To the Freshman Class of 2019
By Karla Goodhart
Graduation speeches run the gamut from dull to cheesy to inspirational. Entrepreneur Magazine has gathered quotes from speeches that make graduates and their friends and family laugh, cry and feel the magnitude of the day.
&“Whether it’s starting a business or running for office or raising an amazing family, remember that making your mark on the world is hard. It takes patience. It takes commitment. It comes with plenty of setbacks, and it comes with plenty of failures. But whenever you feel that creeping cynicism, whenever you hear those voices say you can’t make a difference, whenever somebody tells you to set your sights lower — the trajectory of this country should give you hope. Previous generations should give you hope. What young generations have done before should give you hope.” — Barack Obama, Barnard College, 2012
“Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care or broad economic opportunity — reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.” — Bill Gates, Harvard University, 2007
“When the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are, and you just might become the very best version of yourself.”
— Sheryl Sandberg, UC-Berkeley, 2016
“The stories we tell versus the stories we leave out will reverberate across the rest of your life. … You are about to enter the most uncertain and thrilling period of your lives. The stories you are about to live are the ones you will be telling your children and grandchildren and therapists.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda, University of Pennsylvania, 2016
“Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. … Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just do.”
— Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth University, 2014
What Comes Next?
Graduation marks the end of an era and a transition to the next phase of life — the first phase of adulthood when grads may move out and live away from home for the first time, take on new responsibilities and take on the sometimes, scary task of considering the rest of their lives.
It’s a fun, exciting time, but the transition can cause fear and anxiety in some people. That’s normal, according to PsychAlive, an organization that offers educational and awareness resources related to mental health. What should grads do to move past these fears?
Find a Healthy Way to Cope with Anxiety
Anxiety and stress can have negative consequences on physical and mental health. Don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. Write your thoughts in a journal, talk to a mentor or trusted friend, take up martial arts and kick your way into a less stressful life or seek help at your college’s counseling center or through other resources. If you find these fears getting to be too much, see a doctor.
Recognize ‘The Rest of Your Life’ Doesn’t Have to Be
What you major in, what your first job out of college is — that does not have to define the remainder of your decades-long career. In fact, statistically, it won’t; you’ll almost certainly change jobs, career paths and industries a few times before retirement, and those changes may be related to your major or may have nothing to do with it.
If you’re not certain on a major, take a few classes in other departments or get a minor in something you’re also interested in, but leave yourself open to the possibility of additional training, graduate school or a change years from now, and don’t put all the pressure on your high school or college graduate self to make the right decision that defines the rest of your life.
Find Activities You Enjoy
Transitions can be scary. Look for opportunities that help you feel comfortable in your new environment, like clubs, intramural sports teams, trivia night or a new hobby. These can help you make friends and build a good support system for those times when you’re feeling overwhelmed and just make your everyday life more fun. Parents of college freshmen should encourage their children to not come home the first month or two but rather acclimate and find their place on campus.
Taking a Gap Year
After graduating from high school, teens are faced with several options of what to do next, many of which seem scary. A lot of the conversations require young adults to consider what they want to do for the rest of their lives, a difficult question to ponder before many know what they’re good at, what their priorities are and the best way to achieve those.
Because of this, many high school grads take a gap year between high school and college, using that time to travel, do community service or work in a field they may be interested in before diving into the rest of their lives. Forbes Magazine discussed the questions to consider when deciding whether a gap year would be beneficial.
Why Do You Want to Take a Gap Year?
There aren’t necessarily right or wrong reasons for taking this year; if you have no idea what you want to study, it’s not always bad to delay enrolling in school and paying tuition (though your first year includes a lot of general university requirements). However, for a gap year to provide the kind of focus and maturity returning students are reporting, you want to use this time to work toward your goals. Consider how you can broaden your horizons, explore potential careers and take on new responsibilities. Look into different programs to find one that meets your needs.
Will Your College Allow You to Defer?
If you’re already accepted into the college you want to attend, ask if they will defer your admission and any financial aid you received. Increasingly, many schools do, but it’s not always feasible. If your university doesn’t have a formal process, talk with the admissions representatives and keep thorough records of these communications.
Can You Afford It?
There are some scholarships available for gap year programs, but most are paid for by the teenagers or through fundraising. Look up gapyearassociation.org for scholarships and grants. You can stay in the U.S. to keep costs down and look for options that allow you to work. If your program qualifies for college credit, you may be eligible for federal financial aid.
Do You Want to Take a Year?
Name aside, a gap year can be half a year or a semester. Figure out what you can afford, what programs you’re interested in and what works best for you.