Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between commencement and graduation?

Graduation refers to the awarding of your degree--all requirements have been completed and the degree will print on your transcript. Commencement is a ceremony. You have to be an approved candidate for graduation (a degree-seeking student with all requirements for your degree in progress) to participate in commencement. Students are graduated three times per year: at the end of each semester (mid-May, early August, mid-December). Commencement occurs twice per year, in May and December.

Do I have to apply for graduation?

The simple answer is yes, you must apply for graduation. The University has an enrollment of approximately 12,000 students who complete their degree programs in varying amounts of time, making it nearly impossible for the University to determine when each student should graduate. So if you don't apply for graduation, no one but you will know, and no degree will be awarded.

When is the deadline to apply for graduation?

Students may apply for graduation as soon as they complete enrollment for their final requirements (that includes WP003 and internships for undergraduates, and for graduate students, either GR698 or GR699 in your graduation semester.)

Fall graduation: apply by last day of preceding summer semester
Spring graduation: apply by last day of preceding fall semester
Summer graduation: to walk in preceding spring commencement, apply by Friday of first week of summer enrollment
To walk in fall commencement, apply by the last day of the preceding spring semester

Students are encouraged to apply for graduation as soon as they have completed enrollment for their final semester. This allows more time to resolve unexpected problems.

What if I’m supposed to attend the morning commencement, but I can’t. Can I attend the afternoon ceremony?

Every effort should be made to attend the assigned ceremony. However, students who have a conflict, and can document the reason for it, may make a written request to the commencement committee to be allowed to participate in a different ceremony in the same semester. Requests for such exceptions must be made at least three weeks in advance of commencement so that arrangements to have your name read at the appropriate ceremony can be made, if your exception is granted.

May I participate in commencement other than in the semester when I'm graduating?

Spring and fall candidates may participate only in the semester in which they are first approved as a candidate to receive their degree. Since there is no summer commencement exercise, summer candidates for graduation MAY be eligible to participate in the preceding spring commencement if they enroll and apply for graduation by the published deadline, or will participate in the fall commencement ceremony immediately after their summer graduation. The graduation application should be marked for summer graduation. There is also a space for those planning to graduate in the summer to indicate which ceremony they prefer.

Do I have to attend commencement?

No; however you still have to apply for graduation, fill out candidate information by the deadline, and meet all graduation requirements. Your cooperation is appreciated in letting us know that you won't be attending so that we can plan seating accordingly. A word of caution: You may not wish to participate in commencement, but your family may have other ideas. Even if you think you aren't going to attend, you may wish to order a cap and gown for purposes of photos, etc.  Also, if your family changes your mind for you, you will be prepared. If nothing else, most students do want the tassel, and if you do not order in advance of commencement, these items will not be available to you.

What do I wear for commencement?

All participants are required to wear academic regalia—cap, bachelor’s gown and tassel for undergraduates; cap, master’s gown, tassel, and appropriate hood for those earning master’s degrees; cap, specialist gown, tassel, and appropriate hood for those earning the Specialist in Education degree. Beneath the gown, “Sunday” dress is recommended, but there are no specific requirements.

How much does it cost to graduate?

  • There is a non-refundable graduation fee of $35, which is charged to your University account after your application for graduation is approved. It covers administrative costs of evaluating your eligibility to graduate, preparing your diploma, postage, etc.
  • All approved candidates are required to complete Candidate Information via the portal.  if you don't complete this information by established deadlines, you'll be charged late fees, and you may not receive your diploma.
  • You'll be notified when to complete Candidate Information.  This includes providing the address to which your diploma should be mailed and ordering your cap and gown.  When you order, there will be charges, which vary by the level of your degree (undergraduate, master, or specialist).
  • If you choose to purchase souvenir tassels, announcements, rings, a diploma cover or frame, etc., there will be additional costs based on those choices.

Is there anything special I have to do if I'm taking a course somewhere else in my last semester?

Yes. You will need to verify that the course you want to take will transfer as expected, provide proof of enrollment (see the instructions on the commencement website, and when the course is finished, have your official transcript(s) sent to the Registrar's Office, Attn: Graduation.

When is commencement rehearsal?

Because students don't follow the same schedule, and because the facility also has other uses, there is no rehearsal. An overview of the ceremony and instructions will be provided to you. There will also be faculty marshals to direct you at commencement.

How many guests may I bring to commencement?

We ask your cooperation in limiting your guests in the arena to 8 or fewer, so that there will be room for all candidates’ guests. There is an overflow room available, and the ceremonies are streamed live to the web.  The webstream is not available once the ceremony has ended.

Are tickets required to attend commencement?

No tickets are required to attend.

When should we plan on arriving for commencement?

Candidates for graduation are expected to check in 45 minutes prior to the ceremony’s scheduled time to begin.  Traffic can become congested in the area, so guests are advised to plan their arrival no later than ½ hour before the beginning of the ceremony.

Where do we line up for commencement?

Candidates meet on the track in the Student Recreation Center-North. You'll be provided specific information shortly before commencement day.

If my family cannot attend commencement, how can they see me graduate?

The ceremony is streamed live to the web. Please see the commencement site ( for the address.  PLEASE NOTE: The webstream is a live stream only; it is not available to view via the web once the ceremony is completed.

How long is the ceremony?

The length of the ceremony depends on several factors—how many graduates, length of the speakers’ comments, audience reaction to students crossing the stage, etc.-- so it’s difficult to be specific. We suggest you allow a minimum of two hours for the ceremony.

What happens when the ceremony ends?

Candidates are led back to the SRC-N, where there will be a brief reception for candidates and their guests. An area for pictures is available, with a floral backdrop.  Once you have returned to the SRC-N, you may leave whenever you wish.

What if I fail a course or get an incomplete in my final semester?

Candidates for graduation have three weeks after commencement to complete grades of incomplete, submit official transcripts from other institutions and verify the accuracy of grades received. If a failing grade is received in a course you need to graduate, you will need to enroll in suitable course work in a subsequent semester, and apply for graduation in that semester.  

What do I do with my cap and gown after commencement?

It is yours to keep. This allows you to get as many pictures as you desire, even with people who could not attend commencement. (They also make excellent costumes!)

When do I get my diploma cover?

Some years ago, Southeast chose to discontinue the use of diploma covers on the basis of student preferences. Our graduates told us they prefer to frame and display their diplomas, and therefore discarded the diploma cover. Southeast does not wish to contribute to the further deterioration of our planet by creating unnecessary waste. However, we do wish to accommodate the needs of our graduates. The Southeast Bookstore carries diploma covers as well as several selections of frames suitable for the diploma. Diploma frames may also be purchased from our regalia vendor at cap and gown pickup, or ordered through our website:

What is on my diploma? When will I receive it and how will it be packaged?

Diplomas will show your name as indicated on your graduation application, your degree, honors if applicable, and the date of graduation. You may pick up your diploma during the specified period (you'll be notified by e-mail); otherwise it will arrive in the mail about eight weeks after the end of the semester in which you complete graduation requirements. Diplomas are mailed to the address you verify as correct when you pick up your cap and gown, and will arrive in a flat cardboard mailer, with dimensions of approximately 10 x 13". If your mail box will not accommodate that size mailer, speak with your local post office to make arrangements for delivery.

What will I get with my diploma?

The package you receive will include the diploma, a complimentary copy of your official transcript, and, if possible, a copy of the commencement program that includes your name. Please keep your transcript in a safe place--there may be times when you need to quickly provide one for job opportunities, etc.

What if I have questions regarding graduation and/or commencement?

You may find answers to your questions in one of several ways, depending on the nature of the question. For substitutions and waivers, check your DegreeWorks audit or ask your faculty advisor or one of the professional advisors in the advising centers. For questions regarding commencement, diplomas, certificates, or other matters related to the ceremonies, you can e-mail us at, or stop by the Registrar's Office (Academic Hall 057), or call graduation personnel in the Registrar's Office at - 573.651.2250, or visit the Commencement Website.


Academic Hall 057
One University Plaza, MS 3760
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701