Best Graduation Advice Ever

May 10, 2010

In a week or two, thousands of high school seniors will be graduating, soon to head off to college.  They’ll be preparing for the move by packing up boxes of Ramen noodles and books of graduation quotes given to them by every living relative.

However, after all the commencement speeches and well wishes, navigating life after high school can be pretty daunting.  Well, I’d like to help all the seniors out there with a little graduation advice, starting with graduation itself. 

Don’t look dumb at your graduation.

Granted, this is difficult given the attire.  A long, flowing gown and cap with a piece of cardboard on top isn’t exactly fashionable.  However, you can do a couple of things to maximize your fashion potential, like wear the cap correctly, instead of perched precariously on the back of your head.  Don’t worry, everyone looks like idiots.  Don’t look like more of an idiot than you must.

You can also make sure your family doesn’t look like a bunch of hillbillies.  There’s usually the announcement given at the beginning of the ceremony to hold the applause until everyone’s name has been called for their diplomas, especially if the graduating class is large.  And invariably, there are a couple of families who, upon hearing their brilliant child’s name called, commence shouting and sounding their airhorns as if they got lost on their way to the Nascar race. 

Whenever I hear that family, I assume this is the first time they have needed to attend a high school graduation for anyone in their family.  Don’t let your family look like a bunch of ignorant lunatics.

Find the old person in class.

Invariably, you will find as you begin college, that there will be one or two old people in your classes.  You will be unable to avoid noticing them, because they will annoy everyone else to no end.  They will do this by asking a lot more questions than anyone else, caring about class more than anyone else, and trying to form a cosmic bond with the professor due to their close proximity in age.  It is often unclear whether the excessive questions are due to genuine interest or outright senility.

As much as it will pain you to do this, get to know this old person.  They will be taking copious notes and will become an invaluable study partner…if you can stand them through the end of the semester.  Kind of like Chevy Chase on Community. 

Don’t act like a dog off a leash.

You know how preteen girls act?  Go to a movie theater if you need a refresher.  They’ll be the ones running around, giggling uncontrollably, texting nonstop during the Ben Stiller movie they are seeing, getting popcorn stuck in their braces, acting stupid to impress the stupid boys, and being yelled at by the manager.  They are doing this because they are getting their first taste of freedom, and they don’t know what to do with it, except run around and make a scene.

Some of you used to be preteen girls.  Some of you never were.  Now that you have graduated as a reasonably mature* person, don’t revert back. 

When you go to college, you’ll be getting a whole lot of freedom for the first time, and you might not know what to do with it.  It will be obvious to others, because you will be acting like a dog who just broke his leash and is now running around like crazy, partying way harder than everyone else, getting a tramp stamp, and possibly not showering, just because you can.

If you are going to a Christian college…

If you are going to a Christian college, good for you.  But remember, you are attending an institute of higher learning, not church camp.  You may be required to learn about things that Jesus did not put his stamp of approval on, including but not limited to: evolution, psychology, human anatomy, philosophy, and science.  I know you think that you are planning a career in the ministry or a Christian bookstore, so these things are useless to you, but just go with it. 

If it makes you feel better, you can counteract all this “worldliness” by getting a guitar, learning precisely three chords, and strumming them nonstop in the student union. 

High school is over.

Some of you really liked high school.  Good for you.  Now that it’s over, never speak of it again.  There’s nothing weirder than a guy who talks about his “glory days” of high school.  There were actually a couple of people at my college who wore their high school letter jackets.  This, of course, is not acceptable, and is grounds for being ostracized forever.


Bananas are really good for writing notes on.  Seriously.  Pens write really easily on them, and who would suspect that someone would be putting notes on fruit?  I spent nearly all of college biology passing humorous notes on bananas, and the professor was none the wiser.

What graduation advice would you give to a soon-to-be college student?  What was the best advice you recieved?  Were you the “dog off the leash” or someone else that you wish someone would’ve reined in?

25 responses to Best Graduation Advice Ever

  1. – Find a good Christian club to participate in. A good Christian club can be a great source of support in the craziness that is college

    – Find some good non-religious clubs to participate in- Don’t just be hanging round with people like you (or hanging round with no-one). Join an arts group, a sporting team, a volunteer group or some other interesting activity.

    – If possible study abroad- Studying abroad was one of the best things I have done so far in my degree. I learned and experienced so much in the one semester I was in Singapore. Studying somewhere you get a really different experience of the place than you would just traveling there. Study abroad scholarships can also make it an affordable way to see the world.

    – Start work early. All nighers the night before a piece of work are due are not a great idea. Yes, with a lot of caffeine you may be able to throw together a piece of work that passes but you probably won’t learn much (or get a good mark) because you haven’t had time to think about what you are writing.

  2. Get a job.

    Face it, unless you’re completely clueless, you won’t need to study the entire time you’re out of class, so get a job that fits around your class schedule and make some money so you won’t burn through your parents’ college savings account in a year.

    Speaking of burning through money like there’s no tomorrow. Stay the heck away from credit cards. There’s a reason colleges are crawling with representatives, and it’s to get your signature on about 792 applications, not to mention encourage you to get to charging on them.

    When you see one of those tables set up around the Union, go over, be nice, take their pencils and cups, then run away laughing at how you’re Sticking it to the Man by taking things from the credit card companies, without them getting their dirty little tentacles on your cash. Seriously, stay the heck away from credit cards.

    I would give a sad anecdote here, but I worked through my whole time in school and never got a credit card, well, ever, so I got out of college without a penny of debt to either a credit card company or on a college loan.

    • I’m glad that here credit card companies cannot market to college students. I think there is a minimum income you have to have before applying for credit cards. I have no doubt it would be getting a lot of my friends into trouble if they could get them.

    • To add to that, I’d say to keep track of the money you have. In one fell swoop, I overdrafted and bounced five checks, which was no fun. And it was all because I gave some money to a homeless person! And that is the last good deed I ever did… 😉

  3. Bananas – brilliant. I’m not sure they were invented when I was in college. The best advice I ever got was from my dad who said “Study hard, stay out of trouble, or I’m cutting you off and you’re coming home.” Sadly, I didn’t remember to say that when my kids went off to college.

  4. Well, as usual, I did it differently. I took 2 years off to work before going to college. I am certain it made a huge difference. A) I got tired of working at low paying jobs. B) I was serious about it when I went. C) My student loans were far less because I saved money before going – a lot of money.

    – If you’re going to party, why bother going just for that?
    – You have your whole life ahead of you. Try to think past this weekend. You really will need math, English (using capital letters and everything) and computer skills beyond Facebook.
    – I didn’t work my first two years in college – I was a 4.0 student and graduated with a 3.85 with a triple major. Better to take an extra class.
    – Never take 21.5 credits in one semester. It’s crazy.
    – Take a year off if you need to. Focus can change a lot of things.
    – Study abroad even if it’s 2 weeks.
    – Don’t go close to home so you can run home to see your friends every weekend.
    – Wear cheap clothes – no one will steal them from the laundry room.
    – Get there early on move-in-day and take the best bed and hang your posters first.

    • I like that advice about not taking too many classes. Of course, in an art major, you do double time in class. So a 3 hour class is really 6 hours a week (plus whatever time you need outside of class.) My last semester, I was earning 18 hours. The number of hours I was *doing* in class was ridiculous.

      • I was a music major – for each guitar lesson (2 per week) we were expected practice 5 hours per day. The lessons were 1.5 hours – so the class time was a little less.

        Thank God that music theory, political science, and art history were so easy. That and my jazz teacher was a little lenient! I used Spring break to catch up – and slept 18 hours per day for nearly a week after the semester was over.

        I later went to art shool, and I found it very intense.

        My 22-year-old is graduating from art school this week with a 3.5, and the other one is a freshman. I don’t know how they have so much free time!

    • I did the work for a year before going to college thing too. It was frustrating being stuck in my home town while a lot of my friends headed off to college but it was worth it. Having worked for a year got me classified as independent and low income so therefore qualifying for some financial support programs i wouldn’t have otherwise qualified for. My boring job also put any boring assignments or lectures i have in perspective.

      Stealing clothes is rarely a problem in our laundry. The bigger problem is people forgetting to collect their clothes, leaving them there for weeks.

      • @Joanna – yes, it was sort of hard on me too. I just didn’t get into the college that i wanted, so I didn’t go. But I am with you – working made college a sheer pleasure to blast through. And I took a speed reading course so the book hours went way down.

        My kids now have lost name brand clothes – in my day it was t-shirts and jeans.

  5. Connect with a campus ministry! You are not a Lone Ranger Christian. You cannot survive college with your faith in tact all by yourself. Get into a community of believers and stretch your faith wings. It is the best way to get off of the coattails of your parents’ faith and discover how to love Jesus now that you’re out on your own.
    Matt–brilliant article. Especially the people going nuts when their son or daughter walks across stage. How low was that bar set?

  6. Watch what you eat- Once you have to organize your own food it is easy to be lazy and take an easy but unhealthy option. You’ll also probably encounter unhealthy food (pizza especially) at lots of college events. I put on heaps of weight in my first year which I really regret because I am still trying to burn it off.

  7. Good tips, man. I wasn’t a Christian in college so I can’t really help. I was the kid that all the Christians looked at and said “Naw, Jesus can’t save him…”

  8. notes on bananas = brilliant

  9. Matt, I cracked up reading this: I AM THE OLD PERSON! I’m graduating this week from NC State with a BA in psych at the age of 50, and yeah, I took a lot of notes. :)

  10. Find a really good bathroom on campus that you can nick name the bat cave. When I went to University of MD, it was the bathroom at the library on the 7th floor.

    Do your best not go into debt to pay for college. The debt will haunt you worse than an ex g/f after you get out.

  11. Such good advice Matt!

  12. I just have to know, what made you first decide to even write on a banana? Seems like a strange leap to me!

  13. I graduated 2 nights ago from UGA. So, here goes:

    1. The Freshman 15 is caused (in 99% of cases) by the deadly combination of alcohol+pizza. I saw people blow up like blimps during college due to this. Stay. Away.
    2. Avoid the temptation to get a nose piercing if you’re a lady. This seems to have taken the place of the tramp stamp. Give this urge like 4 years to chill out, then if you still think it’s a good idea to have something that looks like a sparkly freckle in your nose, go for it.
    3. Beg your school to let Alton Brown be your commencement speaker. It made that painfully long 3-hour ceremony totally worth it.

    And in all seriousness…
    4. After you’ve escaped the dorms, try live with other Christians. Sometimes it isn’t even enough to just find a great ministry; surround yourself with people you can trust. But at the same time, never be afraid to be part of secular organizations that support great causes.
    5. Study abroad, or at least go on Alternative Spring Break (much cheaper and shorter :-)
    6. Don’t get a dog/cat/pet that lives more than 2 years. Your parents won’t be happy, and God will not be pleased with you either if you send that poor animal back to the pound or (worse…)set it free in the woods when you leave college.

    • On the pet thing – baby ducklings love to run up and down the hall in hamster balls, but that is their only redeeming factor, as my dorm floor found out.

    • I think the pizza alone gave me the freshman 15 since i rarely drink alcohol

      I’m in college and did get my nose pierced. I did think about for almost a year before i did it though

  14. …two more :-)

    7. Keep a steady supply of ear plugs and a sleep mask on hand at all times.
    8. Take advantage of the fact that as a college student (with an active college email address from a participating school,) you can get awesome software for around 90% off. Best thing ever.

    • The super cheap software is a great perk of being a student. There is often good student discounts on other things too

  15. Don’t get a liberal arts degree of any kind. Stick with something applied, something that will earn you money. Unless you like working the counter at TJ Maxx forever.

    • I dunno, I have a B.A. in History, minor in Geography with a GIS certificate and a surveyor’s license. I’m a school teacher partially because there were no GIS jobs and the wages for surveyors are too low. My B.A. sure is handy since I’m a school teacher.