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Planning for Commencement

Part of The PhD Guide Series

The months leading up to commencement can be stressful and hectic. Between finishing your thesis, studying for your defense, and searching for a job, you also need to plan for commencement. Luckily for you, we’ve gone through this before, and with this experience compiled a checklist of things you need to do. While we can’t write your thesis, we hope that this guide will streamline planning for you so that you can actually finish writing your thesis.

Who to invite

Most people invite their parents, siblings, and significant others. It’s always nice to see grandparents and other extended family at commencements too - we all know they are always proud of you and would never skip a chance to celebrate with you. Be aware that some ceremonies, usually the university-wide commencement that includes the undergraduates, only allow you to invite a limited number of guests.

Trip length

Your guests’ trip length depend on their schedules and the days commencement fall on. If they haven’t visited before, try to get them to stay a few extra days to show off the city, campus, and that lab, office, or library chair that you’ve spent way too many hours on.

Airplane tickets

Once you’ve determined the trip length, look for airplane tickets on your favorite flight search engine (we like Kayak and Hipmunk).

Rental car

Depending on where your university is, what you plan on doing, if you already have a car, and how many guests are visiting, it may be useful to rent a car. You can also just use Uber if you don’t plan on going on a far excursion.


Hotels book up quickly around the area, so if you plan on doing that, book early. Airbnb can be a great alternative, particularly if you have a large posse that wants to hang out in a house together.


Show your family and friends your favorite places on campus and around the area. If there are other places that you know they or you would like to see, plan a trip there.


If you want to take your guests to your favorite restaurant, book early. Popular restaurants get booked up quickly, especially the day of commencement. If you find that they are, try calling them to see if they have any tables open on the days leading up to commencement or the days after. Opentable and Yelp are great for making reservations.

Time to celebrate

Your guests will be excited see you, congratulate you, and celebrate with you. Once you’ve taken care of all of these considerations, you can focus on finishing your thesis so that you can actually walk.

About Phinished Gown

We take pride in offering the highest quality regalia and great customer service. All the materials we use have been specifically chosen to closely match university designs and crafted into beautiful PhD regalia. We strive to make our doctoral regalia affordable to all PhD graduates so that you can celebrate your graduation day in style.