Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between graduation and commencement?

Both graduation and commencement symbolize the completion of your certificate or degree. Graduation requires an application to start the process of getting your diploma. Commencement is a ceremony where you celebrate your completed program dressed in graduation robes.

When does Commencement take place?

The 2016 commencement ceremony will take place on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Students may begin checking in at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m.

Where will the ceremony be held?

Orpheum Theater, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix, AZ 85003

Who is eligible to participate?

Students who complete a degree or certificate program at Rio Salado College (RSC) prior to March 1, 2016 are eligible to participate. Students who have NOT completed their degree or certificate program are also encouraged to participate if they expect to complete their program by the end of the next fall semester.

Applications must be submitted with the application fee by March 1, 2016 to participate in the 2016 commencement ceremony.

Can I graduate without participating in the commencement ceremony?

You are not required to participate in the commencement ceremony in order to receive your certificate or degree.

Why should I participate?

Participating in the commencement ceremony gives you an opportunity to reflect on the challenges you've overcome during your time as a student, and it allows your family and friends to recognize and celebrate your accomplishments. Walking the stage to receive your degree or certificate creates a memory of this important milestone as you take the next step toward your future.

What is the deadline to apply?

Students wishing to participate in the 2016 RSC commencement ceremony should apply before March 1, 2016.

Where can I submit my application?

Applications and payments will be accepted through the mail or in person by Student Enrollment Services at RSC Tempe.

Do I need a ticket?

Tickets are required for this event for your guests. The number of tickets will depend on the number of graduates participating in the ceremony.

How do I request special accommodations?

The Orpheum Theater is an ADA compliant facility, and interpreters will be available for the hearing-impaired. To arrange for additional accommodations, please contact Cortney Mesaros at 480-517-8562 or by April 29, 2016.

What should I wear to the ceremony?

Students who participate in the ceremony MUST wear the official royal blue cap, gown and 2016 tassel. Appropriate attire should be worn under the cap and gown. Please note: cap, gown and tassels will NOT be available at the Orpheum Theater. In order to participate in the ceremony, students must pick up their attire at RSC Tempe.

How do I get my cap and gown?

Students may pick up their graduation attire at RSC Tempe.

How much does it cost to participate and what is included?

The commencement fee of $25 pays for the student's attire (cap, gown and tassel) and diploma cover.

I am a Phi Theta Kappa member. Where do I order the gold stole and tassel?

To purchase a gold stole and tassel to wear the night of commencement, please order directly from Recognition Services at Phi Theta Kappa International.

What should I expect to happen the night of the event?

Graduating students will be asked to check-in beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the main lobby of the venue. Students will be given a postcard with their name and any honors they've received written on it. At 6:45 p.m. students will line up and prepare for the processional. At 7 p.m., Rio Salado College President Dr. Chris Bustamante will lead a single file procession of administrators, faculty and graduating students to the stage. Dr. Bustamante, a guest speaker and two student speakers will address the 2016 graduating class. Graduating students will be asked to stand one row at a time and approach the stage. Graduates will hand their postcard with their name and honors to the announcer. The announcer will introduce the student as he or she crosses the stage. A photographer will take a photo of each graduate as they shake hands with Dr. Bustamante. A second photo will be taken as the graduate exits the stage. The student will then return to his or her seat. After all graduates have been recognized, Dr. Bustamante will introduce the graduating class of 2016 and lead the recessional exiting the convention hall. Once all of the graduates have exited the hall, the audience will be dismissed. It is best to arrange a meeting spot with your family prior to the ceremony as the post-ceremony crowd can be difficult to navigate.

How do I order photographs?

Visit to view proofs of the photos taken during the ceremony. Photos can be purchased directly from GradImages by calling 800-261-2576. Please email inquiries to

How do I order a DVD of the event?

Orders for DVDs of the ceremony will be taken at the event. You may reserve your copy prior to the start of the ceremony or shortly after the conclusion of the ceremony. DVDs cost $20 and must be paid for at the time the order is placed.

Why do some people have different color cords?

Graduates earn the right to wear cords by maintaining a certain grade point average. A white cord is worn by students who graduate with Distinction (GPA 3.5-3.69); a red cord indicates the student is graduating with High Distinction (GPA 3.7 - 3.89); and a gold cord indicates a student who is graduating with Highest Distinction (GPA 3.9-4.0). Students who wear the gold stole and tassel are members of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.

Is parking available?

Nearby garage parking averages around $12. Rates may vary depending on downtown events. Plan to arrive early for the best parking and to avoid traffic delays. If possible, consider taking the Metro Light Rail.

I have more questions. Who should I contact?

Graduation Specialist, Eric Wibbing, will be glad to answer any additional questions you might have. Email or call 480-517-8156.

Attend Commencement Ceremony