With the spring semester’s end in sight, soon-to-be graduates at Michigan State University are tasked with preparing themselves for one of life’s significant milestones: college graduation.
In the face of such excitement, a surplus of information, dates, requirements and deadlines swirling around commencement season can make navigating it challenging, especially for first-generation students.
MSU’s commencement office website outlines the essentials, such as the application, caps and gowns, commencement schedule, parking and more. For any questions about commencement, students should visit the website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 517-353-3993.
Application versus registration
Michigan State Senior University Academic Events Planner Heather Fink said the “hot button” question for the commencement office is the difference between applying to graduate and registering to participate.
The graduate application runs through the registrar's office while registering to participate is achieved through the commencement website.
“All candidates have to apply to graduate,” Fink said. “That means you are applying to get your diploma.”
To ensure their names are included in the commencement program, students had to apply to graduate by Feb. 20. Students with directory restrictions on their accounts will not have their names printed in the program.
Registering to participate required students to confirm they intend to walk at their specific ceremony. The registration deadline is April 14. All candidates must register to participate in commencement ceremonies, except the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Human Medicine and Veterinary Medicine ceremonies.
Fink said the registration process is crucial for planning since most Baccalaureate Degree colleges assign seating by major.
“(Registration) is nice for everybody planning the ceremony, so we know how many graduates to anticipate,” Fink said.
Caps and gowns
The Spartan Spirit Shop partnered with the commencement office as the official cap and gown supplier for MSU’s campus. Students can also purchase a cap and gown at the Student Bookstore.
Cap and gowns will be available at the Spartan Spirit Shop starting March 20 up until commencements.
Grad Fest, an event with academic regalia available at a price discount, usually takes place in the MSU Union and has been postponed.
Spartan Spirit Shop retail manager Molly Chrome said students can purchase their caps and gowns directly from the shop and don’t need to order ahead. Students can also order online for delivery.
“Whether you come walk in and get it directly or you ordered online, we can ship it right away once we start the selling periods for our caps and gowns,” Chrome said.
Students earning a bachelor's or master's degree can purchase graduation packages. The bachelor package, which includes a cap, gown and college-specific tassel, is listed at $52 plus tax. The master package sells for $74 plus tax and comes with a cap, gown, tassel and hood.
The Spartan Spirit Shop offers other regalia, such as diploma frames, doctoral regalia and class ring options. Chrome said graduates purchase a class ring as a “keepsake.”
Jostens, MSU’s class ring manufacturer, is working to create styles that cater to students, Chrome said.
“They know that students are much more savvy and that they’re looking for different ways to express themselves in their jewelry,” Chrome said.
Those graduating "With Honor" or "With High Honor" will receive an honor chord. Both groups receive the same gold chord. The dean’s office of each college will contact these students with pick-up details a few weeks prior to commencement.
College-level commencement ceremonies will take place between Friday, May 5 and Sunday, May 7. Each ceremony will last approximately two hours. MSU will utilize the Breslin Center and the Wharton Center for these ceremonies.
For the complete commencement schedule, including dates, times and colleges, visit the commencement website.
MSU’s spring convocation will occur on Friday, May 5 at 1 p.m. at the Breslin Center. Fink described convocation as a “ceremonial kickoff” to the commencement weekend.
“Degrees are not conferred at it,” Fink said of convocation. “No one’s names are read, and no one walks across the stage.”
Fink said the event, which lasts about an hour, will feature a high-level keynote speaker speaking to the entire university. University executives — such as the interim president, provost and college deans — will also be in attendance.
Fink also said the senior class gift will be presented at spring convocation.
How to attend and watch a ceremony
No admission tickets are required for convocation and individual commencement ceremonies.
“You can bring no guests, you can bring 20 guests, it doesn’t matter,” Fink said. “We do not ticket for guests.”
All commencement ceremonies are live-streamed and can be accessed through the MSU commencement website’s homepage.
TRIO Student Support Services Program
The TRIO SSS Program at MSU guides first-generation college students toward academic success and graduation. Senior TRIO Academic Advisor Felicia McAllister said while she primarily deals with financial and academic situations, TRIO offers a wide network of resources and support services.
McAllister said persistence and time management are essential to a student’s graduation. She said TRIO students occasionally need assistance in regard to applying for graduation and checking credit requirements.
“We’ll meet with them, explain to them the process, take them to the website if they’re not sure how to find or where to find those things,” McAllister said. “We also refer students back to their major advisors to ensure everything is complete.”
For a student to qualify for TRIO, neither parent can have graduated from a four-year university or college. Students can also qualify if they meet the income requirement or have a documented disability.