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Online Learning and Graduation: Can Online Students Attend Graduation Ceremonies?

Graduation is a crucial milestone of the college experience. Whether students attend classes online or in a classroom, they desire a final ceremony in which they and their fellow students can celebrate their academic journey and accomplishments. This important ritual should not be limited to on-campus students only. It’s just as important for online students who built a virtual family by weathering the rigors and delights of their curriculum together.

At Abilene Christian University, we recognize the valuable role graduation ceremonies can play in capping off a successful trek through the college experience. We want every student to enjoy the personal satisfaction that comes with graduation no matter how or where they attended class.

Of course, graduation is more than donning tassels; it’s an extensive process that calls upon students to prove that they are ready for the next step. As ACU Online Senior New Student Ambassador Elisabeth Evans puts it, graduation is “the culmination of everything that you’ve worked for.” It’s a momentous occasion that students will cherish long after they’ve set aside their cap and gown.

Read on to discover what graduation looks like for ACU students — and specifically, for those involved in ACU’s online learning programs.

Applying for Graduation

To qualify for graduation, students must meet all program requirements. While advisors and course catalogs can assist in the planning process, students are ultimately responsible for fulfilling their degree plans and completing all requirements for their chosen programs. These requirements can differ significantly not only based on the student’s selected program, but also based on their assigned catalog year.

As they near graduation, students complete a course audit to determine whether they’ve completed all the required coursework. Upon completing the audit, students chat with their advisor to determine what they need to accomplish as they finalize coursework. Those with outstanding incompletes cannot participate in the graduation ceremony. Students cannot order regalia or receive their diploma until all holds on their account have been removed.

Attending commencement, although personally meaningful, doesn’t automatically indicate that a student has received his or her diploma. The diploma granted at commencement is purely ceremonial; real diplomas are mailed at least six weeks after the ceremony.

Student Services Advisors: Guiding Online Students Towards Graduation

All ACU Online students enjoy access to a support team made up of an admissions advisor, a new student ambassador, and a student services advisor. While students maintain close ties with these team members, the student services advisor, in particular, is responsible for guiding them towards graduation. Student services advisors can help students determine where they stand in the online learning process and which requirements they have yet to fulfill. They check in regularly to discover and address unique concerns that might otherwise prevent students from reaching their ultimate goal of graduating.

Attending the Graduation Ceremony

Once they’re eligible for graduation, online students are invited to set foot on campus for the in-person ceremony. This is a momentous occasion for hardworking students, several of whom have never met their advisors, professors, or fellow students face-to-face. Despite this, they feel closely connected to the ACU family — so graduation feels a lot like coming home.

Like on-campus students, online students typically attend graduation ceremonies alongside spouses, family members, or close friends. They take part in longstanding traditions such as “hooding the graduate,” in which a special person chosen by the graduate places the hood on that person. All students are expected to dress formally, either in dress slacks with button-up shirts and ties, suits, skirts and blouses, or dresses.

Following the ceremony, students and their guests are welcome to join other members of the ACU family for a reception, which is also attended by administrators and faculty members. This is the perfect opportunity to greet valued professors or advisors face-to-face.

For some ACU Online students, the first time they are on the Abilene campus is for graduation. . However, this doesn’t stop them from enjoying a rich and rewarding academic experience or taking part in a cherished college tradition. In fact, graduation can be extra meaningful for online students who often face extensive family or professional challenges. Graduation allows these students to take stock of all they’ve overcome in their pursuit of higher learning. At ACU, we’re proud to make the experience of graduation accessible to all students, regardless of where or in what capacity they attend class.

For more information on how ACU Online can help you pursue your career goals, contact us at 855.219.7300 or

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