Virtual Commencement 2021 FAQ

Do I have to apply for Graduation? What is the difference between Graduation and Commencement?

Students that are eligible for graduation in May 2021 must apply for graduation via the Connect OW portal by March 1, 2021. An email with instructions was sent on February 12, 2021 from

Graduation is the process of awarding a degree upon satisfying all major requirements as verified by the Office of the Registrar and official posting of a student’s degree to the academic record, i.e. Academic Transcript: Conferral Date. 

Commencement is a ceremony (held in Spring of each year), in which December and January graduates and candidates for May and August may participate. There is no Fall Commencement ceremony. 

  • Participation in Commencement exercises does not denote automatic degree conferral. 
  • Participation at Commencement is encouraged, but not required. 
  • Degrees are not awarded at the Commencement ceremony. All applications are pending the (manual) final audit, which occurs after the conclusion of processing final grades for all schools. Students will receive individual notifications via campus e-mail regarding the outcome of the manual audit. 

What is the Virtual Commencement Celebration? 

To celebrate the graduates of the Class of 2021 (Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021 and Summer 2021), SUNY Old Westbury will host a Virtual Commencement on Sunday, May 23, 2021. The time will be announced as it gets closer. The ceremony will include Commencement speakers, the official degree conferral, and tassel moving. The ceremony will highlight each individual graduate with a slide of their name, degree, photo and special message, and each name will be called one-by-one by major. 

Will I be invited in-person for a ceremony? 

The Class of 2021 will be invited to smaller, in-person events after the Virtual Commencement. As the semester progresses, the College will assess how these ceremonies will take place. 

How do I participate in the virtual ceremony? 

All approved graduates will appear in the virtual ceremony. If you want your photo and special message to be included, you must upload this via the MarchingOrder portal. Details on this process will be shared at a later date.  

How can my family and friends watch the virtual ceremony?

Graduates can share the link to the Virtual Commencement, which will be hosted on YouTube, to their friends and family in advance of the ceremony starting. Immediately following the ceremony, the YouTube video will be available for future viewing.

Do I need to purchase a cap and gown? 

Caps and gowns are not mandatory for the virtual ceremony, but we encourage you to wear one to celebrate. If you plan to take part in the in-person ceremonies or senior portraits, a cap and gown must be purchased through Jostens by March 26, 2021. It will be shipped directly to you. Details to follow on senior portraits.

When are graduate portraits?

The College is working on scheduling graduate portraits later in the Spring semester.

I received Latin Honors (Cum Laude, etc.), can I pick-up my cord?

Yes, we will verify your status on the Latin Honors list, and provide you with your cord. Details on cord pick-up will be confirmed later in the Spring semester.

How do I get my diploma?

Diplomas are mailed to graduates approximately three to four months after the final degree audit. This traditionally begins mid-August for Spring (May) graduates and mid-October/November for Summer (August) graduates. For Fall (December) and Winter (January) graduates, mailings begin at the end of March/April. For diploma mailing questions or concerns, please contact Mr. William Polaski, Degree Audit Manager at

Who can I contact with additional questions?

Please email from your Old Westbury email address with any additional questions.