Frequently Asked Questions

Commencement

What are the plans for the fall commencement ceremony? How can we celebrate if we are at home? Will we be returning for our degree ceremonies?

At this time, even in the “green phase” of Gov. Tom Wolf’s re-opening plan for Pennsylvania, indoor gatherings are restricted to no more than 25 people, and outdoor gatherings to less than 250 people. The caution we are taking in returning to campus is based on guidance from the commonwealth, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health care experts. Normal fall commencement activities generally involve around 11,000 students and their families. There are far too many unknowns about the potential path of the COVID-19 pandemic to plan at this time for such an on-campus event.

As we continue to monitor public health guidelines and recommendations for large gatherings into the fall, we will make a determination on the format for the fall commencement ceremony in the months ahead, all based on the health and well-being of our community.

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There will be in-person commencement celebrations, as this is as much a priority for us as we know it is for our students. The date, however, has not yet been determined. The ongoing pandemic is a fluid situation, and we need to continue to monitor public health guidelines. Once a date is set, that will be communicated via email, Penn State News, and Penn State’s social media channels.

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As part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s phased re-opening plan for Pennsylvania, counties in the “green phase” (including Centre County, where University Park is located) are required to limit indoor gatherings to no more than 25 people, and outdoor gatherings to less than 250 people. Between graduates and their guests, the summer commencement ceremony would exceed these limits. While move-in weekend will attract a large number of students and families to campus, the logistics are being considered with all of the measures of public health and safety guidelines in mind, to limit the number of people congregating in a single area at one time.

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The virtual ceremony on Aug. 15 is a way, during this time of social distancing, to more immediately recognize the completion of our students’ academic experience and to mark this significant milestone in their lives. We view the virtual commencement as the first step in recognizing the Class of 2020. A virtual commencement also will allow those graduates who are unable to travel back to campus due to other circumstances, (e.g. employment, cost, family obligations) to take part and be recognized by our community.

The Class of 2020 deserves a just reward for the hard-earned academic accomplishments of its members. When social restrictions are lifted and medical experts determine we can move forward with an in-person event, Penn State will set a date for those who are interested and who have the ability to come back together in celebration.

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Penn State is committed to holding in-person celebrations for the Class of 2020 when health guidelines permit, and the well-being of students and families is no longer in jeopardy due to COVID-19. We are exploring potential dates, logistics and activities for recognitions of the spring and summer graduates in the Class of 2020. We will continue to plan, with contingencies in place, given the uncertain nature of the pandemic.

Commencement marks a milestone in the life of students, and it is certainly a time for joy and celebration. We would not want to miss this moment in time to celebrate as a community.

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Although the venue is outside, we are still required to adhere to the public health guidelines, which currently limit large gatherings to 250 people or fewer. The number of graduates and their guests would far exceed this limit.

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The virtual ceremony provides an opportunity for all Penn State students — undergraduate and graduate, at all campus locations — who have filed intent to graduate in the summer of 2020, the opportunity to gather virtually as a University community for a timely celebration of their academic achievements.

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After all degree requirements are met, your diploma will be mailed to the diploma address (if applicable) or permanent address set in LionPATH. Additional diploma questions may be sent to registrar@psu.edu.

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You may contact graduation@psu.edu.

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Students, families and friends will be viewing the virtual ceremony online from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. It is not required that students wear a cap and gown while they watch the virtual ceremony. As a gift in recognition of achieving this milestone, Penn State will be sending graduates a cap and tassel. More information on this gift will be sent to graduates via email during the week of June 29.

We encourage graduates to post pictures of their in-home celebrations to social media platforms with the hashtag #PSUgrad.

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This recognition, in the form of digital slides, will include the student’s name, degree and major, with voice talent reading the student’s name aloud.

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While we certainly hope members of the Class of 2020 and their families and friends tune in to the virtual ceremony, there is no requirement to do so. Penn State remains committed to inviting the Class of 2020 back to campus for in-person celebrations when public health guidelines permit this to occur.

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No, providing information for the digital slide and viewing the virtual ceremony does not preclude a student from participating in a later, in-person celebration on campus to recognize the Class of 2020.

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Included within the email to be sent to students on June 24 will be instructions for those who do not wish to have a slide included.

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Penn State partners with a vendor to create the digital slides that will include each student’s name, degree, major and a professional voice talent recording of the student’s name. Students will not be responsible for creating their own slide. Summer graduates received an email in June from graduation@psu.edu via our vendor, MarchingOrder, with more details on the digital slides.

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The virtual ceremony will include elements of a traditional ceremony, including leadership remarks, conferral of degrees, and induction into the Penn State Alumni Association. Following the virtual ceremony, graduates, friends and families may explore additional digital content created for each college and the Commonwealth Campuses. The content on these pages is tailored more specifically to those communities of learning, including individual student recognition with shareable digital slides. 

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Although Pennsylvania’s counties, including Centre County, are in the “green phase,” the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office has restricted indoor gatherings to no more than 25 people, and outdoor gatherings to less than 250 people. As the health and safety of our community is our main priority, Penn State is following the guidance of the Department of Education, as well as health care experts and epidemiologists who recommend not congregating in large groups and social distancing as some of the best protocols for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Between the number of graduates and guests, summer commencement, even divided into multiple ceremonies, would far exceed these limits.

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With the health and safety of participants and the community in mind, the summer commencement ceremony will be held virtually on Aug. 15 at https://summer2020.commencement.psu.edu/.

Additional details are available in this Penn State News article.

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The summer commencement ceremony will be held virtually at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15. Additional details are available in this Penn State News article.

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