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Graduation vs. Commencement

Graduation and Commencement are the same thing, right? Wrong!

University of Michigan has:

  • 3 graduation terms — Winter, Summer, and Fall
  • 2 Commencement ceremonies — Spring (in April or May), and Winter (in December)


You will be approved for graduation only after the auditors have confirmed that you have completed all degree requirements. We start this process as soon as all grades have been posted, and will send you an email as soon as your graduation audit is complete -- but it probably won’t be until a few weeks after the Commencement ceremony.    

After you receive the email, it usually takes a few more weeks for the Registrar’s Office to post degrees to your official transcript (we refer to this as the conferral date). And then it usually takes a few more weeks for your diploma to arrive.

During this process, the auditors are happy to provide you with letters indicating that you are on track for graduation (if your final audit is not yet complete), or that you have completed all requirements (if your final audit is complete). After degrees are conferred, the Registrar’s Office will handle all letters regarding degree confirmation.  

Go to our deadlines and timelines page if you want to know the exact dates for your graduating class.  

You can also find out more by going to distinction and diplomas.


The Commencement ceremony is a great opportunity to celebrate all you’ve accomplished with your friends and family, but you will not ‘walk’, have your name called, or receive a diploma. Very few students will have received graduation confirmation by this date, and some students attending Commencement won’t even graduate until the following term.  

The College of LSA does not have a separate commencement ceremony, but many departments within LSA do. Check with your department directly to find out if they’re planning anything special for you. 

What’s the Commencement program, and how can you get listed?

The Commencement program contains a list of undergraduate degree candidates who have applied for graduation by a specific deadline. Because the deadline is a couple months prior to Commencement, there are lots of students who apply too late to make it in the program but are still on track for graduation. There are others whose names are in the program even though they may not graduate until the following semester. In other words, the Commencement guide is a nice keepsake, but it’s not an official document of who is graduating, and has nothing to do with being eligible for tickets to Commencement.  

So, what Commencement ceremony can you attend?

The term you have applied for The two ceremonies you're eligible to attend
Winter Term Graduation December Commencement prior to your final term
May Commencement at the end of your final term
Summer Term Graduation May Commencement prior to your final term
December Commencement following your final term
Fall Term Graduation December Commencement at the end of your final term
May Commencement following your final term

For more information on the Commencement ceremony and getting tickets, go to the Commencement website.