The information here pertains to graduation ceremonies for Penn State Harrisburg only. If you plan to graduate from another location, please visit your campus web site for more information.
Penn State Harrisburg will offer a live stream of the commencement ceremony for the benefit of our students' family members who may not be able to attend the ceremony in person. The stream will be available on our LiveStream channel starting just before 9:30am, and "on demand" once the ceremony ends.
Preparing for Commencement in 3 Easy Steps
File your "Intent to graduate" on eLion
During the Intent to Graduate Activation period at the beginning of the semester in which you plan to graduate, use eLion's "Graduating this Semester" application. If you miss this activation deadline, you must contact the office of your major to request changes to your graduation status.
Reserve your seat at the commencement ceremony and ensure that your name is announced
Register online to let us know you plan to participate in the commencement ceremony. Registration deadlines are April 15 (spring) or November 15 (summer/fall), with the RSVP system opening about 30 days before these dates. Be sure to register so that we will expect you at the ceremony and seating will be reserved for you.
Purchase or rent academic regalia (caps, gowns, and hoods)
Caps, gowns, and hoods will not be available at the Giant Center. Refer to our What to Wear section for clothing guidelines and links to online ordering of your regalia.
- 1. Important notes about filing your intent to graduate
- 2. Graduation Fair: have your questions answered
- 3. Alternate Commencement Sites
- 4. Commencement Ceremony Instructions
- 5. Guest Seating
- 6. Special Accommodations
- 7. Live Streaming
- 8. Faculty Instructions
- 9. Commencement Dates
- 10. Photos and Flowers
- 11. Local Hotels and Restaurants
- 12. Commencement Keynote Speakers
- 13. Distinctions, Diplomas, and Transcripts
- 14. Contact Us
Important notes about filing your intent to graduate
- Please review the Graduation Requirements policy to ensure your eligibility to attend commencement.
- Programs that contain a list of graduating students are distributed at the ceremony. If your intent to graduate is activated after the student information has been sent to the printer, your name will not appear in the program.
- Your correct home and local addresses are needed for pertinent graduation information, including diplomas. Confirm and/or update your address on eLion at this time.
Graduation Fair is held every spring and fall semester to allow graduating students to:
- Register to be a part of the ceremony, if you haven't already
- Meet with representatives from financial aid, career services, and Penn State Harrisburg graduate program admissions
- Place orders (with the Bookstore) for graduation announcements, class rings, diploma frames, and other commemorative items
- View samples of the academic regalia (caps and gowns) to be worn at the ceremony
- Pose for professional photos either in commencement regalia or business attire. There is no obligation to purchase and you may view your password protected proofs online. Caps and gowns will be provided.
Upcoming Grad Fairs:
Alternate Commencement Sites
If you would like to attend a commencement ceremony other than your assigned campus location, you must use the Alternate Location Request Form (PDF). Contact the Office of Enrollment Services at 717-948-6020 for more information or for assistance with this process.
Commencement Ceremony Instructions
- The ceremony will start promptly at 9:30 a.m. and lasts approximately 2½ hours.
- Don’t forget to print a Giant Center Parking Pass (PDF) for yourself and your guests.
- There are no rehearsals for the ceremony. Students will receive complete instructions at the Giant Center on the day of commencement.
Information for All Participants
Uniforms of the armed forces are the only apparel other than academic regalia that is officially recognized and permitted.
- Due to the formality of this occasion and safety concerns, please wear appropriate footwear; flip flops, clogs, very high heels, and loose fitting shoes are not recommended.
- It is requested that men wear slacks and a dress shirt with a tie. For women, slacks with a blouse or a dress is appropriate.
- Baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral caps and gowns differ from each other, as do the caps and gowns from other educational institutions. Please check your regalia for accuracy and quality before the day of the ceremony.
- Remember to steam your gown before commencement to remove wrinkles from packaging.
National Honor Society Recognition:
Members of nationally-recognized honor societies, who achieved their membership as a Penn State Harrisburg student, are permitted to wear ornamentation during the ceremony in the form of cords and/or pins only. Ribbons, scarves, stoles, sashes and medallions are not permitted. Graduates with these outstanding academic achievements will not be recognized in the commencement ceremony or printed program.
All other ornamentation is not permitted.
All ornamentation (including pins, cords, ribbons, scarves, stoles, sashes, medallions, etc.) representing other honorary societies, nationalities, fraternities, sororities, etc., is not permitted. Exceptions to this include students in the Penn State Harrisburg Honors Program, the Schreyer Honors College, and national honor society members, as mentioned above.
- No regalia (caps, gowns, and hoods) will be available at the ceremony.
Especially for Undergraduates
- Undergraduate academic regalia is a blue gown with wide sleeves and a blue mortarboard cap with a tassel, worn on the right front edge. You will move the tassel to the left edge after crossing the stage.
Regalia sets must be purchased.
Order undergraduate regalia online at Jostens.com for pickup at the Bookstore.
For Graduate Students
Master's degree regalia sets must be purchased.
Order master's regalia online at Jostens.com for pickup at the Bookstore.
Doctoral regalia sets may be purchased or rented.
An in-person fitting is required for doctoral regalia. Contact the Bookstore for details.
- Graduate regalia is a black gown with pointed sleeves, a separate hood, and a black mortarboard cap with a tassel, worn on the left front edge of the mortarboard.
- Candidates should carry their hoods over their right arms during the processional. See the Hooding Instructions (PDF).
Graduates must arrive at the Giant Center and be fully gowned by 8:30 a.m. Please allow sufficient travel time.
Graduates arriving after 9:00 a.m. are not guaranteed the opportunity to participate in the student processional and will not be seated with other students in their major.
All graduates must register in the Giant Center’s main lobby. Enter through the main entrance and send your guests to their seats in the Giant Center arena, then proceed directly to the graduate registration table in the lobby. You will receive a marching card with your name and processional number. You may be given more than one card — keep all cards; you must give them to the Commencement Marshal to receive recognition upon crossing the stage.
After registering and receiving your marching card(s), go to the student processional area. Penn State Harrisburg staff will guide all graduates through each portion of the ceremony.
- All cell phones must be turned off as soon as you enter the student processional/seating area. Please refrain from cell phone use before and during the ceremony.
- Students must be seated in their assigned seats by 9:00 a.m. to receive processional instructions.
- Any student suspected to be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance will be subject to arrest and will not be allowed to participate in the ceremony.
- Smoking is strictly prohibited, both inside and outside the Giant Center.
- Do not leave any personal items or valuables unattended at any time during the ceremony, especially in the student assembly area.
Students must remain seated on the Giant Center floor until the conclusion of the ceremony. When you are led out of the arena, you may meet your guests on the main concourse or outside the building.
No tickets are necessary for commencement ceremony attendance. Unlimited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The facilities will be open at 8:00 a.m. Guests should enter the Giant Center through the main entrance.
Refer to the Giant Center Parking Pass (PDF) for parking information. Display this pass on your dashboard to ensure free parking.
Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you are a graduating student with a disability that requires assistance at commencement, please notify the Office of Disability Services (Alan Babcock, 717-948-6025 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to make arrangements for the commencement ceremony at least four weeks prior to the ceremony.
Handicap parking is available in the front of the Giant Center for vehicles with handicap plates or placards. If you do not have a handicap plate or placard, you may drop off a person with limited mobility closer to the main entrance before parking in the general parking lot.
Reserved seating sections are available for guests with limited mobility:
- Specially designated Wheelchair Sections are shown on the Giant Center Seating Chart. One companion seat is allotted per guest in a wheelchair.
- For guests who have difficulty climbing steps, we have reserved the topmost rows of seats in areas specified as Limited Mobility Seating.
Giant Center ushers will be available to assist guests with special needs.
Penn State Harrisburg commencement ceremonies are close captioned. A live streaming transcription of the audio portion of the ceremony audio will be displayed on the Giant Center JumboTron for guests with difficulty hearing.
Penn State Harrisburg will offer a live stream of the commencement ceremony for the benefit of our students' family members who may not be able to attend the ceremony in person. The stream will be available on our LiveStream channel starting just before 9:30am.
Faculty wishing to participate in the commencement ceremony should plan to arrive at 9:00 a.m. Park in the area designated for the faculty/platform party. Look for Entrance 3, which will be marked with a lighted sign. Use the elevator to go down to Level 1, and proceed to the faculty assembly room (Room 102). Please dress in academic regalia for the ceremony. Event staff will be present to assist and position faculty in the academic processional.
Please refer to the Academic Calendar for the appropriate semester.
Photos and Flowers
Photographers from GradImages™ will be at the commencement ceremony to take photographs of students as they receive their diploma. Students will be asked to provide email and mailing address at the ceremony, or they may pre-register online. After the ceremony, prints may be reviewed and ordered quickly and conveniently at www.gradimages.com or by calling 800-261-2576.
Fresh flowers will be available for purchase at the commencement ceremony or can be pre-ordered at www.commencementflowers.com.
Local Hotels and Restaurants
We maintain a list of hotels and restaurants near the Giant Center for your convenience.
Commencement Keynote Speakers
Browse a listing of past keynote speakers and selected remarks.
Distinctions, Diplomas, and Transcripts
Distinction at graduation shall be awarded to those baccalaureate degree candidates of the graduating class according to the following rule. The top 12 percent of the baccalaureate degree candidates from any college shall be eligible to graduate with distinction if they have achieved at least a grade-point average of 3.50, based on at least 60 credits at the University. The 12 percent should be divided into two percent "With Highest Distinction," four percent "With High Distinction," and six percent "With Distinction."
It is critical for the University to have the correct information for the diploma and an accurate mailing address for each student. Students may update this information on eLion.
Diplomas will be mailed, at no cost, to the graduates’ permanent residence or eLion diploma mailing address approximately four weeks after the commencement ceremony.
The official transcript is the University's official statement of your academic record. It lists all courses completed, all grades earned, and the semester in which they were received. The official transcript also contains notations of distinctions, minors, options, and degrees received. The official transcript is printed on security sensitive paper and contains the University seal and signature of the University registrar.
You may be asked to provide a copy of your official transcript to potential employers, graduate schools, professional organizations, and so on. It is very common for potential employers and organizations to request that the University send your transcript directly to them. For your protection, we will not release an official transcript without your permission and signature.
Visit the University registrar's web site for additional information and instructions on how to obtain your transcript.
Please call 717-948-6029, fax 717-948-6370, e-mail email@example.com, or stop by the Office of Marketing Research and Communications (W-101 Olmsted), if Penn State may assist you in any way.