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Day-of Instructions for Graduates

This information applies only to graduating students. Families and guests should follow the day-of instructions for guests as well as review the campus map and arena floorplans before coming to campus.

Where To Assemble For The Processional

Graduates should arrive at the Bender Arena lobby and proceed to the 2nd floor of Bender Arena Sports Center for check-in 45 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony. Graduates will be directed to their line-up locations. Look for the sign that identifies your degree group when you arrive at your assembly area.   

Important Updates:

  • Guests must have their tickets ready during line-up outside Bender Arena.
  • Doors will open one hour prior to the start of each ceremony. No entry will be permitted during the processional beginning approximately 10 minutes prior to the start of each ceremony. Guests should arrive early to ensure entry to the Bender Arena to view the processional.
  • There will be no re-entry to Bender Arena permitted for guests.
  • We ask that graduates and all guests practice good hygiene and infection control precautions such as frequent and thorough hand washing and hand sanitization and stay home if not feeling well.

Before the Ceremony

  • There is no rehearsal for commencement.
  • All American University Commencement ceremonies take place in Bender Arena. Ceremonies are based on school or college; there is no university wide ceremony. The ceremonies are expected to run approximately two hours.
  • Use the commencement hashtag #2023AUgrad for the Fall 2023 ceremonies on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Your posts will appear on the screens inside Bender Arena before the ceremony.

Graduate Assembly and Robing

  • Graduates should arrive at the Bender Arena Sports Center lobby and proceed to the 2nd floor of Bender Arena Sports Center for check-in 45 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony. Graduates will be directed to their line-up locations. Look for the sign that identifies your degree group when you arrive at your assembly area.   
  • Only graduating students are permitted in the assembly areas in the Tavern and Sports Center. Families and guests should go directly to Bender Arena to be seated.
  • It is recommended that graduates arrive at their assembly area already wearing their cap and gown. Please leave handbags, coats, jackets, umbrellas, etc. with family or guests. There is no coat check or secure location to store your belongings during the ceremony
  • Large signs, banners, noise makers and other objects that impede visibility or sound will not be permitted.
  • Alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited at commencement.

Graduate Line-up and Processional

  • Graduates begin lining up for the processional 45 minutes prior to the ceremony. Choose a partner from your school and degree group and line up two abreast. Doctoral students will line up with their dissertation advisors.
  • Graduates will be given a card pre-printed with their name, QR code, and email address. DO NOT LOSE THIS CARD. You will hand this card to the audio technician during the ceremony so that your unique QR code can be scanned and your name can be announced as you cross the stage. 
  • University photographers and videographers will document the ceremony for possible use on the AU website and in the press, AU marketing materials, and other university publications.
  • Photographers from ProPics will take two pictures of you as you approach and depart the stage and one picture with President Burwell. Photos will be available for purchase after the ceremony. There is no cost to have your photo taken and no obligation to purchase. If you would like to receive your photo proofs, please go to to submit your information. 
  • Your degree group will stay together throughout the processional, ceremony, and recessional. Remain in line with your partner, and you will be guided to your seat.
  • Please keep the line straight and orderly during the processional. Do not leave the line once the processional begins. When you reach your seating row, the partner on the right enters first. Proceed directly to your chair and be seated.

During the Ceremony

  • To ensure the comfort of our guests and in accordance with local fire safety laws, aisles must be kept clear at all times. Graduates and guests are asked to cooperate with ushers and public safety officers and to keep designated areas clear.
  • Each graduate’s name will be announced during the ceremony. The university requests that graduates and guests respectfully honor this momentous occasion in a way that enables family and friends to hear each graduate’s name as it is announced. Please refrain from the use of air horns or any other type of noisemaker during the ceremony.
  • Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in Bender Arena. This rule will be strictly enforced.
  • Any graduate or guest exhibiting disruptive behavior during line-up or the ceremony, as determined by university commencement staff or AU PD, are subject to removal.

Recognition of Graduates

  • Following the president's charge to the graduates, graduates will be called to the platform for individual recognition. At the appropriate time you will be led from your seat to the ramp at the right of the stage. Make sure you have your reader card with you.
  • ProPics will take the first photo of you at the bottom of the ramp.
  • Go up the ramp. Approach the audio tech table and hand the technician your reader card.
  • When your name is announced, walk to your dean, who will hand you a ceremonial diploma. 
  • For doctoral candidates only: When your name is announced, hand your degree hood to the dean. The dean and your advisor will place the hood over your head, and you will receive your diploma.
  • Proceed across the stage and pause for a photo with President Burwell. Continue across the stage and go down the ramp. ProPics will take the third photo of you as you depart the stage. 
  • After the stage crossing and third photo, return directly to your seat.


  • After members of the faculty have left the arena, ushers will direct graduates from the arena. Please stay in line and keep moving until all graduates have exited the arena. If the weather is bad, there will be no graduate recessional.

After the Ceremony

  • To prevent confusion, please determine in advance where you will meet your party immediately following the ceremony.
  • Bachelor's and master's are keepsake regalia and do not need to be returned. The rental doctoral and Washington College of Law regalia must be returned immediately following the ceremony to MGC200.
  • You can view the archived video online at A link will be available on the website after the ceremony.


Please review information on this page. For further questions, call 202-885-2159 or email

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