Important update on the impact of COVID-19 for Commencement
Harvard has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak as well as guidance set forth by the CDC, and the University's recommendations have been evolving quickly as the situation unfolds. The Office of the President announced that our community will not host Commencement exercises in person this May. We recognize how disappointing this is – especially for our students and their family and friends. Understanding why we must move forward this way does not make it any less difficult, but the health and safety of our community is paramount.
If there are further updates to Commencement and related activities, the University will reach out broadly to students, staff, faculty, parents, and alumni with an update. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.
To stay up to date on Harvard's response to the outbreak, visit the University's COVID-19 website, which will be updated with information as it becomes available.
Commencement for the academic year 2019-2020 will be held on Thursday, May 28, 2020, with Class Day activities on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Commencement Day activities include ceremonies in Harvard Yard and at the GSD, and the Harvard Commencement Address. Class Day activities at the GSD include class photos and ceremony rehearsal for graduates, the Awards Ceremony and Class Day Address, and a reception for graduates and their guests.
If you have a question about Commencement, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also wish to view the university-wide Commencement site.
- Commencement 2020 and Class Day 2020
- Additional Information
- What’s Next?
Graduates will each receive a small number of tickets for Commencement Day events to distribute to their guests, for activities including the morning ceremony in Harvard Yard, the GSD diploma ceremony, and the afternoon address in Harvard Yard. Each graduate will receive two guest tickets for Commencement Day events in Harvard Yard. These Harvard Yard all-day tickets will be for both the morning ceremony and the afternoon exercises. GSD graduates will also receive three guest tickets for the GSD Diploma Ceremony.
Graduates will not need tickets for themselves for any Commencement ceremonies. For both the morning ceremony and afternoon exercises in Harvard Yard, graduates will use their credentials for access; credentials will be distributed at the GSD on Commencement morning. GSD graduates will not need tickets to process into the GSD diploma ceremony.
Graduates will each receive a ticket for their own meal at the GSD Commencement Lunch, and can purchase additional meal tickets for their guests.
Graduates will receive information about reserving guest tickets for ceremonies and meals by email.
Note that there will be opportunities for guests without tickets to participate in activities, including all GSD Class Day events and live broadcasts of ticketed events on Commencement Day to the GSD's Piper Auditorium. There will be standing room access to the GSD Diploma Ceremony available for guests without tickets as space permits, once ticketed guests have entered. While the morning ceremony in Harvard Yard is limited to graduates and their ticketed guests, all members of the Harvard community with an active HUID card are welcome to attend the Commencement Day afternoon exercises in Harvard Yard. No tickets are required for any of the GSD's Class Day activities.
The GSD Class Day Exercises, the Harvard Yard morning ceremony, the GSD Diploma Ceremony, and the Harvard Commencement Address will be broadcast live online, allowing family and friends around the world to share in the celebration. (Note that the pages linked here will not show embedded webcasts until shortly before those events begin.)
Special Accommodations and Guests with Disabilities
If a graduate or guest has a disability, or requires special accommodations in order to fully participate in Commencement activities, please contact email@example.com to request accommodations. If your guest will be attending the morning ceremony or afternoon address in Harvard Yard, you may also wish to view the university-wide Commencement website's information page for guests with disabilities.
To trade regular Yard guest tickets for accessible section tickets, you must email firstname.lastname@example.org in advance.
Class Day – Wednesday, May 27, 2020
- 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, approximate: Class photos and ceremony rehearsal for graduates, by department/program
- 3:30 pm, approximate: GSD Awards Ceremony and Class Day Address; Gund Hall back yard tent (no tickets required; seating opens at 3:00)
- 5:00 pm, approximate: Reception for graduates and their guests; Gund Hall (no tickets required)
Commencement Day – Thursday, May 28, 2020
- 6:45 am: Harvard Yard gates open to ticketed guests. Guests are requested to be seated by 8:15 am. Plan time to stand on line and to have your bags searched; view the Yard bag policy here (scroll down). Also note that strollers will be allowed into the Old Yard, but not into Tercentenary Theatre proper.
- 7:00 am: Continental breakfast available at GSD for graduates and guests; Gund Hall (no tickets required)
- 7:30 am: Graduates line up outside Gund and (at about 7:45 am) process to Harvard Yard
- 8:50 am: Academic Procession into Tercentenary Theatre
- 9:45 am: Commencement Morning Ceremony begins (tickets required)
- 10:30 am: Gund Hall back yard tent opens to ticketed guests for GSD Diploma Ceremony
- 11:30 am: Commencement Morning Ceremony ends
- 12 noon, approximate: GSD Diploma Ceremony (follows Harvard Yard ceremony; tickets required until standing room opens, weather permitting); Gund Hall back yard tent
- 1:30 pm, approximate: GSD lunch for graduates and guests (immediately follows GSD Diploma Ceremony; tickets required); Gund Hall
- 2:30 pm: Harvard Alumni Association meeting and Commencement Address in Harvard Yard (tickets required; bag and stroller policies same as for morning)
Please note that some ceremonies and meals are ticketed events. Graduates will receive information about tickets for themselves and their guests for all events requiring tickets.
Note that in 2020, Commencement is held in the week that begins with the Memorial Day holiday. Harvard staff offices will be closed on Memorial Day (Monday, May 25, 2020).
Optional during Commencement Week are several special affinity group celebrations, which are student-organized, including Harvard Black Graduation and Harvard Latinx Graduation. While details for these events in 2020 have not yet been announced, they are likely to be in the morning or evening of Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
Invitation Letters for International Guests
Some international guests may require tourist visas in order to enter the United States to attend Commencement. The GSD can provide an official letter of invitation addressed to the United States consulate in the guest's country, which guests can use to support their visa applications. Graduates should request guest visa support letters early, as soon as they realize a guest is likely to need one. Many consulates have lengthy visa application processes.
Please note that an official letter of invitation from the GSD does not guarantee a guest a ticket to attend any specific graduation ceremonies or events. The GSD cannot provide formal graduation announcement letters.
To request invitation letters for your guests, please fill out the visa support request form.
Harvard requires all graduates to wear official regalia (“cap and gown”) in order to participate in Commencement. Graduates will receive information about ordering regalia in the spring. The ordering deadline is generally at the end of March. We recommend you order promptly to avoid late fees and to ensure your correct size gown is available. If you are not yet sure whether you will be graduating this year or attending Commencement, please order your regalia before the deadline and cancel the order later if you need to. Regalia order cancellations will receive a full refund up until the day before Commencement.
Graduate regalia questions? After regalia ordering information is announced, any unanswered questions about regalia can be directed to email@example.com.
Faculty are required to wear regalia to participate in the GSD Diploma Ceremony and to participate in the faculty procession into the Harvard Yard morning ceremony (note that spots in the Yard procession are reserved for ladder faculty, are extremely limited, and must be requested in advance). Faculty orders are coordinated through the GSD Commencement coordinator. Senior faculty may wish to purchase regalia for ongoing use; for information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in the Cambridge area will become fully booked well in advance of Commencement. Because there are many other colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area with their own graduation festivities at the same time of year, it can become challenging to locate accommodations as the date gets closer. Beginning in 2020, MIT Commencement will be held the day after Harvard Commencement, and will create additional demand for rooms. We recommend making lodging reservations for guests as soon as possible. Check not only hotels right in Harvard Square (which may already be booked or have high prices during Commencement week) but also surrounding locations. Guests may want to consider hotels that are located on the MBTA public transit system, in nearby communities such as Allston, Brighton, Somerville, Medford, Arlington, and Watertown. Harvard is easily accessible on the MBTA red line subway and by several major bus routes. Public transportation options also include various taxicab and ride-share services.
The university Commencement office has created a list of some nearby hotels, which may be helpful in your planning.
Student Orations Competition
One of the oldest and most cherished traditions of the Morning Exercises of Commencement is the Orations Competition in which three students chosen by a panel of judges deliver an address from memory. Each year, one of these three students is a representative of one of Harvard's graduate and professional schools. Graduating students interested in applying to deliver the graduate student address will find information on the university Commencement website in the spring.
If you are planning ahead for a future Harvard Commencement, these are the dates for the next several years. All Thursday dates are for Commencement Day itself, including the GSD's Diploma Ceremony. All Wednesday dates are for the GSD's Class Day activities.
2021: Wednesday, May 26 & Thursday, May 27
2022: Wednesday, May 25 & Thursday, May 26
2023: Wednesday, May 24 & Thursday, May 25
2024: Wednesday, May 22 & Thursday, May 23
2025: Wednesday, May 28 & Thursday, May 29
2026: Wednesday, May 27 & Thursday, May 28
Note that in 2020, 2025 and 2026, Commencement occurs during the same week as the Memorial Day holiday.
After Commencement, graduates become part of the worldwide Harvard community of alumni. Alumni are encouraged to register to maintain their connections with classmates and professional contacts. To learn more, see the GSD Alumni Resources page, and the Harvard Alumni Association website.
Alumni can also continue to access some aspects of Harvard's libraries, both in-person and online. The Frances Loeb Library has a page with information on library use for GSD alumni.
Your Harvard email account will have a grace period before it is deactivated, but be aware that some Harvard services will be unavailable or limited after your official date of graduation and separation from the university. Ensure you have materials you may need from Canvas or my.Harvard in advance of graduating.
GSD graduates and their families are invited to purchase their class photo, and photos of the diploma ceremony, through our partner Commencement Photos, Inc. Graduates receive a unique ID number by email in May. To request this number be re-sent to you after Commencement, email email@example.com or call 978-851-5924.
Graduates also receive information about viewing and ordering prints of candid photographs taken on Class Day and during Commencement by Creative Capture. To request this information be re-sent to you after Commencement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.