Commencement FAQ for Students

Which graduates can participate in the commencement ceremony?

OTC holds one commencement each year in May to recognize the graduates from that academic year. All those who graduated the prior summer and fall, or students who will graduate in the current spring or summer, are invited to participate. Attending the ceremony is not required in order to graduate. Students do not need to RSVP in order to attend the commencement ceremony.

When/where can I get my free cap and gown for the ceremony?

Caps and gowns (regalia) may be picked up at Grad Prep, a special event for OTC grads, or at the OTC Bookstore on the Springfield campus starting in April. Regalia is free for graduates and does not need to be preordered! If you attend another OTC location, check with a Student Services representative or your College Navigator to place an order for your cap and gown. Those items will be shipped to your OTC location for you to pick up. To view specially designated accessories, please see Approved Regalia Accessories. For additional regalia questions, please reach out to

How do I wear my cap and gown?

If you want more information about the correct way to care for and wear your commencement regalia, watch the commencement regalia video. Don’t wait until the day of commencement to get your cap and gown ready! For OTC Commencement, your tassel goes on the right and you will move it to the left at the end of the commencement ceremony.

Can I decorate my cap?

Commencement is a formal event, and professionalism and decorum are paramount. Historically, decorating caps violated the decorum of the event.

While decorating graduation caps at OTC is not prohibited, grads who arrive at the ceremony with any of the following will have their cap replaced, or will be prohibited from attending:

  • Inappropriate or obscene creations
  • Anything hanging from the sides
  • Anything that is not flat on the surface, 3-D designs are prohibited
  • Anything that uses lighting
  • Anything that would obstruct the view of those around you

Can I order graduation announcements?

Yes, graduation announcements and other gifts are available for purchase at the OTC Bookstore on the Springfield campus and online.

Where is Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly JQH Arena) located?

Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly JQH Arena) is located on the Missouri State University campus at 685 S. John Q. Hammons Parkway in Springfield, Missouri.

Where do I park on the day of the ceremony?

Grads and guests may park for free in MSU Parking Lot #25 or Bear Park North.

Will there be professional photos taken?

Yes. There will be two photo opportunities.

  1. Once grads arrive at the event, each has the option to take a professional, posed photo with a backdrop, if they choose. (Arrive as close to 3:30 p.m. as possible. These photos will end promptly at 4:30 p.m.)
  2. All grads will have a professional photo taken when they receive their diploma during the ceremony.

All grads will have the option to purchase these photos if they choose. Grads should continue to check their OTC email in the weeks following the commencement ceremony for ordering information.

Is there a limit to the number of guests I can invite to the commencement ceremony?

There is no limit to the number of guests each grad can invite to the commencement ceremony. Tickets and RSVPs are not required to enter the commencement ceremony as a guest, and grads do not need to reserve seats for guests.

What time should I get to the commencement ceremony and where do I need to go?

The 2023 OTC Commencement Ceremony on May 18 begins at 5 p.m. Graduates need to report to Hammons Student Center (directly west of Great Southern Bank Arena) beginning at 3:30 p.m., while guests will go directly to Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly JQH Arena) to be seated.

Grads who want to take an optional, professional photo (available for purchase later) should arrive as close to 3:30 p.m. as possible. Photos will end promptly at 4:30 p.m.

Once grads enter Hammons Student Center, they check in at the name card tables, where they receive cards that indicate their name and degree or certificate program(s). OTC staff from the Registrar’s Office, Disability Support Services, the OTC Bookstore and others will be available to assist grads. When announced, graduates proceed to the Hammons Student Center main court, where they will line up for the processional. All graduates should have arrived and joined the processional line by 4:30 p.m. Once the ceremony begins, graduates are not permitted to enter late.

Note: Please be sure to use the restroom before lining up for the processional. Once you leave Hammons Student Center, restrooms are not readily available.

What is proper dress for the ceremony?

Grads should dress up but dress comfortably. Commencement is a formal event. Grads should avoid t-shirts or jeans, and pick shoes they can wear and walk in for an extended period of time.

What can I bring into the commencement ceremony?

Grads should not bring purses, backpacks, umbrellas or other personal items to the commencement ceremony. Instead, leave these items with your guests or in your car. The only thing grads should have in their hands during the ceremony should be their name cards. Cell phones are allowed but must be hidden from view and on silent.

Who do I contact if I need disability support at the ceremony?

Grads who anticipate needing accommodations to participate should contact Disability Support Services at or 417-447-8189. All guests will be provided accommodations at Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly JQH Arena) by the event staff.

Visit the Disability Support Services website for information on accommodations available at commencement.

How do I make sure I can sit by my friend?

Grads enter the commencement ceremony in two lines and are escorted to the right and left sides of the commencement floor. If you want to sit next to someone, they should be in front or behind you in line. Please keep in mind that due to the number of chairs in each row, the person in front of or behind you may not sit next to you.

How do I get a commencement program?

A commencement program will be on each graduate’s seat when they enter the commencement ceremony. To ensure your name is printed in the program, apply for graduation by April 1.

What if my name is hard to pronounce?

When grads get their name card at check-in in Hammons Student Center, do not write on it. Any hand-written notes will not be read at the commencement ceremony. Instead, when you hand your card to the reader to be read aloud at the ceremony, notify the reader at that time of the correct pronunciation.

How do I find my guests after the ceremony?

Grads will be led out of the ceremony after the stage guests and faculty. Grads should remain in their seats until the appropriate time to exit. At that time, they will be led out of the ramp on the northeast side of Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly JQH Arena). Grads are encouraged to visit with guests ahead of time about a meetup plan after the ceremony ends.

I earned a certificate and an Associate degree. What will be read at commencement?

All certificates and degrees earned will be listed in the commencement program, but only the highest degree earned will be read from the name card at the commencement ceremony. If a grad completes more than one program within a degree type, all programs will be read.

When will I receive my diploma?

Diplomas will be sent to the address on file at OTC 4-6 weeks after a student graduates. Grads can update their addresses by going to the My Contact Information page in myOTC. Address changes must be received by the last day of classes for the term a student is graduating.

How are Scholastic Honors determined for the Commencement Ceremony?

All grads attending the OTC Commencement Ceremony will have their eligibility for scholastic honors for the commencement book and name card determined based on their current OTC cumulative GPA at the time those documents are printed. Since spring semester grades are not yet available, they cannot be included in that calculation. Scholastic honors are re-calculated once grades for the spring semester are finalized, which may add or remove a student from the list of scholastic honors after the commencement ceremony. The final determination regarding eligibility for scholastic honors is made at the time the degree or certificate is conferred, and any scholastic honors earned will be listed on those documents. For more information, please see the Graduation FAQ and Scholastic Honors.

Commencement Ceremony Information for Guests

We are excited to celebrate the achievements of our graduates at the OTC Commencement Ceremony! No tickets are required to attend the event, and there is no limit to the number of guests that may attend for each graduate.

  • Doors to both Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly JQH Arena) and Hammons Student Center will open 90 minutes before the ceremony. Grads must report to Hammons Student Center (directly west of Great Southern Bank Arena) beginning at 3:30 p.m. and should arrive no later than 4:30 p.m. All guests go directly to Great Southern Bank Arena Arena. Seating is open, and no tickets are required.
  • For security purposes, guests may be wanded, and purses may be searched upon entering Great Southern Bank Arena.
  • Grads and their guests may park for free in MSU parking lot #25 or Bear Park North.
  • Wi-Fi is not available in Great Southern Bank Arena unless the individual already has a Missouri State University account and password (MSU students, faculty and staff).
  • The ceremony will end with a recessional of the platform party, faculty and grads. Grads will then exit on the northeast side of Great Southern Bank Arena. It’s recommended to agree to a meeting place outside the arena before arriving at the ceremony.
  • Special, non-reserved seating areas are available for guests with permanent or temporary disabilities. No stairs are encountered. Guests using wheelchairs, as well as those who are unable to climb stairs, are permitted in these areas.

We ask that guests respect the rights of all the graduates and not celebrate your grad’s achievement in a way that infringes on the rights of others.

  • Commencement ceremony guests are asked to remain in their seats during the entire ceremony and to respect the rights of others to view the ceremony in its entirety, without being distracted or having their view blocked by others.
  • Please refrain from applauding except at times when invited to do so. Loud applause and cheers often make it difficult for others to hear the next grad’s name when announced. Each grad deserves equal recognition for their accomplishment.
  • Guests will be given an opportunity to applaud their grads during the ceremony.

Thank you for your cooperation in observing these guidelines.

The commencement ceremony will be livestreamed. Please visit the OTC Commencement homepage for the link, which will be made available in advance.

Looking for that special gift for your grad? The OTC Bookstore sells OTC-branded diploma frames and other gifts suitable for grads. Check out the bookstore website for more information. Flowers will be available for purchase at Great Southern Bank Arena (formerly JQH Arena) on the day of the ceremony.