Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Commencement FAQs

Please be advised that we make every effort to conduct Sunday's Commencement exercises outdoors and that New England weather in early June can be fickle. Guests should be prepared to dress for conditions ranging from cold drizzle to intense heat and humidity. Umbrellas are a good idea, and sensible shoes are a must!

Note: If in doubt as to the location of Commencement exercises Sunday morning, due to the weather, call 978-749-4282 after 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

What are commencement invitations?

In late March, commencement invitations are sent from the school to the parents or guardians of each senior. Commencement invitations also include a schedule of events during commencement weekend. In addition to these commencement invitations to parents or guardians, each senior will receive an invitation in his or her student mailbox.

Do I need to bring a commencement invitation in order to be permitted to attend the commencement Weekend events?


How are commencement invitations distributed?

In late March, seniors will be receive a commencement Invitation which will be placed in the students’ mailboxes.

What if we need more commencement invitations?

Any senior wishing to have additional commencement invitations should contact Jen Hout, Commencement Coordinator, at or 978-749-4271.

Who may attend commencement?

If weather permits and Commencement is held outdoors, seniors may invite as many guests as they wish. Seating is limited both for Commencement if it is held indoors in the Cage and for the Baccalaureate Service. However both events will be simulcast and available to all guests. See below for more details.

About the Baccalaureate Service (and limited seating).

The Baccalaureate Service is held in Cochran Chapel the Saturday night before commencement. For fire code capacity safety reasons, occupancy in the chapel is limited. Every senior may attend the Baccalaureate Service, and each senior may bring three ticket-bearing guests. (Each senior receives four guest tickets on Wednesday, May 31.) Seniors need a ticket to attend. The Baccalaureate Service will be simulcast in Kemper Auditorium for guests who do not have tickets.  There is unlimited seating in Kemper Auditorium with air-conditioning.  If you need extra tickets please talk to your child and ask that he/she ask friends for any unused tickets.

What if it rains?

While we make every effort to conduct Commencement exercises outdoors in front of Samuel Phillips Hall, there is always the possibility that inclement weather will force us to conduct the ceremony in the Case Memorial Cage, where seating is limited. If that occurs, in order to ensure fairness for all, only ticket-bearing family members and guests will be admitted into the Cage. Seniors and faculty members will be admitted into the Cage without tickets. Each senior will receive three guest tickets for admission to the Cage (just as they receive three guest tickets for the Baccalaureate service). All guests without tickets are welcome to attend a simulcast of the ceremony in the Smith Center adjoining the Cage. Seniors do not need a ticket for the indoor ceremony.

Note: If in doubt as to the location of Commencement exercises Sunday morning, due to the weather, call 978-749-4282 after 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

What should seniors wear during the commencement ceremony?

Commencement is one of Phillips Academy's most formal ceremonies. Traditionally, students wear white dresses or jackets and ties. Casual attire, including baseball caps, is not recommended.

What about people with special needs?

Phillips Academy makes every effort to accommodate people with differing needs and abilities. All Commencement Weekend events are fully accessible. Please contact Jen Hout or 978-749-4282 for more detailed information.

Where do I park?

Phillips Academy is a very "walkable" campus. We suggest that you find a parking place convenient to your child's dorm and leave your car there. Parking will be severely limited during Commencement Weekend to areas away from the central campus. Parking is available next to the Cochran Chapel, on Phillips and Bartlet Streets, and on campus roads on the west side of Route 28.

Where do guests sit during the Commencement Exercises?

If the ceremony is conducted in front of Samuel Phillips Hall, or in the Cage in case of rain, seating is reserved for seniors and faculty members only. All other seating is available on a first-come basis. Using signs or objects for the purpose of "seat saving" is strongly discouraged. We recommend that guests arrive, take a seat, and remain seated until the ceremony has concluded. Faculty and staff ushers, Phillips Academy Public Safety officers, Town of Andover police, and an EMT are on-hand to assist guests and to help maintain proper decorum.

Where should parents and guests stand while diplomas are being passed?

Parents are permitted to stand behind their child on the outside of the circle. All guests, including individuals using cameras or video equipment, are asked to respect the integrity of the ceremony during the Commencement exercises by remaining outside the circle and behind the seniors throughout the distribution of diplomas.

When do Seniors need to be out of dormitories?

Seniors need to be out of their dorms by 3 p.m. on Sunday following the Commencement ceremony. We encourage seniors to pack up their dorm rooms during the day on Friday and Saturday, so that there is very little left to pack on Sunday after Commencement.

Other Important Details:

If the weather is extremely warm, please know that water will be available near the library patio and on the lawn area in front of Sam Phillips Hall. Also, the ceremony will be simulcast to Kemper Auditorium in the Elson Art Center, which has comfortable seating and is air-conditioned. Please feel free to direct any of your guests to Kemper if they would prefer an air-conditioned seating area. Following the distribution of diplomas, the head of school and the faculty invite seniors and their guests to a reception in Flagstaff Court in front of Paresky Commons. Light refreshments will be served. Please help us make this a “no trash event” by using the recycling bins.

Whom do I contact with other questions?

Please call Jen Hout, Commencement Coordinator, at 978-749-4271 or, with all other questions.

What sort of accommodations are there?

See the section on Overnight Accommodations for various options.

Important Notice

Although Phillips Academy understands the desire of some families to celebrate their child's graduation with a bottle of champagne or cigar, we must insist that you do not bring cigars, champagne or any alcoholic beverage to campus.  We are a non-smoking campus and ask you to refrain from smoking on campus. Thank you.