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Ceremony FAQs

What's the difference between Graduation and Commencement?

SPS Graduation celebrates the graduating students from the School of Professional Studies. The dean of the school will address the graduates along with faculty and student speakers. Each graduate will have the opportunity to cross the stage and have their name read. Attendance is optional but registration is mandatory, and caps and gowns must be worn. 

University Commencement, which will be held this year on May 17, 2023, celebrates all graduates of Columbia, from seniors in the undergraduate school to SPS grads to students in their final years of the Law and Medical Schools. The president of the university will speak and each school will have a chance to stand and be recognized. Names are not read and students do not cross the stage. It is a beautiful, and historic, ceremony held outside on the steps of Low Library. Attendance is optional but highly recommended. Caps and gowns are required. Learn more about Commencement here.

What is the University's COVID-19 policy for graduates and guests?

Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community. Effective May 11, 2023, graduates, visiting alumni, and guests attending Commencement activities on Columbia’s campuses are strongly recommended to follow CDC guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination and community guidance on indoor masking. Attendees will not be required to attest, show proof of vaccination status or recent test results, however, are encouraged to stay home if feeling unwell or testing positive for COVID-19.

Please visit Columbia University’s Hub for Emergency Preparedness for the latest health and safety policies as they are subject to change.

What entrance should be used for guests with disabilities/limited mobility?

  • Guests with disabilities, limited mobility, or elderly requiring assistance, should enter 116th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Event Host staff will meet your party at this location to escort guests to the seating area.
  • If you have any questions or concerns please contact Columbia’s Office of Disability Services at (212) 854-2388 or disability [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu

Map of Entrance Locations

How should graduates and guests prepare for inclement weather?

The SPS Graduation and University Commencement Ceremonies are outdoor events that are held rain or shine. SPS Graduation is held under a tent, but please prepare yourself appropriately for the weather conditions. Bring sunscreen and a hat as well as an umbrella or raincoat, should there be inclement weather. University Commencement is not held under a tent.

How can one view the live webcast or ceremony recordings?

Webcasts of SPS Graduation and University Commencement are available on the Commencement website for live, online viewing during the events. Recordings of all events will also be available for on-demand viewing via the same link.

What lodging options are available?

There are a variety of options for accommodations during Commencement Week. Discounted rates may be available to Columbia University students and guests at some local hotels upon inquiry. Neighborhood hotels do fill up well in advance, so it is recommended that you make your reservation as soon as possible. You can find several off-campus options here.

There are many other hotels in New York City, many of which are only a short subway ride from the University. 

Columbia Affiliates
Additionally, some Columbia affiliates have a limited number of guest rooms available.

Teachers College Guest Housing
517 West 121st Street, New York, NY 10027
t: (212) 678-3235

International House Guest Accommodations
500 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10027
t: (212) 316-8400

Traveling to Columbia

The Visiting section of the Columbia website includes comprehensive directions for getting to campus via car or public transportation.

Parking is extremely limited during Commencement week. For more information, see the University Commencement website.