Follow These Pro Tips for a Fantastic Finals Weekend

May 18, 2023 By Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu

The time has come. Finals Weekend for the University of Virginia’s Class of 2023 has arrived.

The University will host Final Exercises over two days, Saturday and Sunday, with Valedictory Exercises happening Friday afternoon. The celebrations are masterminded by UVA’s Office of Major Events, whose new leader, Cecil Banks, recently succeeded retired director Pamela Higgins.

Banks is no stranger to Final Exercises. He served as associate director of major events from 2015 to 2020. He’s also a member of UVA’s Class of 2003, so this is not his first rodeo.

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Portrait of Cecil Banks in front of the Rotunda
Cecil Banks is the executive director for major events and external relations. He and his team are the mastermind behind Final Exercises. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

UVA Today turned to Banks and his trusted team, the ultimate Finals Weekend pros, for their top tips for making the most of this meaningful weekend.

Banks’ Best Bets

  • Arrive early. Finals on the Lawn start at 9 a.m. Entrances will open at 7 a.m. under the fair-weather plan.
  • Pack a raincoat. Final Exercises will happen on the Lawn, rain or shine. Walking the Lawn is a tradition that our students look forward to. We will only move the ceremony indoors to John Paul Jones Arena if it is deemed unsafe to be outdoors with things like thunder, lightning, high winds or other dangerous conditions. During my graduation in 2003, we experienced nearly two inches of rain during the procession and the ceremony, but we walked on the Lawn! The last class to have their ceremony moved was the Class of 1976. The ceremony was held at University Hall, which is no more.
  • Bring a clear bag. The University’s clear bag policy is in effect for Valedictory Exercises and Final Exercises.
  • Balloons are festive, but please limit them to one! And to protect the environment, do not release balloons into the air. Instead, donate your balloon! Volunteers with UVA’s Office for Sustainability will collect balloons on the lower Lawn to donate to children at UVA Children’s and at local child care centers.

Banks also polled his team members and colleagues for more ideas:

  • Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty to Final Exercises, and save your high heels and favorite pair of shoes for school and department ceremonies. Walking down the Lawn in high heels is more challenging than you expect, thanks to your heels sinking into the ground with every step. If it rains, the Rotunda steps become really slick, and you’ll likely walk through mud. 
  • Cell service could be a little spotty due to so many people being on the Lawn for Final Exercises. Prior to arriving to the Lawn, establish a time and location to meet your family when Final Exercises concludes. 
Great Minds Put to Good Use, Learn More
Great Minds Put to Good Use, Learn More
  • Bring sunscreen. Many events take place outdoors. Protect yourself from the sun. 
  • Stay hydrated and take a bathroom break before the festivities begin. We wouldn’t want you to miss anything.
  • You can never take enough photos. But be mindful of those around you also trying to take in the day. 
  • Wear lightweight clothing if the forecast calls for high temps.

The Office of Major Events also has a handy FAQ page with lots more answers about Finals Weekend. Have a wonderful time and congratulations to the Class of 2023!

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications