Dr. Wes: Tis’ the season of graduation. A time of reflection, celebration, and sadness all rolled up together and concentrated into a walk across the stage and a party or two afterwards. Then the real world begins. Things are over. Other things start. That’s why they call it commencement.
It’s a familiar view from my chair, sitting across from seniors and their families, desperately glad to be finish the climb. Wholly unaware they’ll come to miss it just as much. But this year it’s been a bit more personal for me. After twelve years practicing in Lawrence, I’ve accumulated a larger number of college and high school grads than ever before and I’ve busy running from small, intimate pinning ceremonies for nursing students to large arena-sized events, responding to a flood of invitations from families and kids.
I find myself more deeply moved this year at the site of young people crossing that stage. Maybe its because I’m now three years away from graduating my own senior. Or maybe I’ve just watched so many of these kids grow up from middle school through college, that I take a special pride and joy in their success. I know how difficult it is for students these days; how hard it is to make all the right decisions at all the right times, just to get to wear those disposable gowns and funny looking caps. During finals week I wake up with vicarious test anxiety dreams—the ones where you forgot to go to class all semester and now you have the exam. So, I can’t help but get a little misty knowing what they’ve been through. They know who they are, and I want to say today in our column how proud I am of them, how proud we all are, that they have each found their way to the other side of the stage.
As is our tradition in Double Take, we offer our teen coauthor a chance to share her commencement advice. We’ll get the joy of Miranda Davis’ work for another three months, but she no longer writes as a high school student. Today Miranda is a young adult and a graduate and I know the readers of Double Take join me in congratulating her, as we have our other friends and loved-ones this season.
Miranda: To my fellow graduates this week, I offer the following thoughts:
Be resourceful. As the price of college continues to rise, we have to be draw on every resource we have. Use bikes instead of cars, take care of clothes so they last longer and making every penny go as far as it can. For most teens, the moment when their parents announce they’re not an endless tree of money is coming soon, if it hasn’t already. Learning how to budget from that summer job will take you a long way past August.
Don’t get too caught up in the freedom. According to my college friends, there’s a whole lot more freedom coming to each of us. No one tells you when to go to bed, makes you study for that big test, or advises against drinking a two-liter Mountain Dew for breakfast. There will also be greater freedom in substance use or abuse. The opportunity (and the pressure) to go out and drink will be almost endless, and many teens don’t make it past their freshmen year because they partied too much and studied to little. All those decisions are now up to us. With great freedom comes great responsibility.
Make a plan, but be flexible. Think about what you want to major in and have a loose job plan for after college, but don’t be afraid to change as you learn and develop in college. Dreams change and hopefully you will be influenced by your new life experience. Many freshmen and sophomores change their majors in the pursuit of finding out what they want to do. Just don’t get lost as a permanent student because you can’t make up your mind.
Enjoy yourself. College isn’t just about a degree at the end four years; it’s about who you become on the way to that next graduation day. Try new things, get out of your comfort zone, meet new people and make a few mistakes. Appreciate every single moment, savor every new experience, and don’t forget to have fun.
Want to here more about the joys and many struggles for students headed off to college. Listen to the podcast of Dr. Wes on St. Louis on the Air with Don Marsh on St. Louis Public Radio. We take listener calls from parents and adults reflecting on their own college experience, and give special attention to the problem of student debt and how to help teens take ownership of their educational experience and expense. Don’t miss it.
Wes Crenshaw, PhD is board certified in family and couples psychology (ABPP), and author of the books Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Teens and Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens. Learn about his writing and practice at www.dr-wes.com. Miranda Davis is a Free State High School senior who has co-authored the column since August 2011, and is the eighth in a series of teen co-authors. Send your confidential 200-word question on adolescence and parenting to email@example.com. The column is reprinted from Double Take, published weekly since 2004 in The Lawrence Journal World. Opinions and advice are not a substitute for psychological services.
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