What to Expect on Commencement Day

What to Expect on Commencement Day

All the details you and your guests will need to know for the big day! 


We highly recommend allowing for extra travel time for delays due to heavy traffic, road construction and closures surrounding the Van Andel Arena. Please view project area and detours and view the most up-to-date road closure map

Accessible Parking:
Accessible parking is available in all City owned and operated parking ramps and surface parking lots. Each lot has accessible designated spaces, including van-accessible spaces, for vehicles displaying a current state-issued disability placard or license plate. Accessible spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so please plan accordingly. Please refer to the Directions & Parking info on the Van Andel Arena website for locations, availability and additional information regarding City parking. City of Grand Rapids Parking Services can be contacted at 616-456-3290.

What to do when you arrive

  • Tickets are not required for the ceremony. All seats are general admission, seating is first-come, first-seated and there are no reserved seats. We will live stream the ceremony and provide a live stream link on the homepage on the day of the event.
  • Doors will open 90 minutes prior to the ceremony start time.
  • Graduates should arrive at least one hour prior to start time.
  • Please follow the signage for guests and for graduates. 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 will be directed to the upper concourse to find seating. Graduates will remain on the main level concourse and will be directed to the graduate registration area.
  • Look for signage in the registration area for your college, and 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 and displayed for your big moment!
  • IMPORTANT: Did we mention that you will need to hold on to your personalized QR card until you cross the stage?! 
  • After picking up your QR code card, continue to the main concourse tunnel, and enter the arena. Ushers will be there to 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. 
Diploma graphic


  • Closed captioning will be provided.
  • An ASL interpreter will be provided. Please ask an usher to direct you to the seating area for those who require an ASL interpreter.
  • ADA accessible seating will be available. Learn more on the Van Andel Arena website.
  • There will be an accessible drop off area on Ottawa Ave. near the arena's southwest entrance.
  • Should you need additional accommodations or assistance, please email [email protected].

During the Ceremony

  • Marshals will usher candidates by row to the stage. 
  • Order of degrees: Doctorates, Specialists, 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 and displayed.
  • Remember to have your gown zipped up!
  • Undergraduates, make sure your tassel is placed on your cap so that it's hanging to the right! Doctoral, Specialist, and Master's candidates will have their tassel hanging from the left-side of their caps.
  • 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 is anticipated to last no longer than 2.5 hours. (Please also allow for time to find your seat before the ceremony. Also allow time for exiting and meeting up with your friends and family after the ceremony, when considering plans after the event.)
  • 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.


Cartoon Camera with Flash


  • 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 of the ceremony will be available for purchase, and will be shipped directly to you. 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.

Commemorative Alumni Pin

As a courtesy to all graduates, and to ensure that every Laker has an amazing experience, we kindly ask that all grads and guests stay until the end of the ceremony. All graduates will receive an official Alumni pin upon exiting the stage.

Additional 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. There will not be an opportunity to meet up with your guests inside of the Arena.
Cartoon megaphone and confetti

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.

Congratulations, Class of 2024!

Commencement is coordinated by the Division of Student Affairs of Grand Valley State University.

Page last modified April 24, 2024