Jennifer L. Stark By Jennifer L. Stark • June 30, 2021

What is the Difference Between Graduation and Commencement at TESU?

Depending on the college or university, graduation and commencement might mean different things. It’s an easy mistake to confuse the two, and one that happens often at TESU. 

Graduation is the day your degree is conferred after following the required process to complete your degree requirements. The Commencement ceremony is a voluntary celebratory event that occurs annually in September to which all graduates are invited to but are not required to attend. 

Once your degree has been conferred through the graduation process, you are a ‘Thomas Edison State University graduate,’ regardless of whether you attend the Commencement ceremony.

What does ‘graduation’ mean at TESU?

Graduation is the official administrative recognition of a student fulfilling their academic degree requirements. This process begins when you complete your degree requirements and apply for graduation through Online Student Services. The day that the University’s Board of Trustees officially confers your degree is your ‘graduation day.’ The University’s Board of Trustees confers degrees on four graduation dates each year. 

How does the graduation application process work, including deadlines for applying?

Once you fulfill or complete your degree requirements, you’ll fill out a graduation application with your name, address, email confirmation, your degree program, and a request for payment of the graduation audit fee. Completing the application starts the graduation audit process, which is a complete review of your academic record to ensure your degree requirements are complete. All students who apply for graduation by the four-yearly deadline dates and pay the graduation audit fee are audited for graduation. Learn more about graduation deadlines and when you should apply.

What happens once my graduation audit is complete?

Once your graduation audit is completed and all degree requirements are met, you are sent a letter of certification by email from our graduation auditors. Once your degree is certified as complete, the degree is conferred during the next Thomas Edison State University Board of Trustees meeting, and that serves as the official date of your graduation. The following week of your Board of Trustees degree conferral, graduates are sent a diploma package in the mail consisting of a diploma and final transcript. The conferral date is when you are officially considered a graduate of your academic program and awarded your degree. So, for example, if you were conferred your degree in June 2021, that's the date you can note on your resumé! Learn more about the graduation audit process and what to expect.

What does ‘commencement’ mean at TESU?

Commencement is an annual ceremony designed to celebrate your graduation accomplishment. Attendance is voluntary and all graduates from the previous year’s four graduation cycles (December, March, June, and September) are invited to attend along with family and friends. The Commencement ceremony is usually scheduled for a Saturday in September at the Cure Insurance Arena, in Trenton, N.J. There are no diplomas given at the Commencement ceremony, as all graduates receive their diplomas in the mail following degree conferral.

What can I expect at the Commencement ceremony?

At the Commencement ceremony, graduates are expected to wear their academic regalia along with any honor cords earned through the various TESU awards. This is when you process across the stage to be publicly recognized. The Commencement ceremony is a voluntary event and there is no charge to attend. Graduates who are invited to attend the ceremony receive an email invitation in July and are given additional information about ordering regalia, attendee tickets (there is no limit to how many guests you can invite!), and the schedule of events for that day. Students who are certified for September graduation will receive their email invitation within a few days after they have been certified for graduation.

Graduation is an exciting achievement, and Commencement is the day we publicly celebrate that achievement. And you deserve to celebrate! The entire University community looks forward to seeing graduates and their family members and friends each year for one of the happiest events in their lives. We hope you attend so we can celebrate with you!

Jennifer L. Stark

Written by Jennifer L. Stark

Jennifer Stark is the Associate Registrar and Director of Academic Records in the Office of the Registrar. She earned a bachelor's degree from Monmouth University and completed her MSM from Thomas Edison State University in 2016.

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