Welcome back, Class of 2020.

Select colleges and universities across the Garden State are offering last year's graduates a chance to have a legitimate in-person graduation ceremony in 2021, with guests in attendance, since much of their final year at school in 2020 was scrapped by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We were thrilled to provide a virtual commencement experience for our students last year, but we know that it's not the same thing as being on campus and hearing your name called as you walk across the stage," said Heather Fehn, Chief of Staff in the President's Office at The College of New Jersey.

More than 700 of TCNJ's 2020 graduates are set to take that walk across stage at the school's Lions Stadium. Seven sessions are scheduled across April 24 and April 25.

"Everyone inside the stadium will be masked, and we are allowing up to four guests per graduate. They will be seated as pods," Fehn said.

Alums are encouraged to wear a cap and gown, but it's not mandatory. A livestream of each event, as well as a recording, will be available for those who need to watch remotely.

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Seton Hall University will take over the Prudential Center in Newark on April 30 and May 1, to hold commencement ceremonies for its Class of 2020. Graduates can claim up to four guest tickets.

"College graduation is such an important milestone for the students who earned it, but also for the families and friends who supported them. Taking time to celebrate this achievement is an important part of the college experience," said Lou Manzione, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey. "For first-generation college graduates which make up a significant fraction of our enrollment, the commencement ceremony often marks the beginning of a new family cycle that impacts future generations."

Several institutions in the state are inviting 2020 grads to in-person ceremonies scheduled for May, including Bloomfield College, Centenary University, Drew University, Princeton University, Rider University, Saint Peter's University, and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

"The pandemic has been so hard on everyone and we have sacrificed much, but honoring our graduates is one of the most enjoyable occasions for us and we are anxiously counting down the days until May 18 and 19," said FDU President Christopher Capuano.

Some institutions managed to host in-person ceremonies last summer and fall for the Class of 2020.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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