Frequently asked questions about Commencement


Graduates from Penn's 12 schools will gather in Franklin Field on Monday, May 13, for the University's 257th Commencement ceremony.

The ceremony is open to friends and family, as well as the entire Penn community. This year's speaker is Vice President Joseph R. Biden, so those planning to attend should expect to wait in longer-than-usual lines to enter Franklin Field, due to heightened security.

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about this year's Commencement ceremony. For updates and specifics about school ceremonies, visit the Commencement website.

Q: How early do I need to arrive?
A: Gates open at 7 a.m. for friends, family, and the Penn community. Attendees are strongly encouraged to arrive between 7 and 8 a.m. to get through lines at the security checkpoint well in advance of the ceremony. Please note there may be delays with rush hour traffic and long lines to enter the stadium.

Q: What entrance of Franklin Field should I use?
A: Guests must enter Franklin Field from the southeast entrance, which is located on South Street across from Convention Boulevard and the Penn Museum.

Q: What will the security check be like?
A: Every guest will be required to go through airport-style magnetometers.

Q: Is there a separate gate for guests with disabilities?
A: Those guests will enter from the southwest corner entrance, located at 33rd and South streets. Due to space constraints, guests with disabilities who are seated on the field may be accompanied by one escort only. Seating for guests who use wheelchairs, as well as those with limited physical mobility or medical conditions, will be available both on the field and in the lower stands. Please be aware that the stadium has bench-style seating.

Q: What will I be prohibited from bringing into Franklin Field?
A: The following items will not be allowed inside Franklin Field:

  • -Umbrellas
  • -All outside food and beverages, glass or plastic bottles, etc.
  • -Tripods
  • -Coolers
  • -Air-horns
  • -Laser pointers
  • -Sticks or poles
  • -Baseballs, softballs, beach balls, etc.
  • -Scissors, razor blades, or needles
  • -Screwdrivers, Leatherman brand tools (or similar)
  • -Firearms, knives, or weapons of any type
  • -Toy guns / toy weapons
  • -Hazardous, chemical, radiological, and biological materials
  • -Fireworks
  • -Pepper spray / mace
  • -Aerosol containers

Q: I notice I can't bring in a bottle of water or snack. Will there be food and drinks once I get inside?
A: Yes. Concession stands inside Franklin Field will be open; before the ceremony, workers will also be vending items through the stands. Bottled water will be provided for all graduates.

Q: So, I can't bring an umbrella in case it rains?
A: No. The ceremony is rain or shine. If it does rain, all graduates and guests will be given a poncho to wear once they're inside Franklin Field.

Q: Can I bring a bag into the stadium?
A: Oversized bags will not be allowed in the stadium and guests are strongly discouraged from bringing bags (including handbags) unless absolutely necessary. There will not be X-ray machines on hand, so security personnel will have to search through bags by hand. This could cause a backup in the entrance line.

Q: What can I bring into the stadium?
A: You can bring cell phones, smart phones, and small point-and-shoot cameras into Franklin Field. Small books or newspapers are fine, as well. The rule of thumb is you can bring anything that fits into your pocket. All items will be checked at the gates (see prohibited items list).

Q: What if I'm delayed on my way to Commencement and can't get there at 7 a.m.?
A: Guests are encouraged to arrive between 7 and 8 a.m., but if you get stuck in traffic, not to worry—the gates will remain open through the entire ceremony. Please plan on arriving as early as possible to ensure you don't miss any of the ceremony.

Q: Should I use public transit to get to Commencement?
A: Public transit is a great option, especially since guests are encouraged to arrive between 7 and 8 a.m., which is during the morning rush hour. Both SEPTA and LUCY (Loop Through University City) buses stop at South Street and Convention Avenue, and the University City SEPTA train stop is located across the street from the southeast entrance of Franklin Field, on Convention Avenue. There are also trolley stops at 33rd and Market and 36th and Sansom streets.

Q: Where can I park?
A: There will be several garages open for parking: Chestnut 34 at 34th and Chestnut streets; Penn Museum at South Street and Convention Avenue; Walnut 32 off Walnut Street, between 32nd and 33rd streets; Walnut 38 at 38th and Walnut streets; and Walnut 40 at 40th and Walnut streets. For specific locations, visitors can go to the Parking Services website and click on the "Where to Park" tab for locations and GPS coordinates. All parking is $15.

Q: When will the students be arriving at Franklin Field?
A: The students will begin processing from Hamilton Village at 8 a.m. The first students will enter the field at 8:30 a.m.; the procession is expected to last until 10 a.m. The ceremony runs from 10:15 a.m. to approximately noon.

Q: Even though there will be heightened security, will graduates still process down Locust Walk?
A: Yes, as usual, graduates will process through Penn's campus, and will be led by the Penn Band. The Penn Band will stop on College Green and entertain from there. People are encouraged to line up along Locust Walk to cheer on the graduates.

Q: Will there be any activities inside Franklin Field before Commencement begins?
A: Student singing groups and a live band will be performing inside the stadium. Audience members will also be able to watch a live feed of students as they process through campus.

Q: How many people are expected to attend this year's ceremony?
A: Penn is expecting upwards of 20,000 people, plus approximately 5,000 graduates.

For all Commencement news, go to the Commencement website.

Originally published on March 28, 2013