10 Life Lessons Shared in Student Newspaper Goodbye Columns (Part 1)

As the academic year at last draws to a close and the Class of 2013 leaves campus for good, advice is everywhere– in commencement speeches, parent chats, and student newspaper columns.

Along with adults who supposedly know better, current upperclassmen and graduating seniors are offering endless words of wisdom to their student peers on making the most of the college experience and the post-grad transition.

Some of the advice published in student papers lately opines on big picture issues. Other tips touch on the small stuff. In respect to the latter, as The Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently suggested, “Always carry cash. . . . Never let anyone drive your car. . . . [And] only date excellence.”


In this first part of a two-part feature, here is a sampling of the excellent advice– big and small– students have shared publicly in recent weeks.

Take Responsibility, Along with Naps.  As Caroline Kelly, a graduating senior at James Madison University, writes in The Breeze, “Everything is your own responsibility now. You have total freedom over your schedule. I’ve had some friends come out of high school and gleefully frolic through this new world of naps whenever you want and no parents, and then flounder when they found themselves waist-deep in work due tomorrow. You can do whatever you want, but you also have to do things you don’t want. Absolutely no one is going to make you write your essays, go to class or eat your veggies but you. Teachers aren’t interested in hearing how you felt really bad, that your stomach hurt and that’s why your big essay is late. Everything you do is on you.”

Talk to Professors After Class.  As Yishai Schwartz, a graduating senior at Yale University, advises in The Yale Daily News, “Linger in the hallways.  The best of what I learned from my professors didn’t come in the lecture hall or the seminar room, or even in office hours. It came in the half-hour after class when most students had dispersed, but a few of us lingered in the hallway. . . . There’s no hand-raising or phony pontification in the hallway. Professors let their hair down and engage, and you learn what they really believe, enjoying the freedom to press and push. And when they make little sense, you can interrupt and question and argue, free of the fear that you’ll look stupid in front of your classmates.”


Enjoy Summer.  As Anthony Bellafiore, a junior at Penn State University, writes in The Daily Collegian, “[F]or those of you who adhere to the non-senior category, please don’t pretend to be so happy when we all return in September.  Because yes, college is great and all but summer is about as close to perfect as we are ever going to get. . . . So get excited. Get out there and enjoy it.  Make sure you take full advantage. Unlike the parties, the bars, the football and the work– if that’s your sort of thing– it won’t be around forever.”

Say Thank You.  As Lexi Thoman, a graduating senior at the University of Mississippi, confirms in The Daily Mississippian, “As students, we are in control of our own futures.  But without the mentorship and guidance of our professors and advisers, most of us would not be as successful as we are today. Sometimes the smallest comment or slightest nudge in the right direction is all it takes to make a huge difference. . . . [N]ever forget to say, ‘Thank you.’  A quick email or stop in their office is all it takes to leave a lasting impression and set you apart from the thousands of other graduates in the Class of 2013. Humility may be a fading art in our generation, but no one should be above giving thanks to those who deserve it.”


Get Off Campus.  As Alexis Paine, a graduating senior at the University of Alabama, notes in The Crimson White, “[G]o out and get involved. You’ll regret sitting at home when all of your friends are reminiscing about all the fun they had meeting new people and experiencing new things. Do what you can to bolster your résumé now. Get some real world experience and find out what your passion is.”

To Be Continued…

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