When Are College Graduations?: When Do Colleges Hold Commencement

Closeup of graduation cap on a calendar
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If you are nearing the end of your time in college, you may have questions about when colleges have graduations.

The date of college graduation varies depending on the college. Colleges hold a commencement ceremony at the end of the academic year in May or June. Many colleges, especially big colleges, also hold a commencement ceremony in the winter, typically in December.

Many colleges hold multiple ceremonies (at least for Spring commencement)—convocations for different departments and a college-wide ceremony.

Check your college’s academic calendar or graduation schedule to find out your school’s specific date for their commencement ceremonies.

Read on to find out what commencement is, what month most commencement ceremonies are, and what happens if you graduate in spring, summer, fall, or winter.

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Graduating vs. commencement

Graduating and attending (or walking at) commencement are two separate things. Graduating means the student met all the requirements and received their degree. Commencement is the graduation ceremony where students wear caps and gowns.

Students can graduate at any point (at the end of any class that meets their final requirements). However, colleges hold commencement ceremonies at set times for graduating students to attend.

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Graduating in spring: What month are most college graduations?

When people typically think of graduations, they think of spring commencement ceremonies.

Most college graduation ceremonies are in the spring at the end of the academic year. Graduation ceremonies are most common in the month of May but can be anytime from early-mid May to early-mid June, depending on your college.

For example, at ASUOpens in a new tab., graduation is at the beginning of May.

Do most people graduate in the spring or fall?

Most people graduate in the spring because it is the end of the academic year and the traditional time for students to graduate. The expected college experience is for 4 academic years, meaning that students graduate in the spring at the end of the fourth year.

However, many students attend for more than 4 years or graduate after the summer or fall semester. Summer or fall graduation is especially common at colleges with trimesters or a quarter system.

Attending a commencement ceremony early

Some colleges allow students who will finish their degree requirements later during the summer or fall to still walk in the spring commencement ceremony.

Students can request permission to attend the spring commencement ceremony if they want to attend the ceremony with friends or prefer the spring ceremony over a winter commencement ceremony.

Attending the spring ceremony may also be necessary if students or their families have travel or health restrictions that make attending a later ceremony difficult.

Students can then complete their courses or internship and officially graduate and earn their degree.

However, while students may be able to walk and have their names called, they will not be able to receive honors since the college does not know if they earned them since they are not done with their courses.

Graduating in summer

Let’s look at what happens if you graduate in the summer.

Can you graduate in the summer in college?

Students can graduate (earn their degree) in the summer of college. However, colleges typically do not have summer commencement ceremonies.

If you graduate in the summer, when do you walk?

In general, if you graduate in the summer, you can walk in the summer commencement ceremony (if your college has one, but they are not common), the winter commencement ceremony, or the next spring commencement ceremony.

Some colleges have commencement ceremonies at the end of the spring, summer, and fall. For example, U of IOpens in a new tab. confers degrees in May, August, and December.

When I graduated in the summer of 2020, I was told I could attend the winter or spring commencement ceremony (if they had it, pending COVID restrictions). However, ultimately, I decided not to attend my commencement ceremony. Find out my tips to help you accept missing graduationOpens in a new tab..

Check with your college to see what commencement options are available for summer graduates.

Graduating in fall

Let’s review what happens if you meet your degree requirements in the fall.

Can you graduate in the fall in college?

Students can graduate (earn their degree) in the fall semester of college. Students can then attend the college’s winter commencement ceremony.

If you graduate in the fall, when do you walk?

If you graduate in the fall, you can attend the college’s winter commencement ceremony. Most big colleges now offer a winter commencement ceremony in December (some have it anywhere from Novemeber-January).

Most colleges allow students to choose between walking in the winter or next spring commencement ceremonies. However, some colleges only provide the option to attend the winter commencement ceremony. It depends on your college’s policy and when they host commencement ceremonies.

Check with your college to see what commencement ceremony fall graduates are invited to and when it is.

Graduating in winter

Let’s go over what happens when students graduate in the winter in college.

Can you graduate in December in college?

Unless the college offers courses over winter break, students won’t graduate college in winter (it would be considered fall since it is the fall semester). However, students who complete their degree requirements in the summer or fall may participate in the winter graduation ceremony.

If you graduate in December, when do you walk?

If the student graduates in summer, fall, or December, they are typically allowed to walk in the December commencement ceremony or the next spring commencement ceremony.

Check with your academic advisor, college registrar’s office, or graduation office.

If you graduate in December, what class are you?

When you graduate in December, there are multiple ways to view your class year.

Most people consider you a part of the class of whatever year you graduated, regardless of if you graduated in the spring or winter. If you graduated in December of 2014, you are class of 2014.

Others look at when you started and add 4 years to that—for example, if you started in the fall of 2010 and graduated in December of 2013, many would consider you class of 2014.

You could call yourself whichever you prefer, but if you really want a specific answer, you can ask your academic advisor.

What time of year is best to graduate college?

There are advantages and disadvantages to graduating in spring, summer, or winter, but spring is typically considered the best time to graduate from college since this is the traditional time. It may be easier to plan for commencement ceremonies and travel during this time.

Additionally, summer commencement ceremonies are uncommon, and not all colleges offer winter ceremonies.

Those ceremonies are typically smaller and less formal. If you want a more formal ceremony, you can view this as a negative. However, you could also view it as a positive since the ceremony may be shorter, you may be able to get more tickets, and you have more time to shine.

Another downside to not graduating in spring is that employers may not be looking to hire recent graduates at that time, so it may be harder to find a job. However, it could also mean less competition for jobs. If you are graduating “early,” then this could help you on the job hunt because it looks good to potential employers.

Now that you know when college graduations are, find out the requirements for graduating collegeOpens in a new tab. and how to apply for graduationOpens in a new tab..

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