7 Ways to Ensure Your Graduation Day is Stress-Free

Posted Friday, September 27, 2013

After waiting 3, 4 or 20 years, the BIG DAY is finally here.


You are probably feeling a mix of emotions now: nervous, excited, relieved, worried, eager and, most likely, stressed. Stressed about arriving at commencement on time, stressed about the kids’ inability to sit still, stressed what the future will now hold…

But you don’t have to feel that way. The day should be a celebration filled with joy, laughs and tears - the good kind, of course. So relax, take a deep breath, and use these seven ways to ensure your graduation day is everything you dreamed of – and stress-free.

  1. Be prepared. Ensure that you have everything necessary to make the day go smoothly for you and your guests. Have your tickets ready, understand the parking arrangements and keep a schedule of the day’s events on hand. But most importantly, get a good night sleep and eat a full and healthy breakfast – with the chaos of the day, planning rest and food may prove elusive!
  2. Dress appropriately. Consider everything you will be doing on commencement day; sitting for long periods of time, walking around the arena, going out to celebrate after with family, wearing a long robe and fitted cap – so keep your attire both nice and comfortable. Wear shoes that can accommodate all your activities, style hair simply to fit under your cap and wear something with pockets – you don’t want to juggle a phone when you accept your diploma on stage.
  3. Understand this is your day. Don’t let anyone ruin your mood or your day – commencement is all about you! Let the kids’ complaining slide, or tune out any traffic delays on your way to commencement. Remember, you did it, and this day is meant to celebrate your success.
  4. Congratulate yourself. Think about all you have accomplished in college, your career and your life. Everything you have done so far has brought you to this moment, so acknowledge yourself on a job wonderfully done.
  5. Slow down. Let go of tomorrow, and all the resume writing, family event scheduling or project managing that needs to be done. All your responsibilities, obligations and worries can wait. Simply enjoy the moment and appreciate the day you have been dreaming of for so long.
  6. Say thank you. While, yes, you achieved this milestone on your own, you did receive some support along the way. From your cooperative spouse to the uplifting coworker, or the patient child to the understanding best friend, thank whoever helped you get this far. Relationships, like your degree, should be treasured, so let them know how grateful you are for their love and support.
  7. Take a photo. You’re running here, there, and back again, or everyone is tired, hungry and ready to go. But no matter where you are, take the time to snap a few photos of your special day; it will be one of the most memorable of your life.

However you choose to look at commencement – the end of a significant accomplishment or the beginning of a new future – enjoy the day. Appreciate your loved ones, your successes and your brand new degree. You earned it. Be proud. Because you triumphed. You did it.


Tags: Graduation , Motivation

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The 7 Best Life Lessons from 2013 Commencement Speeches

Posted Friday, September 13, 2013

Arthur C. Brooks, above, B.A. '94, has been named the commencement speaker for the 2013 Thomas Edison State College Commencement on September 28th.  In just five years, Brooks went from being the associate principal French hornist for the City Orchestra of Barcelona to emerge as one of the country's leading social scientists focusing on the relationship between culture, economics and politics.  Brooks assumed the presidency of the American Enterprise Institute in January 2009.
Arthur C. Brooks, above, B.A. '94, has been named the commencement speaker for the 2013 Thomas Edison State College Commencement on September 28th. In just five years, Brooks went from being the associate principal French hornist for the City Orchestra of Barcelona to emerge as one of the country's leading social scientists focusing on the relationship between culture, economics and politics. Brooks assumed the presidency of the American Enterprise Institute in January 2009.

We are always receiving (be it warranted or unwarranted) advice, hearing tips and opinions on every topic from raising kids to eating right, dating to careers, and everything in between. After awhile, advice (especially from certain people) can be annoying or even offensive, and we end up tuning out the message. However, the advice we really should be listening to is not really advice at all, but life lessons intended to help us think. To be more open-minded. To be more understanding of the world around us.

At the end of every school year, commencement speakers in colleges around the globe offer their own life lessons, some funny, some thought-provoking, some encouraging – all inspiring. And 2013 was no different. This year’s class of speakers offered life lessons that not only today’s graduates, but also the graduates of yesterday and tomorrow, should take to heart. So here’s our top 7 best life lessons from some of the most powerful, knowledgeable and influential people of our time:

On leadership: John Donahoe, CEO and President at eBay Inc.
“Be the best leader you can be by linking your work with a sense of purpose, never stop learning, [understand] the most valuable learning often comes during difficult times and build your full life, not just your work life. The skills you learn in your personal life – listening, empathy, and humility -- are invaluable for success at work.”

On assertiveness: Randi Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO at Zuckerberg Media
“Being a good worker means being proactive about creating opportunities for yourself. It means thinking of additional things you could be doing, and going above and beyond your delegated responsibilities…. In business, you want people who are creative, who are go-getters, who create opportunities out of nothing.  So, go out into the world. And do the best darn job you can. Good work is always recognized and rewarded. But in order to get placed on the project team that catches your eye, you have to speak up and ask for it. Don’t be afraid to be assertive and let the team know what you want. You might get a "No," but at least your manager knows that you would like to try your hand at something new in the future…. Ask for what you want rather than allow others to pigeonhole you into what they think you want.”

On humanity: Deepak Chopra, Founder, Chopra Foundation
“I entreat you to not lose your idealism with the passage of years. That idealism is connected to your knowingness of the good that can be created and the power to manifest it. In you lies the potential for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and happier world. Remember that the goal of all other goals is to be happy… . To really be happy you need to expand awareness and overcome your self-limiting beliefs and then choose selfless actions, or ways to be of service to others. This leads to true and lasting happiness and wisdom.

On adaptability: Elizabeth Warren, United States Senator from Massachusetts
“All the planning and preparation in the world can’t prepare you for the many twists that are coming your way… You can’t predict it all… Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to consider the unexpected. Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to entertain the improbable opportunity that comes looking for you. And never be so faithful to your plan that when you hit a bump in the road – or when the bumps hit you – you don’t have the fortitude, grace, and resiliency to rethink and regroup…. Plans or no plans, keep a little space in your heart for the improbable. You won’t regret it… .By getting an excellent education, you have built a strong and resilient foundation. And if you work hard, persevere, and leave yourself open to the occasional unexpected opportunity, you’ll do great.”

On self-purpose: Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO at GE
“We could all look around and accept today’s challenges as insurmountable. Or we can use them to inspire action. See the word “lookout” not as a warning but as an invitation to make a difference on something that matters. Be on the lookout for the opportunity to change. To learn. To take risk. To persist. And to lead. Always strive to be better… that way, I know, you will make the world better.”

On happiness: Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post Media Group
“The founding fathers wrote about the pursuit of happiness, and if you go back to the original documents -- as I'm sure all of you have done -- happiness did not mean the pursuit of more ways to be entertained. It was the happiness that comes from feeling good by doing good…. So find your place to stand -- your place of wisdom and peace and strength… so that all of us -- women and men -- can live our lives with more grace, more joy, more empathy, more gratitude, and yes, more love.”

On courage: Maria Shriver, Journalist, Author & Activist
As you head out into the Open Field of life, keep your mind open, keep your heart open. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Courageous people often are afraid… Have the courage to go beyond your fears. Have the courage to go beyond judgment. Have the courage go beyond shoulda-could-woulda — go beyond others’ rules and expectations. Live and write your own story and then be brave enough to communicate it authentically. Trust me, someone else will be inspired by it and learn from it. Be committed to communicating the truth. Don’t get so caught up along the way in what you’re doing and where you’re going that you lose sight of your core values: who you are and what's important in your life. And finally, remember this: Whenever you’re in doubt: PAUSE — take a moment. Look at your options — check your intentions — and THEN? Take the high road.”

These commencement speakers offer all of us the insight and wisdom of exceptional backgrounds and experiences that we ordinarily might not get. Their life lessons and guidance prove useful and necessary to hear in today’s difficult world. Perhaps some their words will influence you, or you may share them with someone you know who needs to hear it. And so, when Arthur Brooks, B.A. ’94 and President of the American Enterprise Institute, steps onto the stage at the 2013 Thomas Edison State College Commencement later this month, you can be sure we’ll all be listening.


Tags: Going Back to College , Graduation , Motivation

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How to Choose the Right Degree Program for You

Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What do you want to do for the rest of your life?

Whether you are 21 or 50, this question will probably be one of the most difficult you will ever determine. Discovering your elusive “sense of purpose” is no easy task, nor is there a step-by-step guide or obvious answer in a book. Even the standard answer – do what you love – is not easy to define. And, sure, career quizzes are fun, but realizing what will help lead you to happiness and success requires a little more introspection. Once you understand some things about occupations, industries and the economy, you’ll be able to increase the amount of freedom and control over your life and career.

Consider some of these ideas as you explore what degree is right for you:

Begin with an honest self-assessment. Reflect on how you choose to spend your free time, the activities you enjoy doing or the topics you find interesting. Look at the qualities and skills that you have already discovered you are good at. Think about the things others compliment you on. After assessing your strengths, investigate possible industries or fields that rely on these interests or abilities. Then compare possible career paths with the talents you already possess.

Ask others. Talk to friends, family members, your school’s alumni and even current students about their profession or experience in a degree program. Learning about their experiences can be both valuable and eye opening; you may find that a career path is or is not for you after altering your perspective.

Do your research. Look at career paths for the majors or degree programs you are interested in. Several websites and career sources, like SimplyHired or My Next Move, offer useful job search tools including salary guides, job trends and filters that help you search for jobs that match your unique education, experience level and skill set. These sites also offer unbiased, insider information, news and advice about companies, industries and specific jobs that can help you make a critical career decision.

Investigate the path to take. Whichever you choose first, the program or the career, it all begins with a degree. Ensure that the degree you are seeking fits who you are as a person, and teaches you the essential skills and aptitude you need to reach your dream job. What you ultimately decide should leave you excited, but if not, you can always change or go back to school. At Thomas Edison State College, you can change your program at any time, depending on how your goals change; our advisors can work with you to evaluate your credits with whatever programs you want. Or, if you want to pick up where you left off, you can re-start a program you began 20 years ago, regardless if it is included in our offerings. In the end, you and your degree should be a perfect fit.

Choosing a career path and degree program may seem daunting as you evaluate potential jobs, development paths and resources, but you have already made the biggest decision you could possibly make. You have chosen to go to college. Ultimately, your degree is what you make of it. And you already have a pretty good head start.

For more information, visit our career references and links resource.

Tags: Career , Majors and Degree Programs , Online Tools and Resources

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5 Celebrities That Proved It Is Never Too Late to Go Back to School

Posted Friday, September 06, 2013

We all have different reasons for returning to college. Perhaps it is to improve your career opportunities or increase your chances for a high-paying job. Maybe you are looking for the competitive edge that will enhance your marketability or help you triumph over any adversity in an economic downturn. Or, earning your degree is a personal goal, driven by your sense of pride and self-fulfillment.

Regardless of reason, you are not alone in choosing to pursue your education. And celebrities are no different. Household names like Steven Spielberg and Shaquille O’Neal were once in your shoes, choosing to go back to school after establishing noteworthy careers in their field. Filled with dreams and determination, these five celebrities prove that it’s never too late to go back to school, even when you sell millions of albums, smash box office records or slam dunk your way into sports history.

Unhappy with the direction his career was going, James Franco decided to re-enroll in 2006. Taking classes while working, and studying on film sets, Franco was able to graduate in 2008 with a 3.5/4.0 GPA and did not stop at his bachelor’s degree. In 2010, he received his MFA. Never one to rest on his past accomplishments, Franco is now a PhD student who teaches at USC, UCLA, CalArts and NYU in the Film and English departments.

After moving to California to pursue a film career, Steven Spielberg applied to his dream school, the University of Southern California, but was denied two separate times.  After establishing a remarkable career in the film industry, Steven Spielberg was honored by USC with an honorary degree in 1994. However, he returned to complete his B.A. degree in Film Production and Electronic Arts 35 years after starting college.

Achieving fame as an undergraduate, Ugly Betty star America Ferrara left college to concentrate on her increasingly busy career in film and television. Ten years later, she returned to complete her bachelor’s degree in International Relations.

As a jet-setting superstar, Shakira has performed in numerous countries, feeding her interest in world history, often studying the history and languages of the countries she has visited. After one of her tours ended in the summer of 2007, Shakira took courses in History of Western Civilization, using her middle and last names so as to avoid being recognized by her professor and classmates as a celebrity.

Leaving Louisiana State University after three years for the opportunity to play in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal promised his mother he would return to school and earn his bachelor’s degree. He fulfilled that promise in 2000 with a B.A. in General Studies, missing a home game to attend his graduation. In 2005, O’Neal returned to school to complete his MBA, and became Dr. O’Neal by earning an Ed.D. in Human Resource Development in 2012. But the famous basketball MVP isn’t done yet – O’Neal spoke with a reporter for ABC News at his graduation in 2012 expressing interest in furthering his education at law school.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter when you completed school; all that matters is that you earned your degree. Whether you are looking to get a promotion, enhance your sense of self or made a promise to your family, always remember getting that degree is never too late.

If you do, you will be putting yourself in very good company of those who returned to finish what they started.

Tags: Graduation , Majors and Degree Programs , Motivation

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How the New Prior Learning Assessment Courses Can Help You Earn Additional College Credit

Posted Tuesday, September 03, 2013

By Todd Siben
Assistant Director of Portfolio Assessment

Unsure if you possess enough knowledge to earn college credit? Think again.

Do you have a background playing the piano, or are you accomplished in another instrument like guitar or trumpet?

Do you teach pre-school or a daycare provider?

Do you have experience in the marketing or communications field?

Do you work in law enforcement in New Jersey or attended one of the police academies?

Do you have a business background in accounting, finance, management, marketing or another area of business?

Do you identify yourself as a computer geek with knowledge of programming, systems design, network design or website design?

Do you have volunteer or career experience in a “helping” profession such as a teacher, counselor or some other form of human interaction and support?

Do you have skills in public speaking, presentations, non-verbal communication, small group discussion or dynamic one-to-one communication?

Do you have military training that has or has not been recommended for credit by your training school?

Whether these specific examples apply to you or not, chances are, as an adult, you have acquired additional knowledge through work and other experiences. And that understanding can potentially help you to earn college credit through creating a portfolio.

You’ve heard the term used in a few contexts. Artists keep a portfolio of their work in a carrying case, financial advisors help clients build a portfolio of stocks and assorted investments and job hunters present a portfolio to a perspective employer highlighting their background, competencies and accomplishments. At Thomas Edison, students can develop a portfolio to earn credit for the college-level knowledge they have obtained through work, the military, hobbies, or some kind of training.

Now, to guide students through the process of documenting prior learning, and save time and money, are two new courses: PLA-100: Intro to Prior Learning Assessment and PLA-200: Intro to Portfolio Development. These courses help you identify your competencies, college-level knowledge and background, all while teaching portfolio development skills.

PLA-100 is a 1-credit, 4-week course that will take you through all the options offered through the College for earning credit for what you already know: portfolio development, testing, program review, licenses, certificates, and more. The course also helps you understand what college-level learning means, and how to determine whether PLA options fit your own goals and experience. PLA-100 carries General Education Elective credit in the Intellectual and Practical Skills (IPSL) category, which is already required for your degree. Intended as a continuation of PLA-100, PLA-200 is a 2-credit, 8-week course that will help you identify the specific courses for which you can earn credit, and get you moving on the path to creating your own portfolio. PLA-200 provides structure and support to help you document your experiences and develop a narrative that aligns with the learning outcomes of a similar course. Along the way, your PLA-200 mentor and the Office of Portfolio Assessment will answer your questions, provide you with the learning outcomes for the subjects you want to earn credit for, and guide your progress so that you can maximize the number of credits you can earn through PLA. As with PLA-100, PLA-200 also meets IPSL General Education Elective requirements. The resulting portfolios are submitted for review by Subject Matter Experts to award credit.

Upon successful completion of the PLA-100/200 courses you will have gone through a reflective process, identified and organized your personal and professional competencies in one place, and acquired or refined your skills in the area of narrative writing and organizing. You may have also identified some or many areas of competence where you can develop and submit a portfolio for assessment, as long as the potential credits will apply to your degree program needs. Nearly every degree requirement can be satisfied with credit based on prior learning.

At the end of the day, this is knowledge that you already have, and you will determine how it can work for you:

Save you time? Check.
Save you money? Check.
Fulfill program requirements? Check.
Help you earn additional college credit? Double check.

If you want more information on the process, or if you have any questions, you can contact the Office of Portfolio Assessment at [email protected] or share them in the comments section.

Tags: Prior Learning Assessment and Portfolio , Taking Courses , Transfer Credits

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