Make Your Graduation a Statement

Graduation cermony with four girls in mortarboard caps

This month hundreds of schools throughout the world are holding graduation ceremonies, convocations, and commencements for various levels of educational achievement. They are all monumental occasions and usually hold tremendous value for the person participating. In all its glory, it allows the graduate to say to the world: ‘I made it through! I did it!’

Graduation is a statement.

If you can recall a graduation ceremony that you’ve participated in, you may have some of the trademark sentiments: standing on that graduation stage, the crisp robe displaying the color of your school and the cap symbolizing so much of what has been put into the diploma that you are being presented with. During that moment, there is nothing that can break you – all that you know is I’ve learned so much. I know so many new things. I can – and will – make a positive change in the real world! And that conviction is so real, so fresh, so enticingly raw.

That conviction is so real, so fresh, so enticingly raw.

But then, after the pictures and hugs, after the party and balloons, after the clapping and cap-throwing has died down, there often comes a strong slew of warnings from friends, family, and those who want to let you know what life is all about. You know it’s not so easy in the real world, says Fran, the well-meaning aunt who always knows how to put a damper on big moments. That confident glint in your eyes is just adorable!, chuckles Matt, your brother who is merely 8 years older than you but acts as though he’s been through life ten times over and can now laugh at you while you grow up. Oh my, with the job market where it is, I would not want to be a graduate right now, Cousin Sylvia gently comments, seemingly unaware of how that remark stings.

The comments may go on and on, ranging from mildly condescending to outright unsupportive – and they can make for a very frustrated and exasperated graduate! But even with these seemingly discouraging comments, there are still hundreds of graduates who succeed in doing well in the “real world.” They take their convictions into a passionate career and they beat the job market hurdle, see Gillian Knight’s experience for example. And if they could do it, why can’t you?

I decided to turn every invalidating comment into a challenge.

Personally, I feel like I’m heading on a good path after my graduation, despite a lot of ‘advisory comments’ from friends and family. How did I do it? By turning every unsettling or invalidating comment into a challenge.

If an aunt commented on the impossibility of finding a good starting job after college, I took the challenge and applied to over 25 agencies and organizations to start working the summer after graduation. And guess what, although 17 places responded with a negative answer, 10 others granted me an interview!

If a sibling laughed at the prospect of me continuing to graduate school after graduation, I took the challenge and had my applications in the mail well before the deadline. And – to the surprise of said sibling – I got accepted to my graduate school of choice!

I am more than capable of succeeding outside of school too.

If a friend laughed at my young confidence in attaining placement on a research team, I took the challenge and made my case to show how fit I was for the project. And so, I am on the road to complete that dream as well, all the while showing those who questioned me that just as I was able to graduate, I am more than capable of succeeding outside of school too.

So when you take off that graduation cap and gown and face comments that try to take you down, just smile and accept those challenges. Because you did it. You graduated. You stood on that stage and received your diploma – and every single dream and plan that you had in your mind at that time can still bloom into effect. All you have to do is accept that challenge and prove that you can do it. If you’ve come this far, you can travel a lot farther and really make your mark on this world.