A baccalaureate ceremony is a religious service in honor of graduates that is separate from a graduation ceremony. The service is often a non-denominational religious celebration held at both public and private colleges so students with a religious preference can attach religious values to the milestone of graduation.
Whereas a graduation ceremony is often hosted in a large stadium or gymnasium with thousands of cheering supporters in attendance, a baccalaureate service is typically held in a church environment that is more quiet, reserved and spiritual. The service focuses on prayers for the future, opportunities to give thanks for the accomplishments in education and quiet reflection about the educational journey students have endured. At the baccalaureate ceremony, a religious leader or faculty member associated with the educational institution typically delivers a sermon tied to scripture readings and prayer is at the forefront of the service.
At some baccalaureate services, communion is given or a full Mass is delivered. Attendance at the baccalaureate service is not mandatory for graduates and family and friends are invited to attend. Graduates often wear a cap and gown to the ceremony, just as they would to a graduation ceremony. Graduates are allowed to attend both the graduation ceremony and the baccalaureate service.