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How to Attend Commencement at a University You’ve Never Been To

I was watching CNN’s list of the big-name college commencement speakers and saw that there were a few names on that list I’d love to see. Bill Cosby is delivering the commencement speech at the University of Baltimore on May 21st. President Obama is speaking at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on May 24th. And Cal Ripken Jr. is speaking to the graduates of the University of Maryland on May 19th. All within fifteen minute driving distance, these all hold great promise. While they may not not be as powerful as Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2008 [3] or The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch [4] from my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, they all have the promise of being entertaining.

There’s just one problem… I’m not graduating from any of those schools. So how do I get in?

Find a Student

You will need a ticket to get into commencement and the only people who get tickets are graduates. For example, Maryland distributes five tickets [5] per graduate (it’ll vary between 4-6 each year) and you simply show ID and pick them up from the Comcast Center box office. The University of Baltimore also gives 5 tickets per graduate [6].

The easiest way to get a ticket is to find a graduate to get you one. If it’s a local college, as those three are for me, chances are a co-worker or a friend knows someone who knows someone who is graduating and can get you a ticket. It’s a little last minute for this year but plan ahead of next year and you’ll probably be able to get one.

Buy It

If you can’t get a free one from a student, the next best way is to buy one from a student. As the event nears, you’ll start to see sale listings on Craigslist or other classified ad sites. I found a listing for four tickets to the UMD graduation for $400, which might be steep depending on your budget.

Alternatively, there are exchanges available across social media set up by the schools themselves. Some graduates come from large families and whatever the school distributes just isn’t enough. Check out the school’s commencement page for the available options.

Stream It Online

If you can’t find a ticket to attend the event live, you can almost always stream it. Many universities put their commencement online and let you watch it in real time. Considering how large the venues are, oftentimes your streaming feed is exactly what you’d be watching anyway if you were there live. The University of Maryland streams theirs feed starting at 1 PM on graduation day, details all appearing on the main commencement page [7].

The streaming option is probably the best option unless it’s someone you’ve always to see live and in person. Sometimes a speaker generates so much buzz and emotion from the audience that you really need to be there to experience the full experience. Sometimes you can just wait for the Youtube video and skip all the lines and the traffic.

(Credit: HckySo [8])