College Commencement & Beginning with the End in Sight…

CommencementHaving spent well over a third of my life (40%, to be exact) on college campuses, I am prone to sentimentality during two very distinct times of year: opening weekend and commencement. Given that I am no longer working or living on a college campus but do live in an area saturated with them and still work with college-bound students, these "distinct" times of year, for me, have morphed into several weeks in late August/Early September and mid-May.

‘Tis the season for college commencements. Leaders and celebrities grace stages all over the country to express their expectations, dreams, and concerns for newly-christened "adults" and to share with them sage advice about how to be a better person, improve the world, or otherwise become "successful."

I am not in a position to have any expectations or dreams for students leaving college today. I certainly have plenty of concerns for them, though. Forget about "sage advice" as they venture from the warm womb of academia into the cold world. I opted to retreat back into that womb for a dozen more years after my own graduation.

I feel much more equipped to counsel (as I do) college-bound students who are getting ready to graduate from high school. And so here is my advice to them:

As much as you want to - and should - enjoy this summer following your senior year of high school spend some of it preparing yourself for the transition to college. Yes, it is a transition, and if you want to get through it with minimal pain you will need to put in some effort on the front end. Based on my experience, that means a few things, but most importantly, it means understanding how to organize yourself and manage your time. This looks like something different for every person. For me, as an undergraduate, it meant a planner (a good old fashioned week-view calendar) and colored pens. For today's high school graduates, it probably involves a mobile electronic device and typing with thumbs, but the intent is the same.

As a college administrator I was always most concerned about the students who walked into my office without a pen and piece of paper or without some way of keeping track of their schedules. Conversations with these advisees sounded something like this:
Me: "When is that assignment due?"
Student: "Hang on while I try to find my syllabus in this mess of a backpack and then locate that exact assignment on the schedule (because I haven't actually looked at the syllabus since it was handed to me), and was due yesterday."

You get the point.

Practice scheduling your time, keeping appointments, making "to do" lists, etc. this summer. I know that sounds like a drag in the summer, but it doesn't have to be. Put into your calendar (phone/iPod/whatever) your mani's and pedi's, your beach time, pick-up games, rounds of golf. If you have a job, put your work hours in the calendar each week. Now you can schedule your fun around them. Make a "to do" list of things you need to buy for your dorm room or of people you want to be sure to see before you head off to school. You'll feel so good when you get to cross off or delete things as you accomplish them!

This is just practice; it doesn't have to be "serious" stuff. Just get in the habit of thinking about what you need - or want - to do and when it needs to be done. And make it part of your morning routine to look at your calendar or "to do" list every day. Inputting it or writing it down won't help if you never look at it again.

The best advice that I received as a high school senior actually came from a professor at the university I ended up attending. He told the audience of my peers (I'm paraphrasing after the first sentence), "Treat college like a 9-to-5 job. Whether you need to be at class or not, you're up and ready to work at 9AM. You don't go back to your room to watch TV or sleep between classes because you're still ‘at work'. Go to the library and study. At 5:00 you can close your books, go to dinner, and enjoy the rest of your evening. If you do this, if you truly work diligently from 9 to 5 every Monday through Friday, you will not fall behind; you will not have to do tons of reading at night." He was talking about managing our time, setting priorities. I didn't know that then, but I sure wish I had listened to him.

Please share your insights...

Tags: commencement, matriculation, education trends, educational consulting profession, college

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