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Graduating seniors applauding at Commencement


Commencement Weekend is Smith’s chance to honor all graduating students, including seniors, and graduate and special program students, and to observe such traditions as Ivy Day and Illumination Night. The weekend culminates on Sunday when parents, friends and seniors gather to hear a distinguished speaker and observe the awarding of diplomas.

Commencement 2021 is scheduled for May 30, 2021.

Spring 2021 Commencement Information

As announced in President Kathleen McCartney’s April 2 letter to students, the campus will welcome seniors back to campus for an in-person Commencement. Families, guests and friends are invited to watch the ceremony streaming online; no one will be allowed to attend the on-campus student event. 

Who can be on campus for Commencement?
We welcome all graduating students (both currently living on campus, and those who are remote and wish to come to Smith) who have tested negative for coronavirus to join the Commencement ceremony on campus.
Please note: A questionnaire to qualified students was sent out on April 9 to collect information necessary to hosting students on campus. All students wishing to participate in commencement must reply to this form by April 23 at 4 p.m. Eastern.

How can family members and friends participate?
Family members and friends can join online only; a link will be circulated to the Commencement broadcast. Family members and guests will not be allowed on campus before, during or immediately after Commencement. The campus will be closed to the public until after the senior lunch ends in the afternoon. 

We salute the strength, adaptability and resilience of the members of this year’s graduating class and will work to make Commencement a memorable and meaningful celebration of all they have accomplished. 


Our Commencement Weekend will combine on-campus events for seniors only and virtual events for everyone. Here are a few highlights:

Saturday, May 29 

1 p.m.
Ivy Day: celebrated at Commencement since 1879, Ivy Day continues to be a tradition at Smith. This year’s event at the Quadrangle will incorporate cherished elements while following physically distanced guidelines. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

3–4:15 p.m. 
Virtual Honorary Degree Panel: moderated by President Kathleen McCartney. A discussion with Joy Harjo, Commencement speaker and U.S. poet laureate; Gwen Agna, former principal of the Jackson Street School; Deborah Bial, president and founder of the Posse Foundation; Joanne Campbell, affordable housing activist; Christiana Figueres, diplomat and climate change leader; Cristina Jiménez, co-founder of United We Dream; The Rev. Gloria Elaine White-Hammond, M.D., founder and executive director of My Sister’s Keeper; and Hanya Yanagihara ’95, novelist and editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

8 p.m.
Senior Candle-Lighting Ceremony: Seniors gather on campus near Paradise Pond holding lighted candles as their class-year sign is illuminated on the pond. For seniors only.

Virtual/Global Illumination: In a show of solidarity and strength, members of the Smith community from around the world post online photos of their own candle-lighting celebration, with locations cited on an interactive map. More information to come.

On-Campus Illumination: In a tradition dating back to 1888, the campus paths are lit by colorful hanging lanterns. For seniors only.

Sunday, May 30—Commencement Day

Campus closed to the public; only graduating students will be allowed on campus. It will reopen in the afternoon for those following health and safety guidelines. 

10 a.m.
Commencement Ceremony—On campus for graduating students only (streaming online for all others) 

Outdoor Luncheon for Seniors: On campus (after Commencement ceremony)

Monday, May 31

Seniors move off campus: Only two family members or friends may assist each student.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can attend the in-person Commencement?
Only graduating seniors (on-campus or those studying remotely) who are part of the testing program can attend the on-campus ceremony.

Can my family members attend the Commencement ceremony if they are vaccinated?
No. Only seniors who are part of the testing program can attend. 

Why aren’t families and guests able to attend Commencement?
To maintain required physical distancing in accordance with college and Commonwealth guidelines, only seniors will be invited to attend in person.

How will seniors participate who can’t travel back to campus?
They will be able to participate virtually; stay tuned for details.

Can seniors who are not part of the testing program attend Commencement? What do they need to do?
Remote students will be invited back to campus for arrival on May 28, 2021, between noon and 6 p.m. Students who are not currently in the testing program but wish to participate in Commencement activities will be expected to participate in the asymptomatic COVID screening program at the college. A questionnaire will be available in the coming weeks asking students their preference for participation. This questionnaire will include further details about arrival and participation.

Can members of the public who are not part of the testing program visit campus during Commencement weekend?

Can I stay with my parents in their hotel room on the weekend of Commencement?
Resident students may not visit any off-campus residence or participate in off-campus social gatherings of any kind.

How do I purchase regalia for Commencement?
A cap, gown, hood and tassel can be purchased for $60 at the Smith College Bookstore. Please call the Smith College Bookstore at 413-585-4140 to order or visit the bookstore website. Students can purchase regalia in-store when it is open in accordance with Smith’s COVID safety plan. The store can ship regalia to students living off campus.

If I borrowed regalia through the SGA for Commencement, when and where do I return it?
Students who borrowed regalia must return it to the SGA Office, Campus Center 106, on Sunday, May 30, between noon and 5 p.m. or Monday, May 31, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Regalia that was mailed to remote students is due back by July 1, 2021.

Will my photo be taken at Commencement?
A photographer from GradImages will be at the Commencement ceremony to take candid photographs of each graduate receiving the diploma. Graduates will receive a free passport-sized digital proof of this photo on an order card within five to seven days following the ceremony. Questions may be emailed to After the ceremony you may order online at or call 800-261-2576.

Who do I contact to make sure I am cleared for graduation?
Contact the class dean. To schedule an appointment, please email In the subject line, indicate your name and class year.

Will I get my diploma on the day of Commencement?
Seniors will not receive diplomas on the day of Commencement. The Registrar’s Office will mail diplomas directly to graduates following Commencement.

Are my guests invited to the senior lunch following Commencement?
No; this event is open only to those who are part of the college’s testing program.

Are guests invited to attend Senior Candle Lighting and Illumination?
No; this event is open only to those who are part of the college’s testing program.

Where can guests view a livestream of Commencement events?
Commencement events will be livestreamed to Facebook.

I'm unable to view the livestream during Commencement. Will there be a way for me to view it?
Yes; a link to a downloadable video of Commencement will be made available after the ceremony starting in the week following the event, and a link to a streaming version will remain available on the site.

What resources are available to assist my family with travel plans to Northampton?
Please visit our directions page and our local accomodations page for more information.