FAQs for Undergraduate Students - SUNY Cortland

FAQs for Undergraduate Students

Participation Information

Who may participate?

Commencement is not synonymous with graduation or degree conferral. Students must complete all requirements for the degree to have the degree officially conferred.  Because the May ceremonies will honor students who complete their degree requirements in Aug. and Dec 2016 and May 2017, it is possible to still have a degree in process while participating in the ceremony.

In order to walk in the May ceremony  graduate students must have completed 18 credits and undergraduates must have completed at least 85 credits. Students who completed their degree requirements in the previous December 2016, may also participate if they officially petitioned. The Commencement ceremonies are held only in the
Spring (May).

How do I apply for my degree and indicate participation in the ceremony?

Students should first meet with their advisor to verify eligibility for graduation in the fall semester or early spring semester prior to the ceremony. Students can apply for their degree and indicate participation in the May ceremony through myRedDragon. The deadline for indicating participation in the ceremony is March 1, 2017.

Once at myRedDragon, do the following:

  1. Type in ID and password
  2. Select “Student" tab and go to the Registrar column
  3. Select “Degree Conferral and Commencement”
  4. Select “Apply for Degree Conferrral”

I missed the March  deadline to indicate participation for Commencement. What can I do about it?

Students can still apply for their degree and indicate participation in the ceremony; however, those who apply for their degree after March 1 may not have their name appear in the program. All students who attend the Commencement ceremonies will have their names read, regardless of being in the program or not.

Please note: Students must apply for their degree online using myRedDragon, even if they miss the March  deadline.  

When do I select my ceremony time?

The first opportunity for graduates to select the ceremony in which they'd like to participate and to obtain Commencement tickets is March 21, 2017 at 6 a.m.

On March 21, 2017 the link will go live and you will be able to select your Commencement ceremony. Please note, as in the past, ceremony selection is on a first-come, first-served basis. You will only have access to this site if you have applied for graduation. In order to participate in Commencement you must purchase a diploma cover through the online ticketing process.  Please have a credit card ready. The diploma cover ($11.50) is linked to your Student Line-Up Ticket (which you must bring with you the day of Commencement). The diploma cover will be handed to you as you walk across the stage. You should have received a detailed checklist outlining the steps to select your Commencement ceremony and all items you must purchase in order to participate in Commencement.  

In order to select your commencement ceremony, complete the following steps:

  1. Log into myRedDragon
  2. Select the Student Tab at the top
  3. Under the Commencement 2017 Channel, select Commencement Tickets (first option)
  4. Select your Ceremony (first-come, first-serve basis)

Students will be directed to links to purchase caps and gowns, tassels, flowers, Commencement announcements, class rings, diploma frames and other gift items relating to Commencement.

I have registered for one ceremony, but I would like to switch to the other ceremony. What do I do?

Students who have registered for one ceremony, but would like to switch to the other ceremony must contact the Special Events Coordinator for the President's Office at 607-753-5453 or Undergraduate.Commencement@cortland.edu.

When and where are the ceremonies?

Commencement takes place on Saturday, May 13, in the Park Center Alumni Arena. Graduates have their choice of attending either the evening, morning or afternoon ceremony:

  • Bachelor's Degree Ceremony 1: 9:30 a.m. (Saturday)
  • Bachelor’s Degree Ceremony 2: 2:30 p.m. (Saturday)
  • Bachelor’s Degree Ceremony 3: 7 p.m. (Saturday)

The Arena will open one hour prior to each ceremony. Overflow seating will be available in the Park Center Alumni Arena.  

Is there a rehearsal for the ceremonies?

Yes! Rehearsal for Undergraduate Commencement is held on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. in the Park Center Alumni Arena.  All students are strongly encouraged to attend.  

What time should I be at the Alumni Arena on Commencement Day?

Graduates attending Ceremony 1 should meet in the Corey Gymnasium at 8:30 a.m., Ceremony 2 should meet in the Corey Gymnasium at 1:30 p.m. and Ceremony 3 should meet in the Corey Gymnasium at 6 p.m. 

How long will the ceremony last?

The length of the ceremony is approximately two and a half hours.

How will the degrees be conferred?

Degrees are conferred prior the students crossing the stage. Each dean will acknowledge the candidates by school and degree and then the president will confer the degrees all at once. This is when the students will officially move their tassel across their cap. Following the conferral, all students will be announced individually.

An hour before the Commencement ceremony, students will check in at the Park Center, Corey Gymnasium. They will receive a three-inch by five-inch card with his or her first and last name. Students then choose a row to line up in and may line up with their friends. They will remain in this order as they proceed into rows on the floor of the
Alumni Arena.

As students reach the stage, they will hand the card received at check-in to the person at the microphone, who will read the student's name. Two readers are positioned at the top of the ramp and will alternate reading the student names. Those with names that might be difficult to pronounce are asked to write a phonetic pronunciation of your name when you check-in prior to the ceremony AND give the reader the correct pronunciation just before the name is read.

The students’ names and “special person” designations are read as they cross the stage. Students will first receive a congratulatory handshake from the president. Students will then cross the stage and just before exiting will receive a diploma cover from one of the deans. Students will exit down the opposite ramp, pause for their photo, and return to student seating.

Will faculty be there?

Each department is encouraged to have as many faculty members participate as possible. In the past, approximately 50 percent have attended. Students are encouraged to invite their favorite faculty or staff members to attend.

What should I wear with my cap and gown?

Commencement is a formal ceremony, so students are asked to dress accordingly. The general rule is light-weight, non-restricting clothes. Men do not have to wear jackets, but should wear a shirt and tie. Students are requested not to wear shorts, overalls, sandals or sneakers. Mortarboard (cap) tassels should be worn on the left side throughout the ceremony. Once degrees are conferred, the president will ask all students to switch their tassels from the left to the right.

Am I graduating with honors from SUNY Cortland?

Students' grade point averages (GPA) calculated as of Feb. 1, 2017 determine the SUNY Cortland
honors distinction.

Once the end-of-school GPA is determined after the ceremony, allowing for the incorporation of the Spring 2017 grades, the honors distinction is then recorded and displayed on the official transcript.

  • A GPA between 3.2-3.499 will receive a white tassel and graduate cum laude.
  • A GPA between 3.5-3.749 will receive a red and white tassel and graduate magna cum laude.
  • A GPA of 3.75 and above will receive a red tassel and graduate summa cum laude.

Graduates do not purchase their Honors Tassel. Staff from the Registrar’s Office distributes tassels beginning May 1, 2017.

If, as of Feb. 1, a student’s GPA did not qualify for the honors distinction as noted above, the student will wear the SUNY Cortland black tassel. However, if after the calculation of the end-of-school GPA (calculated after the ceremony) meets the honors GPA, the honors distinction is then recorded and displayed on the official transcript. 

Please note:  Various departments and honor societies also have honors distinctions and may distribute cords or tassels to be worn during Commencement.  Students need to inquire with their department chair or advisor to verify if there is an honors distinction specifically for their major/program. 

General Information


An ambulance will be located just outside the Park Center, Alumni Arena. When facing the stage, the ambulance will be located at the back of the Alumni Arena.

Emergency Exits

In case of an emergency, please proceed to the nearest exit in an orderly manner.

Flowers and Commencement-Related Gifts

Flowers and Commencement-related items will be available for purchase from  8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Flower arrangements include bouquets of half dozen and full dozen roses, as well as open presentation. Cameras, batteries, diploma frames, class rings, watercolor prints of the campus and other Commencement gift items will be available as well. The College Store, located in Neubig Hall, will also be open for additional purchases from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Guest Assistance

Faculty and staff marshals, student ushers and university police officers are available at all times for assistance and information. Faculty and staff marshals will be wearing Commencement regalia, the student ushers will be in polo shirts and khaki pants, and university police officers will be in full uniform.

Students with family members with accessibility needs should arrange seating by filling out the online form below:

https://sunycortland.wufoo.com/forms/commencement-special-accommodations-form/Special Accommodations Form

Lost and Found

For lost and found items, contact the University Police Department, Van Hoesen Hall, Room C-17, 607-753-4123.


Official Commencement programs will be distributed at both upper and lower entrances. All eligible graduates who apply for their degree by March 1, 2017 will have their name listed in the program.


Restrooms are located on all floors of the Park Center, Alumni Arena.


SUNY Cortland is a Tobacco Free Campus. Smoking and tobacco use are not permitted anywhere inside campus buildings or on campus grounds.


Emergency phones are located throughout the entire campus and are identified by blue lights above the phones. University police are equipped for emergency communication as well. Guests are reminded to turn off all cell phones during the ceremony.


In order to adhere to the Fire and Safety Code, every guest attending the Commencement ceremonies must have a guest ticket.

Students will receive a total of five tickets — one student line-up ticket and four guest tickets.

In order to select your commencement ceremony, purchase diploma cover and receive tickets, complete the following steps:

  1. Log into myRedDragon
  2. Select the Student Tab at the top
  3. Under the Commencement 2017 Channel, select Commencement Tickets (first option)
  4. Select your Ceremony (first-come, first-served basis)

Students will be directed to links to purchase caps and gowns, tassels, flowers, Commencement announcements, class rings, diploma frames and other gift items relating to Commencement.

Please note all Undergraduate Commencement tickets will be scanned at the door. The unique bar code on this ticket allows only one entry to the event. The first copy of an E-Ticket (if there are multiple copies made) to arrive at the event will gain entry after scanning and validation. Other copies of this ticket will be denied entry. You should handle this E-Ticket as you would any other valuable or cash. Please be very cautious if someone offers to sell you this document. It has no official resale value and may be an unauthorized copy.

**If you plan to give your extra tickets away please do so through the Special Events Office, 216 Miller Building.