Top 5 things we should have heard at college graduation

Posted on May 1st, 2012


The college graduation speech is kind of like grocery store graduation cake — lots of sweet fluff that’s going to make you nauseous later.

It’s not that I don’t like the Ra-Ra, Change the World, Be the Difference graduation speech. It’s just that it’s about twenty years removed from the real world advice college grads need.

I’d like a 28 year old (funny, that’s how old I am), who’s gone through hell and back, to jump on stage and give tips that go something like this:


Picture of female college grad
Photo Credit: John McStravick – Creative Commons


Top 5 Things We Should Have Heard at College Graduation


5. Your fellow graduates could care less about your life.

Look to the person next to you and say, I DO NOT care what you do with your life.  Don’t live for me. Live for you.

Every one’s so obsessed with putting their PR spins on their own Facebook profile, they’re not going to worry much about yours. Kill Compulsive Comparison Disorder before it starts.


4. Ross - The discount clothing store is now your best friend.

Because you can’t really afford business clothes and at Ross you really can dress for less. But good luck trying to find that one light-blue button up shirt that’s not XXL or those black, size 6 1/2 women’s shoes.


3. Employer’s DO NOT care about your 3.53 GPA.

I know you worked hard for it and are so proud – but the world outside of college cares very little about GPA unless it’s a 4.0 from Harvard. If you explain why your excellent GPA translates into how much freaking money you’re going to make the company – well then watch their eyes light up…


2. How you fail is more important than how you succeed.

It’s inevitable. At some point in the next week, month, year, you will fail and fail big and fail repeatedly. You will fall flat on your face, adding another scar to the collection.

And to failing I say, great!  If you never fail, then you’re not risking. You’re living your life not to get hurt. But living a life of self-preservation will get you killed, but it will be a slow-death. Drips of monotony failing on your comfortable life until you go insane. So fail. Fail big. Just don’t call yourself a failure. That’s key.


And the #1 thing we should’ve heard at college graduation…….

Well you tell us. What do you wish you’d heard at college graduation?


Photo Credit: John McStravick – Creative Commons

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  1. Loved the thought on failing but not calling yourself a failure–I think that is key to making it through those failures. I also think measuring failure in the long-term. Sometimes we judge something as a failure prematurely, and if we give it time we see how it was not so bad!

  2. Good stuff, Paul. I resonate with the Ross comment, especially.:) Thanks for this article. Should be on the front page of every graduation program booklet.

  3. I love your blog!!

    • Thanks Natacha

  4. No one else knows what they are doing either. Even the people who are headed straight to grad school are worried they are about to take 100K in loans for more education in an area they are not 100% they want to pursue. You are going to transition a lot in your 20′s – no need to pretend you all have your acts together right this minute.
    -From the wife of a guy who once considered (and took qualifying exams for): grad school in philosophy, law school and business school.

    • “No one else knows what they are doing either”

      Great piece of graduate advice Kate. So true. If only I could’ve understood that at 22 instead of 28…

  5. I think it’s funny when job apps ask me for my GPA… I get that they don’t want me to be a total slacker but it really is a pointless question!

    I totally agree- learning to fail without losing your mind is important. College was too safe- do these papers, study a bit, raise your hand once in awhile and you pretty much pass through the system- but it doesn’t work that way outside the classroom. I’m an eternal optimist, but I embrace failing- it helps us learn, it’s nothing personal (sometimes) and you just have to realize that class learning comes from books, life learning comes from the times we fail!

    • Thanks Shannyn. “College was too safe” Great line and I totally agree.

      Failing and Learning are synonymous for sure

  6. Just discovered your website. Could not have come at a better time. I especially enjoyed your 21 list and can relate to almost each item. Having recently graduated with my second degree and entering the precarious job market and finding nothing I would say that someone should tell you at graduation: Just because you studied it doesn’t mean you are going to end up working in that field, be creative with your job search, eventually you will end up where you want to be. I am still on the search though :(

    • Thanks Emily. Well said!

  7. The lessons we learned in kindergarten are more important than the high level calculus learned in college.

    Try to play well with others. If you can’t play well, don’t hit them; just walk away.

    Please, thank you, and excuse me/ I am sorry are some of the most important phrases you’ll ever use, not to mention polite.

    If you feel the need to cry, cry. Then get on with the day.

    Lastly, sometimes you really do just need a nap. Or a hug.

  8. I think for women life in their twenties is slightly different from men.. their planning depends sometimes on their peers,family and ..their “future” family.. unlike very few women get to be independent.. there are lot of “take diversion” boards in my life… finally I feel lost in woods,dejected..yet struggling a way out.. many times I think time is an important factor that plays a huge role in lives.. as in one of your blog posts “dont turn bAck. run faster!” true in terms of optimising our “young 9 years of twenties”… Your blog helps people to realise the importance of getting fast paced with life andd enlighten before “graduating (in life) to 30′s from their 20′s “of life”

  9. Have retirement and savings automatically taken out of your paycheck before it goes to your checking account!

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