Image of the Tempietto in Kogan Plaza during cherry blossom season

Cornerstone Events

Freshman Convocation
Freshman Convocation
Freshman Convocation

Shared experiences and traditions are essential to preserving our strong sense of pride and community at GW. Over time, a series of hallmark events have become indispensable components of the GW experience. Most of these events are tied to the academic schedule. Others are linked to spirit and athletic programs. Some are connected to our legacy of service in Washington, D.C. And a few are just for fun.

Colonial Inauguration (CI)

Colonial Inauguration, GW’s award-winning undergraduate orientation program welcomes incoming freshmen and transfer students to the GW family. It acquaints them with our academics, campus services, opportunities and community – in short, to life at GW. CI is an experience the whole family can enjoy, with age-appropriate activities tailored for students, their parents and even younger siblings.

Freshman Convocation

Led by the GW’s president and faculty, this event is the official kick-off for new students beginning their university adventure in the nation’s capital. This annual tradition marks the official start of the academic year.

Welcome Week

Welcome Week is a series of social, recreational, cultural and artistic programs offered during the first week of fall semester. Winter Welcome Week marks the beginning of the spring semester.

Colonials Weekend

In October each year, this celebration for students, alumni, family and friends features a weekend of events and world-class entertainment. Past performers include Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and the Beach Boys. Colonials Weekend participants can see shows, take part in campus activities, attend lectures, explore the city and visit with their student in their new home away from home.

Latino Heritage Celebration

This month-long celebration honors the diversity within the Latino community. People of all races and ethnicities have an opportunity immerse themselves in Hispanic cultural events, food, dancing, music and lectures. The celebration runs from mid-September to mid-October.

Spirit Week and Colonials Invasion

In mid-October, the campus community unites to celebrate the start of the men’s and women’s basketball season. A series of special events marks the Colonials Invasion, culminating with a special-effects show that introduces our students to their teams. Spirit Week and Colonials Invasion also give coaches a chance to rally fan support for the upcoming season.

Fall Fest

The GW Program Board sponsors this student-run weekend event in September. Outdoor games, a barbecue and live music are part of the festivities.

Martin Luther King Jr., Celebration (MLK) and Black History Month

Martin Luther King Jr., Day of Service (“a day on rather than a day off”) is a nationally recognized community-service event that coincides with the King holiday. It is an important occasion at GW, where some 250 students are involved in projects that serve our neighbors and the D.C. community. The MLK Award is the highest honor a student can achieve for humanitarian service. The celebration of King’s life and a ceremony in his honor take place in late January.

Arts Fest and Chalk-In

Students’ artistic talents are on display at this April celebration. Some students dance, sing and perform while others take part in additional creative activities. H Street is closed to traffic during the fest, opening the way for students to draw on the street and sidewalks with chalk – a great stress reliever as exams approach!

Grad Week

For a week leading up to graduation, seniors participate in a series of special events. Past Grad Week activities have included excursions to Atlantic City, trips to a Baltimore Orioles game, and the Senior Toast.


Commencement is a signal event for members of the GW community. While each school holds its own ceremony, an all-GW graduation ceremony unfolds on the National Mall within sight of the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.

Alumni Weekend

Alumni Weekend, a three-day weekend event keeps GW alumni informed about the University and involved in its activities. The GW Alumni Association sponsors the weekend, which is enlivened by entertainment, speakers, social gatherings and class reunions. Alumni reconnect with friends, participate in campus activities, revisit old haunts and marvel over GW’s changes and growth. Alumni Weekend is unequaled when comes to strengthening alumni bonds.

George Washington’s Birthday Celebration

This event to mark the birth of GW’s namesake began in 1999. The rousing celebration kicks off with a march to the Quad, followed by Colonial refreshments, speeches and a bonfire – rain or shine.

White Coat Ceremony

At the School of Medicine’s fall convocation, first-year medical students are given a white coat, a symbol of their new status and a tangible recognition of the challenging academic journey they have embraced.

Midnight Breakfast

During final exams in the fall, faculty and administrators serve a midnight breakfast to students as a reward for their hard work. This GW tradition also includes games and activities for students taking study breaks.


This annual family event on the Mount Vernon campus coincides with Colonials Weekend. Named for the traditional German fall festival, Octoberfest features music, pumpkin carving, arts and crafts, games, fall desserts, family competitions, photo opportunities, contests and much more.

Spring Fling

A nationally known performer is one of the big draws to this end-of-academic-year celebration sponsored by the Mount Vernon campus. Great food, amusements and tie dying also keep the crowds busy.

Jumpstart for a Day

Local preschoolers turn out for a day of fun and games during this annual community event. GW student organizations, fraternities and sororities play a big part in the day, which is designed to encourage a love of learning.

Mount Vernon Community Day

This is a day when students and their neighbors in the community come together. They celebrate fall with trick-or-treating in the residence halls, they cheer on the Colonials soccer team and they catch a film in Eckles Auditorium.

Films on the Vern

Every summer, films are shown on the big outdoor screen at the Quad on the Mount Vernon campus. This movie tradition gives members of the GW community and neighbors of the GW campuses a weekly opportunity to meet while enjoying classic cinema.

Senior Prom

Hosted by students in the Neighbors Project, the university student community sponsors a night of dinner and dancing for Washington, D.C., senior citizens.

GW Inaugural Ball

Every four years, GW marks the Jan. 20 inauguration of a new U.S. president and vice president by hosting a black-tie event. The ball is a University highlight for students and a “uniquely GW” celebration.