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Graduate Advising | SIS


Here you'll get information about graduation, receiving your diploma and the Commencement Ceremony.

Are Graduation and Commencement the Same Thing?

Graduation Processes

Apply to Graduate

Satisfy your requirements

Submit your work

Receive your diploma

Dean's List and Latin Honors

Commencement Ceremony

For students who graduate in a Summer or Fall semester

Are Graduation and Commencement the Same Thing?

While they are connected, they are not the same and have different requirements and timelines. Graduation is the completion of your academic program and is signified by your degree being conferred on your transcript (and receiving your diploma). Commencement is the ceremony usually associated with graduation and is a celebration of the completion of one's program (in which everyone wears regalia).

Participating in an American University Commencement ceremony does not mean that a student has actually graduated and diplomas are not distributed at the ceremony. Similarly it is not mandatory for a graduate to participate in Commencement.

Graduation Processes 

If you're planning to finish everything up and complete your degree this semester, here's what you'll need to do to make sure everything goes smoothly.

1. Apply to graduate

Applying is the first step in the graduation process. It is free to apply to graduate and can be done through If you are unable to access the link on your portal, contact your academic advisor.

You cannot be graduated unless you apply.

Your graduation application contains lots of important information, including how you'd like your name to appear on your diploma, and where you'd like your diploma mailed to you.

If you applied to graduate for a previous semester and did not finish for that semester, you do not need to reapply to graduate for the current semester. (Note: You may be contacted by the Registrar's Office to confirm your address or other information.)

You can get more info about applying to graduate from the Registrar's Office.

2. Satisfy your requirements

Now that you've applied, be sure to satisfy all degree requirements, including those (language and professional development/internship) that don't have credits or classes associated with them. If you're not sure about your outsanding degree requirements, make an appointment to meet with your academic advisor and review your program. In most cases, in the semester for you've applied for graduation, the SIS Graduate Advising Office will e-mail you to explain your eligibility and outstanding degree requirements.

3. Submit your work

All work must be submitted by the final date of the semester in which you've applied to graduate for you to be able to graduate. In order to graduate, all work must be submitted and requirements completed by the last day of the semester for you to be eligible to graduate.

If your grades are not in by this time, even after you've submitted your work, the registrar's office will follow up with the faculty member to verify when you work was submitted. Delays on the part of the faculty member will not prevent you from graduating. Click here for more information on grade submission and graduation.

If you are unable to complete all of your work by the end of the semester in which you've applied to graduate, you will need to reapply to graduate for the following semester. You will also need to maintain your student status for the following semester. For example, if you are trying to graduate for Fall and can't get your SRP finished, you will need to maintain matriculation for Spring in order to be able to graduate.

4. Get your diploma

Your diploma will be mailed to you approximately 4-6 weeks after the end of the semester in which you've met all requirements (though it can take longer if there are delays in getting grades, language, or other degree requirements reported). Your name will appear on your diploma as you specified on your Application for Graduation and will indicate the degree that you've received (Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of International Service) and for students receiving an MA or MS, the program in which you completed the degree (Development Management, Global Environmental Policy, International Affairs, International Communication, International Development, International Peace and Conflict Resolution or Social Enterprise).

If you do not receive your diploma within 8 weeks of the end of the semester in which you finished, or if your diploma has an error (misspelling, wrong degree, or any other problems), contact your academic advisor, who can follow up for you.

Dean's List and Latin Honors

American University only has Dean's List notations for undergraduate students. Similary, only undergraduate students are eligible to receive Latin Honors (summa, magna, or cum laude) at Commencement.

American University does not maintain class rankings for graduate students.

Commencement Ceremony

American University holds its annual commencement exercises over Mother's Day weekend in Bender Arena. The exact time of the SIS Ceremony is posted on the University's Commencement website.  Those who have graduated for the previous Summer or Fall semester, as well as those slated to graduate for the Spring semester are invited to participate.

To be able to participate in Commencement, a student must be registered for all outstanding requirements and be eligible to graduate for the Spring semester. He/she must apply to graduate and will need to place a regalia rental order (for Master's students this consists of a cap, gown, and hood), which can be done through Regalia is required to participate in the Commencement ceremony.

A student who has only 3 elective credits remaining, it may be possible to request an exception to participate in the Commencement ceremony. Contact your academic advisor for additional information.

Participation in Commencement is not mandatory.

For students who graduate in a Summer or Fall semester

You will be invited to a reception in December for all Summer/Fall graduates. You will also be invited to participate in the May Commencement ceremony the following Spring. For example, if you graduated in December 2010, you would have been invited to participate in the May 2011 ceremony.

Last Updated 21 May 2012