FAQ for Guests

Based on the current situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the university has decided that in-person commencement exercises will not be able to take place this May. However, we know how important an in-person commencement is to our seniors, their families and the USC community. Degrees will be conferred virtually in May and USC remains committed to having an in-person celebration for the Class of 2020 on campus. The celebration will take place when travel and large group events once again become safe. Firm plans for the on-campus events will not be solidified until more is known about the advance of the pandemic. We will continue to be in communication with more detailed information in the coming weeks and are committed to ensuring our graduates are celebrated for their accomplishments.

Any new information will be shared on this website as soon as it becomes available. We encourage students to check their email frequently and refer to the university’s coronavirus messages for the latest news.


How does a student know if they are graduating?
They will need to check their status with Degree Progress.

Do students have to sign up for Commencement?
There is no sign-up process for participation in the main ceremony. As long as you’re on track to graduate in Fall, Spring or Summer of this academic year, you can march in the main ceremony without any registration process. Individual schools may require registration depending on the space available for guests; please check your school’s page.

When does the graduate need to arrive on campus on Commencement Day?
In order to walk in the Commencement procession, you only need to show up in your cap and gown on Friday, May 15 by 8 a.m. to get in line with the other graduates from your school. It is recommended you arrive on campus by 7 a.m. as parking and seating are on a first come, first served basis.

When should guests arrive on Commencement Day?
The procession begins at 8:30 a.m. and the ceremony at 9:00 a.m., but we recommend guests arrive by 7:00 a.m. to secure parking and seating. Those who arrive by 6:00 a.m. will have an easier time parking and finding seating.

Will wheelchairs be available for disabled guests?
Wheelchairs are available for checkout from 6:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on commencement day only. There is a limited number of wheelchairs available for checkout, free of charge, behind Leavey Library on West 34th Street. If you need a wheelchair on Thursday, or on Friday after 5:00 p.m., you will need to bring your own.

How can an international student get a letter from USC to invite their parents to Commencement?
The Office of International Services (OIS) at USC does not produce letters of invitation for the purpose of inviting students’ family members to visit the United States. These letters are not required by the United States Consular Offices for family members to obtain visitor visas.

As a courtesy to our students, OIS is providing a letter template for students who wish to write their own letter to invite family members to the United States. If you choose to write your own letter, it should only serve to invite primary family members (parents, grandparents, and siblings). Again, this letter is not required, and we are providing the template as a courtesy only. Along with the letter, should you choose to write it, you should include a photocopy of your most recent I-20.

Please contact OIS in Suite 101 of the Royal Street Structure if you have any further questions. They may also be reached at (213) 740-2666.

What is the Baccalaureate Ceremony? Are all students, families and guests invited to attend?
Baccalaureate is a non-denominational, inter-faith celebration open to all students and their guests. The highlight of the ceremony is a keynote address from a specially selected Baccalaureate speaker, as well as the participation of numerous university dignitaries and the religious directors who work with our student groups. The service itself will feature music and will conclude with a benediction over the graduating students. The ceremony begins at 5:00 p.m. in Bovard Auditorium and is a non-ticketed event with seating available on a first come, first served basis. Regalia for students at this ceremony is optional.

A dinner for graduates and their families follows the ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Pardee Way. Space is limited and last year’s dinner filled to capacity, so we urge you not to delay in making your reservation. This is a pre-paid event, $40 per person, seated in tables of ten. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis.

What is the timeline of the day?
On commencement day, the main procession begins at 8:30 a.m. and the main ceremony at 9:00 a.m., but we recommend guests arrive by 7:00 a.m. to secure parking and seating. Students need to be at their designated assembly place by 8:00 a.m. to line up. Those who arrive by 6:00 a.m. will have an easier time parking and finding seating, which is first come, first served.

Following the main ceremony, there will be many satellite ceremonies taking place at various locations and times around campus. If you will be attending these and/or the school’s receptions, please refer to the Academic School Ceremonies page to determine the times and locations relevant to you and your graduate.

What time should lunch/dinner reservations be made for?
Campus dining facilities will be open during Commencement for both sit-down meals and quick snacks if you would like to eat on campus throughout the day. Since satellite ceremonies for each school vary, we cannot advise an exact time appropriate for lunch or dinner reservations. We suggest you to check your students’ school ceremony time to plan your day accordingly. Some graduates will not have time in between the main ceremony and satellite ceremony to have lunch, while others will have a large break until evening ceremonies. We recommend you consider increased travel times due to heavy traffic as well as additional time needed to find parking and seating throughout the entire commencement day when making your plans.

How do students get honor cords?
Honor cords are given out only to undergraduate students who have a minimum 3.5 GPA. You will be contacted from your school’s commencement coordinator or academic advisor during the spring semester if you have received one. They are free of charge.

How do students specify that I graduated with honors in their announcements?
When placing your announcements order through Herff Jones and the USC Bookstore, there will be a dropdown menu to add a line for your level of honors. Honors are based on your overall grade point average. Students must meet these averages, for both USC coursework and on combined transferred and USC coursework. University honors is then determined by either the USC GPA or the combined USC and transfer GPA, whichever is lower. USC GPAs are calculated to the third decimal place, but are never rounded up or down.

3.5 minimum GPA is “cum laude”
3.7 minimum GPA is “magna cum laude”
3.9 and higher GPA is “summa cum laude”

How should flowers/leis be ordered?
Flowers and flower leis will be sold on campus at multiple locations on commencement day.

Will the graduation ceremony be live-streamed or posted online as videos afterward?
The main ceremony and many of the satellite ceremonies are live-streamed. The live-stream of the main ceremony will be available to view on USC’s Homepage (usc.edu) starting at 8:30 a.m. To find out if your student’s school is live-streaming their respective ceremony, please contact the coordinator listed for that school (available under the Academic School Ceremonies page). After Commencement, video recordings of speeches and graduation highlights will be available on USC’s official YouTube channel.

Will videos of the commencement ceremonies be available for purchase?
The main ceremony recording is free and will be available on USC’s official YouTube channel. If you are looking to purchase a video of a satellite ceremony, please contact that respective school’s coordinator listed under the Academic School Ceremonies page to see if a recording is available for purchase.

How do I receive the pictures taken at the school-specific ceremonies?
Graduates will be contacted directly by their school’s vendor once the photos are available for purchase. Please direct all questions about professional images taken during school-specific ceremonies to that respective school’s coordinator. Their information is available on the Academic School Ceremonies page.

What is the parking situation for Commencement Day?
Please refer to the transit and parking page of this website.

Please note that USC is now a smoke-free campus.
Smoking is prohibited in all indoor and outdoor facilities on university grounds. Please refer to USC’s entire smoke-free policy for more details.