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American Public University System


What to Expect at Commencement

Here is a sneak peek of what you can expect during commencement weekend. Whether you’re starting your academic journey, you’re a seasoned student working hard toward the finish line, or if you’re about to take that walk across the stage, the details below will be sure to get you pumped for commencement.

What to Expect as a Graduate

On the day of the ceremony, university greeters and staff will be positioned throughout the hotel to direct you and your guests to the ceremony and check-in locations. Graduates should arrive to their ceremony at least 30 minutes prior to the start time. You will be given a name card that will be used to recognize you during the ceremony. Please verify your name pronunciation, degree, and state before you leave the check-in area.

Personal Belongings
We encourage graduates to leave personal belongings with family and friends. If you must bring an item with you, please note it will be your responsibility to secure the item(s) during the event. The university is not responsible for any lost, stolen, or forgotten items.

Processional Line Up
Graduates will line up for the processional and be seated by academic school. Please review the AMU or APU academic schools pages and identify your academic school by program. For programs not listed, please contact the University Events Office prior to your arrival by emailing

The procession line-up will begin 10 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony, so it’s important all graduates are in their designated line up areas no later than 30 minutes prior to the ceremony start time. Ceremony marshals and university staff will be present before the ceremony to organize the procession lines. You will be briefed on the procession, ceremony, graduate portraits, class photo, and the recession.

President Dr. Wally Boston will begin the procession, led by the macebearer. Dr. Boston will be followed by the platform party, which includes members of the board of trustees, board of directors, provost, deans, and special guests. Faculty marshals will lead the faculty into the ballroom following the platform party. You will follow your school marshal and proceed to the reserved seating area at the front of the ballroom.

Presentation of Diplomas
Marshals will advise you and your fellow graduates when to rise and will lead you to the stage to receive your ceremonial diploma. You will not receive your official diploma during the ceremony. Official diplomas are mailed after your official conferral date or after the completion of all degree program requirements, whichever is later. You should not bring your official diploma to the ceremony.

When you reach the podium, you should present your name card to the announcer at the podium on the side of the stage. You will be advised when to cross the stage so that your name, degree, and state are displayed on the screen as you cross the stage to receive your ceremonial diploma, presented to you by the dean of your academic school. After you receive your ceremonial diploma, you will shake hands with Dr. Boston (a picture will be taken at this moment), exit stage left and return to graduate seating. Marshals, dressed in regalia, and staff, in blue polos, will direct you during the ceremony.

All graduates and guests will stand as the platform party exits the ballroom. Marshals will lead faculty and graduates out of the ballroom. Guests will be directed out the side doors.

What to Expect as a Guest

The significance of this day and the recognition of academic achievements of our graduates should be observed with utmost respect. Please:

  • Silence cellular phones and other communication devices while inside the ballroom.
  • Refrain from bringing food and beverages into the ceremony. These items, along with smoking, are prohibited inside the ballroom.
  • Remain seated for the entire ceremony and recession until the all graduates have exited the ballroom.

Guest Arrival and Seating
Your guests will be allowed to enter the ballroom one hour prior to the ceremony. Gaylord staff members will be positioned at guest entrances to check wristbands and assist with guest seating. All guests should be seated prior to the procession, as the doors will be closed during the procession. Doors will re-open after the National Anthem and Invocation. Seating is determined on a first come, first served basis. Large screens will be placed on either side of the stage for additional visual aid.

Guest Wristbands
All guests and children above the age of two must have a wristband to enter and re-enter the ballroom. You will be able to request up to eight guest wristbands. Your guest wristbands will be given to you or your assigned adult representative at check-in.

For safety purposes, no exceptions will be made to this policy. It is important to notify your guests of this policy so there is no confusion on the day of the ceremony.

Lost or Forgotten Wristbands
If guest wristbands are lost or forgotten on the day of the ceremony, please visit the registration kiosk for assistance.

The university will provide a family-friendly viewing area located outside of the ballroom. Coloring books and crayons will be available in this area and may be brought into the ballroom. There will be an entrance to this area at the back of the ballroom. Ushers will be stationed inside the ballroom to direct you. Strollers should be stored along the outside walls of the ballroom during the ceremony and will not be allowed in the inner aisles.

Guests may take photographs during the ceremony from their seats. Tripod or camera stands are prohibited. Please do not block aisles during the ceremony.

The ceremony will be professionally photographed and recorded and will be available for download from the commencement website after the ceremony.


Special Accommodations

If you or your guests require special accommodations or assistance, please submit your request on your reservation form or email so that the university can make arrangements in advance. Ushers will assist those needing special accommodations to their designated seating area.