Congratulations, Graduates: Our Advice To The Class Of 2016

Next week, the South Florida Fairgrounds will begin hosting commencement exercises for the four public high schools serving the western communities. Seminole Ridge High School’s graduation ceremony will lead off the series. It will take place Thursday, May 19 at 8 a.m., followed by Royal Palm Beach High School’s ceremony on Monday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. Wellington High School’s ceremony is set for 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, while Palm Beach Central High School concludes the quartet at 8 a.m. on Thursday, May 26.

With these notable experiences etched in thousands of area residents’ planners and calendars, it’s time for us here at the Town-Crier to pull out every possible cliché about graduation. After all, isn’t that what we do every year?

OK, fair enough. But we would still be remiss if we didn’t offer some words of wisdom to the Class of 2016. Here are some thoughts we would like to pass along to the soon-to-be graduated, whether they are entering the college world, the military, the job market, or (like Malia Obama) are taking a “gap year” to figure out the whole “post-high school” thing:

Congratulations. You’ve graduated. Things are about to get more difficult for you. This is because now you’re saddled with these things called “adult expectations,” where you are supposed to make “mature decisions.” That’s what growing up and the high school experience are all about. And for those who were at the top of the class, or an all-star athlete, prepare to face the fact these titles, while still impressive, lose their luster in the post-graduation world. What’s important now is the work you put into your life, not what you accomplished over the past four years. Never be satisfied with your achievements; prepare to become an over-achiever.

It’s true, you are entering a time of transformation. And while change can be scary, and often difficult, you’re still at that age in life where you can make and change career-type decisions. Look back at that previous paragraph, and add “embrace independence” to the list of things you’re saddled with. Be ready to take on a major challenge: becoming the person you want to be in life. You’ve removed the shackles of the structured world of conformity. The world is your oyster! Now you need to figure out if you like oysters.

Speaking of change, while you should be ready for it to take place, be realistic and have a set number of goals that you would like to accomplish. Often, the most rewarding paths are those with a prize at the end, even if (in the words of Robert Frost) that road splits or (in the words of Randy Pausch) becomes a brick wall. Know what you want and have some idea of how you will get there. Never stop moving forward.

We also suggest, humbly, that if you receive gifts from family or friends with sound advice on how to survive life in college, you actually read and embrace the literature. It was given to you for a reason, and too often, college-bound students have no clue how to do seemingly ordinary tasks like laundry, take care of themselves when under the weather, cope with having a roommate, take good lecture notes in auditoriums with hundreds of freshmen, or talk one-on-one with a professor (because having mom or dad e-mail your college instructor with a gripe won’t work like it does in high school).

Be proud. Be excited. Be relieved. But most of all, be smart, and help make the world a better place for everyone.