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FAQs Ceremony Details

When is Commencement?

Commencement is the all Northwestern ceremony Friday, June 19, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. at Ryan Field. There will be a Live Webcast of the 2020 Northwestern Commencement ceremony will begin at 9:15 a.m.. Please check back for more information as we get closer to Commencement.

Please contact the Commencement Office at or by phone at 847-491-3600 with any questions or comments. Thank you!


What is the difference between Commencement and Convocation?

Commencement is the all Northwestern ceremony at Ryan Field where the Class of 2020 is commemorated as a whole. During the ceremony, student, faculty and guest speakers will address graduates and their families.

Convocation is an individual school ceremony that awards the graduate. Students walk across the stage and are individually recognized at their school’s Convocation ceremony.


How long is the ceremony?

The Commencement ceremony is approximately two hours long.

Is Commencement mandatory?

While the Commencement ceremony is not mandatory for students; attendance is encouraged as a traditional experience for Northwestern students, their families and friends.

Are Commencement audience seats assigned?

There will not be assigned seats, but there will be assigned sections for patrons to sit at. Sections will be notated on commencement tickets. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. and we encourage all guests to arrive early in order to have the greatest flexibility in seating.

Will there be a specific location where parents can photograph their student as they proceed in?

Picture taking is encouraged at two specially created photo backdrops displaying the University seal. These locations, available before and after the Commencement ceremony, will be under the west stands of Ryan Field near Gates S and N.  Formal graduate photos will be taken at the graduate’s individual convocation ceremony.

Do we have family bathrooms at Ryan Field for guests in wheelchairs with caretakers that are a different sex?

Unfortunately, there are no family bathrooms at Ryan Field.

Can stadium seats with backs be brought into the stadium?

Yes, cushions and seat backs meant to sit on top of the bleachers for comfort purposes are allowed at Ryan Field. Full sized folding chairs or portable chairs that cannot be used on bleachers will not be allowed into the stadium.

Is there a clear bag policy at Ryan Field for Commencement?

No.  Please note that we ask that all guests be mindful of their neighbors when bringing additional bags to the stadium. Security personnel will be checking bags when they feel that it is necessary.

What items are prohibited at the Commencement Ceremony at Ryan Field?

The following items:

  • alcohol
  • coolers
  • cans
  • food
  • long lens & video cameras
  • musical instruments or noisemakers
  • umbrellas
  • weapons

Individuals not complying with the directions of University staff maybe asked to leave the ceremony.



Will there be food for sale at the Commencement ceremony?

There will be water and lemonade served to all guests. The concession stands on the concourse level will be open and will be selling light snacks and refreshments.


Will I receive my diploma at the Commencement ceremony?

No, diplomas will be mailed to graduates after Convocation. Students who participate in Convocation will receive a diploma cover when they cross the stage.


Where will my diploma be mailed?

Your diploma will be mailed to your permanent address, as it is listed in CAESAR. It is important that you update your permanent address in CAESAR as soon as possible in order to ensure correct delivery of your diploma.


Do graduates have to wear academic regalia to participate in Commencement?

Yes. Regalia is required for all participating in the ceremony and can be purchased or rented from the Northwestern Bookstore.

Can I decorate my cap for the University Commencement ceremony?

Candidates may not alter or decorate their regalia in any way. Doing so may interfere with their ability to participate in events including Commencement, Convocation, and any hooding ceremony.