No one from the audience is permitted to be on the Commencement floor. During the ceremony Graduation Foto will take two pictures of each graduate as they receive their diploma.

Q:   Why do we call the ceremony Commencement instead of Graduation?

A:   Students sometimes refer to Commencement as Graduation; however, officially, graduation is defined as when a student has completed all the requirements for his or her degree whereas Commencement is the name of the actual ceremony.

Q:   When is the College of Education April 2017 Convocation?

A:  The College of Education April 2017 Convocation is Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at Ottawa Hills High School (Grand Rapids). Students are required to wear full regalia in order to process/participate. To register for April 2017 Convocation go to: COE Registration. For more information on Convocation, contact David Bair ( or visit

Page last modified April 11, 2017