Site Search

Commencement FAQsCommencement FAQs

Commencement FAQs

Below in the drop-downs you will be able to find frequently asked questions about commencement and graduation.

Click Question To Reveal Answer

What is the difference between commencement and graduation?

Commencement refers to the formal academic ceremony, officiated by the President of the University, where you share the excitement and importance of your academic accomplishments with your peers, family, and friends. The commencement ceremony is an opportunity for the University (including members of Cal U's Council of Trustees, administration, faculty, and staff) to pay special tribute to you for the outstanding efforts you have shown in earning your Cal U degree. 

Graduation is the process consisting of submitting an application for graduation, completing all academic requirements for your degree, and settling all financial obligations to the University. The administrative process of degree conferral will indicate your official date of graduation.

When is commencement held? Is there more than one ceremony per year?

Cal U holds commencement two times a year, in December and May. Graduate and undergraduate ceremonies are held separately. Graduate ceremonies are held on Friday evenings and undergraduate ceremonies are held on Saturday mornings at the end of each semester. Both graduate ceremonies and undergraduate ceremonies are held at our Convocation Center.

If I graduate in August or January, which ceremony do I attend?

Students graduating in August are permitted to only participate in December commencement ceremonies. Students graduating in January are permitted to only participate in May commencement ceremonies. 

How long is the commencement ceremony?

Each commencement ceremony can vary in length based on the number of graduates. We ask that you allow approximately 1½  (1.5) hours for the graduate ceremony and 2½ (2.5) hours for the undergraduate ceremony.

Do I have to apply for graduation?

Yes. Students are required to apply for graduation. It is not an automatic process. Read graduation guidelines and the graduation application process. Graduation requirements may variy according to each degree and college. Contact your dean's office for more information (please see our ommencement contacts listing at the end of the FAQs section).

Where do I order my cap and gown?

Graduate and undergraduate students must purchase regalia (caps and gowns) through the University Bookstore. Please contact Pam Pazzabon at 724-938-5572 if you are not on campus and are not able to purchase your regalia in person (for global online students and students participating in internships and student teaching). Phone orders can be processed and arranged; we do not have online purchase options at this time.

See Cal U's graduation timeline for ordering deadlines for students and faculty.

What should I know for my family member who has a disability?

General information about commencement access can be found online. Accommodations are not reserved. Guests may direct inquiries about disability access to the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD), in person (Carter Hall - G35) or by phone (724-938-5781). Seating is available in order of arrival. University personnel will also be available to answer questions and direct guests to the disability access seating locations at the Convocation Center.

I am a student with a disability; who should I contact to make arrangements for attending the graduation ceremony?

There are a substantial number of steps for general access to the President's Dinner for Graduates and for the commencement processional/recessional in the Convocation Center. 

Alternate access arrangements for these events and/or all other accommodation requests should be made to the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), preferably one month prior to commencement. Contact the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD), in person (Carter Hall - G35) or by phone (724-938-5781).

Where can we stay overnight?

Below is a list of accommodations close to Cal U's main campus.


Hampton Inn

200 Technology Drive Coal Center, PA 15423

Phone: 724-330-5820


Best Western, 10.5 mi., 15 min

101 Gosai Drive Bentleyville, PA 15314

Phone: 724-239-4321

Holiday Inn Express, 10.5 mi., 15 min

23 Smita Lane Bentleyville, PA 15314

Phone: 724-239-7700



Hampton Inn, 10.1 mi., 14 min

101225 Broad Avenue Extension Belle Vernon, PA 15012

Phone: 724-929-8100

Holiday Inn Express, 10.5 mi., 17 min

181 Finley Road Belle Vernon, PA 15012

Phone: 724-930-0100

Comfort Inn, 13.8 mi., 19 min

4300 State Route 51 South Belle Vernon, PA 15012

Phone: 724-929-3177

I'm in the military. Can I wear my dress uniform instead of the required cap and gown?

Yes, you may wear your military dress uniform instead of the traditional cap and gown.

When is the graduation fair and why should I attend?

The Graduation Fair is held in advance of commencement at the Natali Student Center. See commencement timeline for more details. Join representatives from various campus departments along with representatives from the University Bookstore, Herff Jones, Balfour, and Framing Success. Order your cap and gown, class ring and diploma frames and finalize your graduation details. Representatives will be available to discuss personalized graduation announcements.

When will I get my diploma?

You receive your diploma approximately 6-8 weeks after the commencement ceremony, assuming all your eligibility requirements for graduation have been met. Please be sure that your permenant address in the student records system is accurate so there are no delays in mailing any official University documents.

What will appear on my diploma other than my name?

Your name, degree, and graduation date will appear on your diploma. Bachelor degree students earning Latin academic honors will have the designation (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) listed on the diploma.

Your major/minor will only be included on your official transcript, NOT on your diploma. Majors and areas of study within a degree are not included on the diploma.

How do I know if I receive departmental awards or honor society recognition?

Please contact your department and/or honor societies for a listing of awards and when awards/induction activities will be held. Some departments and honorary societies only hold ceremonies and offer awards once a year.

How do I order a duplicate diploma?

Our diplomas were redesigned for both graduate and undergraduate degrees and introduced in May 2011.

Please send a written request for each diploma to be reordered to include the following information:

  1. Full, legal name to appear on diploma (please include any previous names used)
  2. Degree and graduation date
  3. Number of copies
  4. Mailing address/phone number
  5. Signature and printed name of requester/student
  6. Check or money order for $14 per copy made payable to "California University of Pennsylvania"

Please send all information to: California University of Pennsylvania, ATTN: Jodie Rooney, Office of Academic Affairs, 250 University Avenue, California, PA  15419. The typical turnaround time is 6-8 weeks for reordering.

Can I order a commencement video?

Yes. DVDs are available for purchase through Cal U's CUTV for $16.95. Read more.

I heard there will be a dinner for graduates. Can my family attend with me?

Due to the number of students expected, only graduates are invited to attend. Commencement rehearsals will be held immediately after dinner, at approximately 7 p.m., for undergraduate students (Convocation Center) and graduate students (Steele Hall).

Attendance at the dinner and rehearsal are advised but not mandatory.

Will I be able to purchase a gift for my son/daughter on the day of commencement? And will any concessions be available?

The University Bookstore will be on site at the Convocation Center with a variety of gift items, flowers, and balloons that will be available for purchase.

A variety of food and beverage items will also be available at the concessions areas in the Convocation Center for both commencement ceremonies.

Why is there a hold on my transcript?

There are a variety of holds that may prevent you from receiving your diploma and transcripts. 

Clearance of Outstanding Debts/Obligations: Please make sure that you have taken care of all your outstanding financial issues, including paying parking tickets, returning library books, returning borrowed equipment, and completing your Federal Stafford Loan Exit Counseling Interview, (if applicable). This must be finalized before graduation (approximately 3 weeks) to prevent any delays with the graduation process. To check if you have any holds that need your attention, please visit the VIP Portal. You will be notified if you have any graduation clearance issues via your Cal U e-mail.

Diplomas/Transcripts: Diplomas and final transcripts will be available once all degree requirements have been verified AND any outstanding obligations and debts have been cleared, approximately six to eight weeks after the end of this term. Diplomas will be mailed to the permanent address listed in the student records system, or you can pick up your diploma in your dean’s office.

When and where will I receive mailings about commencement activities?

Informational mailings for students who have applied for graduation will be sent by your college office to the address listed on your graduation application. Additional emails with important commencement information and updates will be sent to graduating students' Cal U email accounts. 

A reminder that students MUST APPLY for graduation. Graduation is not automatic. Unless we have received your online (VIP) graduation application, you will not receive commencement-related mailings and emails.

How do I make a request for my official transcript?

Transcripts are issued by the Office of Academic Records. Read about how to request a transcript.

Clearance of Outstanding Debts/Obligations: Please make sure that you have taken care of all your outstanding financial issues, including paying parking tickets, returning library books, returning borrowed equipment, and completing your Federal Stafford Loan Exit Counseling Interview, (if applicable). All degree requirements must be verified AND any outstanding obligations and debts must be cleared in order to receive your diploma and transcripts.

How do I know if I will graduate with academic honors?

Read about undergraduate honors and all graduation requirements. Graduate degree programs award academic distinctions to students maintaining at least a 3.75 GPA among other requirements.

If you have questions regarding your undergraduate honors status, contact Jodie Rooney, academic events coordinator, via e-mail or phone 724-938-1584.

What student information is listed in the commencement program?

Names of students eligible for graduation and students eligible for commencement honors (bachelor degree candidates only), departmental awards, honors program completion and honorary society recognition will be listed in the commencement program. Graduate students may have research projects and theses as part of their degree requirements will be listed as well. Be aware that program printing deadlines may prevent proper listings in the program if eligibility or other obligations are in question.

Students who have gained special permission to "walk only" during the ceremony will not be listed in the commencement program until they have met all degree requirements and have applied for graduation.

Commencement programs are not considered official evidence of graduation and must not be regarded as conclusive. The transcript, issued through the University by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, sealed and signed by the proper authorities, is conclusive testimony to the possession of a degree.

I need help finding a job after graduation. What resources are available to me?

Having trouble finding a job?! Cal U's Career & Professional Development Center (CPDC) can assist you. Be sure to meet with your Career Advisor in the CPDC soon! Call 724-938-4413 to schedule a convenient appointment time.

The CPDC is your resource for career counseling and planning, resume assistance, networking opportunities and more. View job postings, participate in mock interviews, locate job fairs, schedule interviews and meet alumni in your field.

Don’t miss out on possible job opportunities! Update your profile and upload your resume on Hire CALYOU (Cal U’s online career center) at as soon as possible. Your resume will be reviewed and approved for posting online by a CPDC staff member so that it is ready to be referred to hiring employers.

IMPORTANT: Since your Cal U e-mail account will expire soon, be sure to include a permanent phone number and e-mail address in your Hire CALYOU registration and on your resume!

Check out our upcoming career fairs and events

Should I attend graduate school?

We hope that you will consider graduate school as you set your next professional goals. As you finish the final requirements for your bachelor’s degree, we commend you for your hard work and dedication on this very proud accomplishment.

As you prepare to graduate, we know it is a busy, exciting, and anxious time. Let us help you make an easy transition from undergraduate to graduate student. We would like to see you continue to grow academically. And, we are here to continue offering you an affordable, accessible, and respected Cal U education while preparing you for the best employment options possible.

Simply apply for one of more than 65 graduate school programs offered on campus or 100% onlineClick here to view all programs.

Our graduate programs are flexible, making it easier for you to balance life's challenges. Talk to a graduate school admissions representative and see why a graduate degree may be beneficial for your career goals and why attending graduate school directly after completing your undergraduate degree may be right for you.

Earn your graduate degree, Apply Now!

For more information:

How do I stay connected to Cal U?

Cal U wants to stay connected with you! Be sure to Update your contact information now with Cal U's Alumni Association. Discover special services and perks available only to alumni plus events of interest to you and other graduates. 

You've just made one of the best investments of your life. Cal U for Life helps you make the most your Cal U education and helps the University make a difference in the lives of future students.

Who are my main commencement/graduation contacts?

Eberly College of Science and Technology


College of Education and Human Services


College of Liberal Arts   


School of Graduate Studies and Research


Office of Academic Affairs


Commencement Information: Jodie Rooney


Office of Academic Records


Office of Alumni Relations


Senior Gift Drive: Randi Minvera


Career & Professional Development Center 


Office of Financial Aid 


Office for Students with Disabilities


Office of Student Affairs  


Information Desk (Natali Student Center)


University Bookstore  


Caps and Gowns: Pam Pazzabon