What to Expect on Commencement Day


We highly recommend allowing for extra travel time for delays due to heavy traffic, road construction and closures surrounding the Van Andel Arena. There will be construction and closures on Market Ave. between Fulton St. and Weathly St. View the project area and detours and view the most up-to-date road closure map. Detours will be clearly marked. Please share this information with your guests!

  • Parking is available in city lots near Van Andel Arena as well as the GVSU Pew Campus Fulton Lot. View downtown Grand Rapids parking options.
  • A pedestrian walkway will be available from the Pew Campus Fulton parking lot to the Van Andel Arena. Parking in the lot will be available from the west.
  • The drop off area for the ADA accessible entrance is on Ottawa Ave. at the southwest entrance of the Arena.

What do I do when I arrive?

  • Doors will open 90 minutes prior to the ceremony start time. Graduates should arrive at least one hour prior to start time.
  • Graduates will have a separate entrance from their guests. Signage and ushers will be available to direct you.
  • Please note, Van Andel Arena has adopted a No Bag policy, permitting no bags, backpacks or purses other than those required for medical or parenting needs into the venue. Small clutches no larger than 4.5" x 6.5" x 2" will be permitted. Bags in the medical/essential category will be screened by security personnel. Policy is subject to change based on event policy. The No Bag policy reduces contact between guests and security staff by eliminating the need to search these items. This is part of ongoing efforts to promote a contact-free experience.
  • Once inside, guests should have their ticket ready (printed or on their phone) as they will have their ticket scanned upon entry, and will be directed to the upper concourse to find seating. Graduates will be directed to the graduate registration area.
  • Look for your college’s signage where you’ll pick up a personalized card with a QR code on it. Hang on to this until you cross the stage! There will be a scanner on stage to scan your card which then prompts your name to be read for your big moment!
  • After picking up your QR code card, continue on the graduate path to the arena where you will find ushers who can direct you to your college’s seating area. You will sit with others in your college, but do not have to sit in any particular order or alphabetically. 


During the Ceremony

  • Marshals will usher candidates by row to the stage. 
  • Order of degrees: Doctorate's, Master's, Bachelor's
  • Your diploma cover will be given to you before ascending the ramp to the stage.
  • Be sure to bring your QR code card to the stage with you, as it will be scanned before you cross the stage so that your name can be read.
  • Remember to have your gown zipped up and your tassel placed on your cap so that it's hanging to the right.
  • You will then cross the stage and have your photograph taken after you’ve walked off stage. (These images will be emailed to your GVSU email address after graduation.)
  • Please return back to your original seat for the remainder of the ceremony. The ceremony will last no longer than 2.5 hours.
  • Please be respectful of everyone and remind your guests to stay until the conclusion of the ceremony and after all platform officials, faculty, and graduates have recessed.


Accessibility Assistance

  • Closed captioning will be provided.
  • ADA accessible seating will be available.
  • Should you need additional accommodations or assistance, please email [email protected].


  • You may use cameras and video cameras, however guests should take pictures from their seat. Access to the stage is restricted to those involved in the ceremony. 
  • A professional photographer will take pictures of each graduate as they cross the stage.
  • A DVD will be available for purchase of each ceremony, to order complete our Commencement DVD Order Form.
  • Photographs and video will be taken during this event. Your presence gives consent for any such photographs or video to be used for advertising and publicity purposes by Grand Valley State University.

COVID-19 Precautions

  • Face coverings are optional.
    At this time, Van Andel Arena does not require face coverings. The Arena follows guidelines set forth by the State of Michigan or any federal mandates. GVSU will monitor COVID-19 guidance from the CDC, state, and local public health officials. Plans will be adjusted as needed to address new orders, guidance, and data, as well as venue policies. The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and our community are at the forefront of the Commencement planning process. Please regularly check this website for additional updates and information. 
  • View Van Andel Arena's VenueShield information.

After the Ceremony

  • Graduates will recess out of the southwest doors out onto Ottawa Ave.
  • Please make a plan with your guests to meet them outside of the Van Andel Arena.

Commencement is coordinated by the Office of Student Life, which is a department of the Division of Student Affairs of Grand Valley State University.

Page last modified April 27, 2022