Advice for '06 graduates

November 30, 1999

They walk across the stage in their caps and gowns as their parents and relatives watch, anxious to cheer for their graduate.

As part of the commencement ceremony, members of the Class of 2006 will no doubt hear speeches meant to inspire them to use what they've learned, not just to make a living, but also to contribute to the society that helped provide them with an education.

Inspirational speeches are fine and the graduates, whether they're from high schools, community colleges or four-year institutions, will no doubt hear some fine ones in the days and weeks to come.

But for the graduates, especially those leaving college, there is some practical advice we would like to offer, including:

  • Thank your parents. No, they didn't do the work for you, but we would bet they supported you a great deal. It's your diploma, but it's an accomplishment for them, too. Tell them you couldn't have done it without them. And mean it.

  • If you can afford it, take two weeks or a month off before you begin work. your working life will last for decades, so this may be the last chance available ? anytime soon, anyway ? to get a long break before taking on the responsibilities of a job and family.

    Resolve to keep in touch with the friends you made in college. These are the people you shared years of your life and many experiences with. No matter how successful or unsuccessful you are, most will welcome a phone call or day spent remembering old times.

  • If you don't already have one, cultivate a hobby or a recreational sport such as tennis or golf. If your whole life is about work, when the time comes to retire, or worse, to be laid off, you will need something else in your life.

  • Avoid going deeply into debt. Just because companies are sending you credit card offers doesn't mean you won't have to pay them off, and sooner than you think. Begin a savings plan instead.

  • When you can, send a few dollars to the institution from which you graduated. It's hard to believe, but tuition doesn't cover all those costs, so consider helping out members of the next class.

  • Remember that accomplishing something worthwhile is ultimately more satisfying than just acquiring things.
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