Whether this is your family’s first experience at a college commencement — or your fourth or fifth, this page should be useful as you make your plans.


Graduation means completing all the requirements of the degree program. Commencement is the ceremony held each year to honor the students who have completed (or are about to complete) the graduation requirements for their degree.  

In order to participate in the 2023 commencement ceremony, students must meet specific eligibility requirements as outlined on the Academic Regulations page. Any students with questions about their eligibility should consult with the Office of the Registrar.

Those expecting to participate in Commencement 2023 should visit the Commencement Checklist and Information page to complete all required action items.

Yes, to all students who have officially graduated in May. Students who are eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony but whose degrees were conferred in a previous December or will be conferred in August or December will receive their diploma by mail at the address on record.

Seating is open and tickets are not needed as long as the ceremony takes place as planned at Andy Kerr Stadium (outdoors). In case inclement weather forces the ceremony indoors, where seating will be limited, each graduate will be able to reserve up to five guest tickets for inclement weather seating. Graduates are responsible for reserving guest tickets. Each guest would need their own ticket, regardless of age.

The ceremony runs for approximately 2½ hours.

Participating in commencement weekend, including the commencement ceremony, is optional for graduates. You would receive your degree regardless of whether or not you participate in the ceremony as long as you have completed the graduation requirements for your degree. If you do not attend the ceremony, your diploma will be mailed to you the following week at the address on record.

There is no dress code. Attendees are encouraged to consider the weather and wear what is comfortable for them. The ceremony will be held in Andy Kerr Stadium, an outdoor venue, unless severe inclement weather arises. Even in May, our Chenango Valley temperatures can range from freezing up to the mid-80s F (mid-to-upper 20s C), and showers can appear unexpectedly, so please plan your attire accordingly.

General Weekend Questions

There is no charge to attend any of the events, including the commencement dinner on Friday and the academic reception on Saturday, which are both for the graduates and their guests.

Expenses for families typically include the cost of travel, meals, and staying overnight when necessary.  Recognizing that lodging in the region can be expensive and hard to come by for families, Colgate offers on-campus lodging in residence halls for a modest cost. Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Visit the Commencement Information for Parents and Families page for lodging options. 

See the Meals and Dining section of the commencement information page for guests.

Commencement Dinner

Yes, graduates are welcome to bring their guests.

There is no charge for the meal for graduates or their guests. There will be a cash bar (no ATM on site).

There is no limit, but in order to limit food waste at this buffet-style meal, we ask that graduates be as accurate as possible with their Friday Commencement Dinner reservations.

There is no dress code. The dinner will take place outdoors under a large tent. Attendees are encouraged to consider the weather and wear what is comfortable for them.

Baccalaureate Service

The baccalaureate service is the formal beginning of the commencement weekend. The service includes remarks by the graduating class’ 1819 Award recipient and the faculty recipient of the Jerome Balmuth Award for Teaching. Other graduating seniors offer readings from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, humanist, Christian, and Buddhist traditions, and student groups present musical and dance selections. Graduates wear robes, though not caps, to the service. 

Attendance is not mandatory for graduates, but it is a longstanding tradition that the vast majority choose to attend. 

This event draws many more people than the chapel can hold. Guest seating is extremely limited; doors open at 2:30. Guests may also watch at colgate.edu/commencement or at one of these viewing locations:

  • Little Hall, 105 Golden Auditorium
  • Lawrence Hall, 105 Ho Lecture Room 
  • Persson Hall, 27 Persson Auditorium 
  • Benton Hall, 200 Rosensweig Room
  • Benton Hall, 213 Clifford Commons 

Senior Torchlight Procession

The Senior Torchlight Procession is a culminating celebration of graduates’ four years. The members of the graduating class process down the hill carrying torches as a symbol of the “light of knowledge” they have gained through their Colgate education, as represented by the torch on the University seal. 

Participants and spectators at the Senior Torchlight Procession commit to abide by the following policies and expectations.

  • Participation
    • Only students eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony (including master’s students) may participate in the procession.  
  • Alcohol
    • Participants may not possess nor engage in the consumption of alcohol while holding a lit torch.
    • Participants must dispose of alcohol on their person prior to their torch being lit at the start of the procession. 
    • Participants of legal age, who choose to, may engage in the consumption of alcohol at the president’s reception immediately following the procession. 
  • Procession
    • Objects of any kind may not be thrown either from the procession line or to participants in the procession line.  
  • Prohibited Items: The following items may not be carried:
    • No large bags or backpacks will be permitted. Only small purses or packs will be permitted.
    • Alcohol, lighters, or other flammable items
    • Glass objects or containers of any kind
    • Commercial audio and visual equipment
    • Drones
    • Animals (Registered and approved service animals are permitted. Pets and Emotional Support Animals are not.)
    • Other items prohibited by the Student Code of Conduct (link to SCOC). 
  • Spectators (non-graduating students, families, and friends)
    • Are not permitted on the Academic Quad or along the procession route.
    • Must watch the procession from designated areas only, for their own safety and that of the participants.
    • Objects of any kind may not be thrown to participants in the procession line. 
  • Follow the instructions and route guidance by event staff, Campus Safety personnel, and local fire, medical, and law enforcement. 
  • Torches will be lit at the start of the procession and extinguished at the end of the procession by trained personnel with proper equipment and clothing. 
  • To keep from running into one another with lit torches, participants are reminded not to stop suddenly along the route and to be mindful of where their lit torch is in relation to other participants and guests.
  • Participants may choose to process without a torch, with an unlit torch, or with a substitute item that does not pose a safety hazard.
  • Safety requests:
    • Wear flat-soled footwear 
    • Commencement robes are extremely flammable; do not wear them. 
    • If you have long hair, you are strongly encouraged to tie it back to prevent it from catching on fire.
    • Always hold your lit torch upright

As articulated in the University Code of Student Conduct, “Colgate expects that its students will not lie, steal, cheat, or engage in dishonest or unlawful behavior, including behavior that damages University property, the personal property of another individual, public property, or engage in any other behavior that inflicts physical or emotional harm on oneself, another person, or the community.” This policy applies to all students from matriculation through commencement (and is behavior that hopefully continues as alumni represent their alma mater). 

Failure to comply with safety precautions or safety directives may result in injury to self or others. Remember, this is an event with hundreds of open flames and a large number of attendees who are in close proximity to one another. Disrespect towards other students, guests, or staff volunteers will result in the individual’s removal from the procession. Egregious behaviors may result in not receiving one’s diploma at commencement until all pending University student conduct violations have been adjudicated.

These policies and protocols are the results of a collective review of past events by University Events, the Commencement Executive Committee, and Campus Safety, as well as the review of relevant University policies, including the Code of Student Student Rights and Responsibilities, that outline expectations for students.

More Questions?

Caps & Gowns, Professional Ceremony Photography

Michele Carney: mcarney@colgate.edu, 315-228-7425

General Commencement Info

University Events: commencement@colgate.edu; 315-825-9322