First and foremost, congratulations! You’ve made a huge accomplishment. You’ve finished one chapter and are about to begin another. You’ve studied hard (let’s face it, probably played hard), got your act together somewhere along the way, and made it to the end. Well done!
I know what it’s like to graduate. I’ve graduated four times in my life: college graduation, high school graduation, 8th grade graduation, and preschool graduation. (Note: I attended an uber over-achieving middle school and I can’t still can’t explain preschool graduations.)
Many of my friends and family members are graduating this May and I’ve been thinking about what I’d want to say to them – more than I could fit on a Hallmark card, anyway. Truth be told, I’ve only been on this side of a college diploma for just over a year. I’m probably in no place to offer sage wisdom or insight.
While my wisdom may not be sage, I hope you’ll find it practical.
It was gleaned by experienced and is given in love.
Worry about getting your first job, not your dream job.
Diplomas don’t secure paychecks. Most likely, your idea of ‘the perfect job’ will change about as often as you changed majors. Even if you’ve had your heart set on being whatever it is you hope to be for years, don’t underestimate the power of work experience to alter your thinking. Focus on applying yourself to work after graduation as much as you did to your studies before. From your first job to your dream job, you’ll need a solid work ethic to be successful. And, yes, you might be flipping burgers for a couple months, but it won’t be the end of the world. I promise.
Don’t get too comfortable.
Maybe you’re in the high school graduating class of 2013. I’d specially like to encourage you to not get too comfortable. Right now, you’re probably a big fish in a little pond. You’ve got freshman looking up to you and teachers who couldn’t be more proud. But don’t get too comfortable in that safe place. The SAT and ACT rewarded you for getting the same answers as every one else; all your A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s marked in correct order. Professors reward originality. Prepare to have your logic questioned and your opinions challenged. Prepare to have answers. It’ll be harder than you thought, but more satisfying than you could have imagined.
I wouldn’t stay the life of a scholar is predictable, but it certainly is scheduled. Classes in perfectly arranged blocks, cafeterias serving food on the hour, and extra-curricular activities the same time every week can sometimes trick you into thinking all of life is so methodical. Though I wouldn’t say scholars live in an alternate universe that isn’t “the real world”, they do live in a kind of anesthetized reality. At least I did. Post-graduation the pace of life isn’t so regular. You may find that a 40-hour work week leaves you unexpectedly drained and wholly uninspired. Or that the sudden barrage of bills don’t come as conveniently as you would like. Please understand I don’t mean to say you haven’t had surprises in the past four years, but the surprises that will come to you now are probably going to pack more of a punch. Whatever the case, expect surprises. Learn to live in the world of surprise. Through surprises, we often soar.
My dear graduates, I wish you all the best.