Change is good, but it can be tough to handle. The thought of completing your college graduation ceremony, packing up, and leaving the space that has been your home since the end of high school is a sad one. There may even be tears and tissues involved. Follow the advice in this blog, though, and you’ll be a graduation pro. We can’t help with the completely natural feelings of sadness, but we can tell you this: your best years are yet to come.
Do spend quality time with your friends, especially those who will be moving somewhere different from you. No matter what type of school you attended or where you’ve spent the last few years, the chances of you and all of your friends ending up in the same place postgraduation are next to nonexistent. This is okay; it’s supposed to happen. You’ve spent the last years living, learning, and loving your classmates, but it is time for all of you to move on. Plan a fun girl’s or guy’s night, throw a going away party, or host a group picnic on the quad. The end of college has the potential to provide amazing memories, but you’ve got to be proactive about it. One-on-one dinner dates at the dining hall, seeing the last theater performance of the year, and long walks through a nearby nature preserve are bound to make you feel better about parting ways.
Don’t make any spur-of-the-moment decisions. That rising panic you may feel about the future? It’s normal, and it definitely shouldn’t be the reason that you make a decision. You may feel that your relationship with your partner has to be defined right now. It doesn’t. Don’t let graduation force you into breaking up, getting married, or anything in between. Talk to your partner about the feelings of anxiety that you may be having, but wait them out before you make any big changes. You need to get used to your new normal first, and then decide together if you want to make it work. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you try to plan your whole life out in the weeks before graduation.
Do take lots of photos. Selfies, group photos, snapshots of you and your favorite professor… these will all be treasured in the future, and you’ll be disappointed if you don’t have anything to look back on. What is it they say? “Memories fade, but photos are forever?” Put them in a scrapbook, on Facebook or Instagram (with everyone else’s permission), or go old-school and print them out for a photo album. Your grandparents will love to take a look every time they visit, and you instantly have a coffee table book for your next apartment!
Don’t think of graduation as the end. Seriously. It’s just the beginning. With an average American life expectancy of nearly 80 years old, you’re barely a quarter done! Use your time wisely without moping about “the best years of your life” being over. Like Rafiki says in The Lion King, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” Now is the time to look forward.
Do exchange personal email addresses with friends. Depending on where you go to school, your collegiate email address may expire. Sometimes this happens on graduation day, sometimes at the end of the summer, and, for some schools, not at all. But, if you want to stay in touch with your friends, you’re going to need to know where to write them! Along the same lines, make sure you give your school your up-to-date contact information so that other alums can look you up on the school website (usually password-protected, don’t worry).
Don’t forget to forward yourself any important emails stored on your collegiate address. If your email address expires, everything stored in your inbox is going to disappear too. Save yourself the trouble and take an hour to clean out your inbox and forward important messages to a professional sounding (you’ll need it when it comes time to apply for jobs), noncollegiate account. You can sign up for a Gmail address for free; we recommend using “firstname.lastname” as your username.
Do pay all your bills and complete exit counseling if you took out student loans. If you don’t tie up any financial loose ends, your school can prevent you from graduating until you rectify the situation. Make sure you don’t have any outstanding bills at the bookstore, dining hall, or for tuition. Complete your student loan exit counseling in a timely manner. These aren’t things that you’ll forget to do; your email will be overloaded with reminders, but it’s still important to actually get them done!
Don’t spend the days before graduation trying to tie up academic loose ends. You need to have those final papers all the way done well before graduation and senior week. Even if your professor doesn’t need it until the day of graduation, the last thing you want to be doing while everyone else is floating in the river as a part of senior week is finishing up a comparative politics paper. This shouldn’t be a huge problem because most schools mandate that final grades be submitted about a week before graduation (so the school can assign Latin honors), but it’s important to say. You don’t want anything to come in the way of you and your college graduation.
Do sign up for senior week activities ahead of time. Depending on the size of your school, spots may be limited for some activities. You don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t get to go to senior prom because you forgot to buy your ticket. That whole “last one in is a rotten egg” thing that kids say to each other at the pool, it kind of applies to senior week.
Don’t ask your family to come to town early and then leave them to fend for themselves. Your family doesn’t really need to help you pack up your dorm room, but they can help you load up the car. Unless your school has designated parent and family activities (say, a dinner the night before graduation), they don’t need to be on campus until the morning of. You’ll have way too much going on between emptying your mailbox, picking up your commencement robes, and spending time with your friends to keep them entertained. Suggest that they get in the evening before, spend their time relaxing at a hotel, and then meet you for breakfast in the morning.
Do be prepared for the ceremony. The most important advice I can give is that you need to eat breakfast! Depending on the size of your school and whether you get a talkative commencement speaker, the ceremony could take hours. The last thing you need is a drop in blood pressure that leads to you passing out as you’re waiting to get your diploma! That said, you should also stay hydrated, but not too hydrated. You won’t be able to leave your seat to go to the bathroom. Finally, if your ceremony is outdoors, be prepared to sweat; those graduation robes are no joke. Deodorant. Use it.
Don’t forget to make dinner reservations for graduation night in advance. Everyone and their mother (literally) is going to go out for dinner at a nice restaurant after graduation and even if you go to a small school, there are going to be hundreds of people who want to eat at exactly the same time. Local restaurants and hotels know to be prepared for an influx of people during graduation times, but you don’t want to miss out on a fancy dinner just because you delayed making a two-minute phone call. Check out your options well ahead of time and get it done!
You’re nearly there! We’d love to hear about your college graduation and any advice you may have. Leave us a Facebook comment or tweet us @studentcaffe!