Guest FAQ

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask that you please visit the COVID-19 and Commencement 2020 plans page for the most up-to-date information. Thank you.

Arriving for Commencement

Admittance to Killian Court begins at 7:30 am, and many people choose to arrive earlier than that in order to be in line when the doors open. Please leave enough time for your party to go through security and be seated in the court before the academic procession enters the court at 10 am. More about parking, shuttles, and traffic

Not necessarily. What time you arrive should depend on how important it is to you to see either the procession or the stage during the ceremony, and the needs of the members of your party. Please consider the seating arrangements when making your decision—information in the FAQ section will be helpful. There are limited seats with unobstructed views.

Metal detectors will be in place at the entrance to Killian Court. It will be helpful to discuss security measures with the members of your party ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect. Guests are advised to pack lightly for the day because all items taken into Killian Court are subject to search—the less you are carrying, the more quickly your party will be able to proceed through security. Arrangements are finalized in the days leading up to Commencement: we recommend that guests visit these pages again the week prior. Thank you.

Please consider the appearance of some objects, such as key ring tools/accessories, and leave anything that could be perceived as dangerous at home or in your hotel room. Prohibited items will be confiscated and not returned.

Service animals are welcome at Commencement, but no other pets of any size will be permitted inside Killian Court. Further, we discourage balloons or anything else that would block others’ view of the ceremony. Guests may carry an umbrella, but open umbrellas are not permitted while seated.

Guests are advised to carry government-issued ID (such as driver’s licenses, state ID cards, or passports).

Although you can expect security measures to take a little time at the point of entry to Killian Court, our staff will be there to welcome you.

We recommend taking public transportation or a taxi to campus, as parking is limited. While there is no cost to Doctoral Ceremony or Commencement guests to park in MIT-owned lots or garages, space is limited. You may find that the lots are already full by the time you arrive on campus and that you will need to park in one of the public lots. Guests may be dropped off at the entrance to Killian Court on Memorial Drive (recommended for those who are not able to walk from either an MIT or public parking garage, as most parking is more than a block away). Be sure that if your party splits up, the driver retains a Commencement ticket.

Once you arrive on campus, you can take free, MIT-sponsored transport via the Tech Shuttles. See the parking and shuttles page for a map and more information.

Seating and tickets

Killian Court seats about 13,000 people during Commencement. It is a flat, grassy area, and all the seats are at the same level (i.e., not stadium or amphitheatre seating). Most of our guests sit in the general section.

If you do not plan to arrive at dawn to grab a front row seat, you may like to position yourself close to one of the Jumbotrons, the large screens on which the whole ceremony is broadcast.

While the Institute encourages students to share unneeded tickets, graduates and guests are advised that no tickets to Commencement at MIT may be bought or sold under any circumstances.

For families of candidates who have more guests than tickets, indoor viewing centers around campus will show a live video feed, with captions, of the Commencement Exercises. The viewing centers are open to all and tickets are NOT required. Indoor viewing is also an excellent choice for those who may find it difficult to be seated outside for the duration of the ceremony.  A list of viewing center locations will be available on these pages in May.

Please note that tickets are only required for guests ages three (3) years and older; those ages two (2) and younger do not need a ticket. 

A ticket is required for all those ages three (3) and older. Babies and children ages two (2) years and under do not need tickets.

Your MIT graduate does not need a ticket—graduates participating in the Commencement Exercises are not required to have a ticket. The four tickets assigned to each graduate are for guests. 

No, tickets are not required for the Doctoral Ceremony. Seating is open and unassigned; all families, friends, and mentors of Doctoral candidates are welcome.

Accessibility services

To reserve seating in the Disabilities Section, please complete the online request form. Please do this as soon as possible: seating is limited in this section. Questions may be directed to Disability Access Services at 617-253-1674 or email das-student@mit.edu.

For those attending the Doctoral Ceremony, no special tickets are required—however, if someone in your party has accessibility needs, please contact Disability Access Services in advance. Staff with wheelchairs will be on hand to assist you and your party with wheelchair transport from the curb to the ceremony venue. If you need a wheelchair for the entire day, please plan to rent one (rental resources are listed on the Accessibility page). For more information, please call us at 617-253-1674 or email das-student@mit.edu.

The person with the disability does not have to sit alone. Your entire party (maximum of 4) may sit together in the Disabilities Section at Commencement. All graduates receive 4 tickets, regardless of section.

If you think that your family member will need a wheelchair for the entire day, we recommend that you rent one. Please see services and resources listed on the Accessibility page for suggestions of wheelchair rental companies.

The Cambridge area accessible taxicab main referral line is (866) 654-1003. Other area companies include Ambassador Cab (617) 492-1100, Checker Cab of Cambridge (617) 497-9000, Top/City Cab of Boston (617) 536-5100, and Town Taxi of Boston (617) 536-5000.

Yes, devices are available within the entry tent. Please see us there or call ahead (617) 253-1674 if you have further questions.

There is no standing allowed in this section, since that would obstruct the view of those unable to stand. Please consider this carefully as you determine whether this section is appropriate for your family.

First aid

There is a first aid tent, staffed by personnel from MIT’s Medical Department, located in Killian Court. Graduates and guests requiring onsite first aid are welcome to visit as needed. Emergency and ambulance services will be on call and onsite and can be activated by any of the Commencement staff.

If you anticipate a need for local medical support during Commencement, please contact the MIT Medical Department ahead of time to let us know how we can help. You may email or call Dr. David V. Diamond, Associate Medical Director, (617) 253-7625.

During the ceremony

Yes, but please take your ticket with you! For everyone’s safety, we must be very strict about security issues and this includes making sure that everyone entering has a ticket. You may exit Killian Court in the back or the side doors, but the only entrance is on Memorial Drive. Please remember that if you leave the court during the ceremony, you will need to go through security again to re-enter.

Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are awarded in a simultaneous, alternating pattern, with graduates entering the stage from both sides as their names are read. At the Doctoral Ceremony, candidates will receive both their hoods and their diplomas on stage, with names read by School.

Yes. The graduation ceremonies are long and people do have to stretch and find refreshment. You are welcome to move around in the areas in the back of Killian Court. Please take your barcoded ticket with you if you leave the court and remember that you must go through security again to re-enter.

There are some places where guests are not allowed to stand at any time: the aisles, berms, and around the trees and shrubs. We are very protective of our valuable landscaping, especially since the beauty of Killian Court is an asset to the graduation ceremonies. Please be advised that we will be quick to prevent crowding of the greenery or of other guests. Our primary concern is that friends and families of our graduates have equal opportunity to enjoy this special day. Guests who are blocking others or impeding their enjoyment will be asked to move.

Note: Killian Court is a smoke-free environment.

Because MIT does not confer honorary degrees, our graduates’ accomplishments are the focus of these celebratory events.

MIT is delighted to announce the guest speakers for this year’s ceremonies:

  • Doctoral Ceremony (May 28): Esther Duflo PhD ’99, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT. Announcement at MIT News
  • Commencement Exercises (May 29): Admiral William H. McRaven, retired US Navy four-star admiral and former chancellor of the University of Texas system. Announcement at MIT News
Photos and webcast

If you are seated with an unobstructed view of the stage, you will be able to take a photograph from your seat. Otherwise, you will want to be sure to order a professional photograph. There is not a designated area at the front of the court where photos can be taken. Further, guests are not permitted to stand in chairs or in the aisles at any time, both for reasons of safety and because to do so would block the views of others. We strongly recommend the professional photographs.

Yes! Families may take photos together in Killian Court after both the Doctoral Ceremony and the Commencement Exercises. Please work quickly so that everyone who wants photos has a chance to take them. The campus, including Killian Court, is in use all weekend for Reunion and community activities; preparations for those events resume immediately following the ceremonies.

Yes! There will be captioned webcasts of both the Doctoral Ceremony and the Commencement Exercises, with the video available online in this site after the events, as well. Please direct family and friends to visit the MIT Home Page: the links will be available there shortly before each ceremony begins.

Services available in Killian Court

Considering the early entrance time to Killian Court for the Commencement Exercises, guests could be in the seating area for up to six hours. Although water will be provided, it is suggested that guests bring enough snacks to sustain them.

Light refreshments and snacks will be available for purchase within Killian Court.

Children

Yes, we have a lactation and infant changing tent toward the back of Killian Court, close to the entry on Memorial Drive

No, strollers must be left in the stroller corral near the entrance to the court. However, you may take the child to the seat in the stroller, then ask a guest services representative for help in removing the stroller once you are settled.

At MIT, the graduation ceremonies are unlike many others you may have attended. Because of their size and length, almost no one stays seated the whole time. Toward the back of Killian Court there is space for children to stretch and play a little, and you can feel free to get up to walk in that area whenever you like. It is not as formal an atmosphere as other graduations, where people may not leave their seats at all. You can get up (without blocking others’ views or damaging landscape), leave the court, and move around, but please note that guests are not permitted to stand, nor children play, in the aisles at any time.

After the ceremony

The exact time depends on the number of graduates, and sometimes on the length of each speech: usually, it is about 2 pm.

Yes, School and department receptions are held after Commencement. We recommend that you discuss with your graduate which reception(s) to attend and choose a meeting spot.

Yes. The (free) Tech Shuttle runs all day, following the regular Tech Shuttle route and including stops at Kendall Square, the Hyatt Hotel, and Le Meridien. Please visit the parking and shuttles page, where a map will be made available in late May. 

Please contact Student Disabilities Services in advance for assistance. They will help you ascertain the level of assistance you need, and how to arrange it. Call or email sds-all@mit.edu.

If you misplace an item during the ceremony, someone may put it in the hands of one of our staff or deliver it to the information tents. At all other times, found items are taken to the MIT Police station at 301 Vassar Street. We recommend labeling your valuables with your contact information to expedite their return to you.

Area services

For hotel information, please visit the accommodations page. Commencement guests and those new to Cambridge will also find it helpful to review MIT’s visitors pages. Restaurants, parking, and campus maps may all be found there. 

Weather

If Commencement Exercises must be moved inside due to severe weather (i.e., electrical storms or hail) the ceremony will be held in Rockwell Cage, attended by the stage assembly and graduates only due to space constraints. In this unlikely scenario, you will still see the distribution of diplomas and watch your graduate cross the stage, but from a separate indoor viewing location on campus.

Information regarding the possible cancellation of either graduation ceremony in Killian Court will be available beginning at 7 am day-of via a recorded message at 617-253-7669.

Exercises are removed from Killian Court only very rarely. Graduation will be held outside in rain, cold, or heat. While this is a festive time and party clothes are appropriate, guests are urged to dress for the weather conditions. A rainy day in Massachusetts can be cold and the grass on Killian Court could be slippery. Please note that you may carry an umbrella, but open umbrellas are not permitted while guests are seated in the court. In the event of uncomfortable weather, hot or cold, you may prefer to watch the ceremony from an indoor location. A list of those locations will be made available online in mid-May and will also be available in the information tents in Killian Court. 

Killian Court is an open area with almost no shade. Even a perfect summer day can become uncomfortable if you are sitting in the sun for four hours or more. This is especially hard on children and the elderly. Further, umbrellas against the sun are not permitted during the ceremony because they block the view of those behind you. Please remember sunblock, hats, and the needs of the more vulnerable members of your party.

You have options! It's hard to be outdoors in the heat...why not direct your guests to the indoor viewing locations, where they can watch the captioned webcast? No tickets are required. A list of viewing locations will be added to these pages in mid-May.

Guests of Doctoral candidates

PhD and ScD candidates receive their Doctoral hoods and their diplomas in a separate ceremony held the day before Commencement: The Investiture of Doctoral Hoods and Degree Conferral ceremony on May 28. Doctoral candidates and their guests should plan to attend the Thursday Doctoral Ceremony, as diplomas will be conferred on stage that day.

Doctoral recipients and their families may attend the Commencement Exercises (for Bachelor’s and Master’s candidates) on Friday, but this is optional, as PhDs and ScDs will receive their diplomas on Thursday. Doctoral degree recipients are invited to march in the Academic Procession on Friday and to sit together in the court; those who do choose to march do not need a Commencement ticket for themselves, but will be permitted up to four (4) guest tickets.