Top 5 HS Graduation Messages for Class of ’22, ICYMI…

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Over the last two weeks, I’ve attended graduation parties, met with a few seniors about their summer and fall plans, and both attended and spoken at high school graduation ceremonies.

I also know, or have heard from, a few seniors who missed their graduation due to Covid, family obligations, or other commitments.

So, this is for the Class of 2022! Especially those who missed graduation, slept through it, were too hot or scratchy in your cap and gown to focus, were discreetly attempting to solve that day’s NYT Wordle puzzle, or immediately tuned out when the speaker opened a PowerPoint presentation or began with a Chicken Soup for the Soul quote like, “You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.”

As someone who works with lots of high school seniors and first-year college students, here are a few messages I want to be sure you did not miss as you turn the page and start your next chapter.

#1. Congratulations! You did it! I realize some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Well… it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, I always expected to graduate from high school.” But even if it is just momentarily- take it in. We spend too much time and energy in life focusing on what doesn’t go our way, which only serves to bog us down and slow progress. My hope is you’ll be in the practice of celebrating your big and small wins. Now is a good time to start.

So, if you haven’t already, take some time to really reflect on what it took to get here: late nights, hard work, sacrifices, and resilience- particularly navigating most of high school during a pandemic. All of that is going to serve you well in college and beyond.

There is a reason lots of people around you are super proud. Enjoy, embrace, and don’t simply gloss over this milestone achievement.

ICYMI- Congratulations!  

#2. You did not do this alone.

Don’t delete those graduation day pictures (and maybe even frame one for your desk at college). You will want to look back often on the smiling faces of the people who surround you. Parents, guardians, extended family, neighbors, coaches, teachers, and other supporting adults or community members. They also sacrificed, put in hard work, and had tough choices to help you get to this point. Perfect? No. Along the way, I’m sure they made mistakes, second guessed themselves, and have a few regrets. But they love you. They are proud of you. And they are excited to launch you into this next chapter.

This is fist bump, hug, handshake, note- writing season, friends. So, if you have not done all of these things a lot (A LOT) lately, make sure that support system around you knows how invaluable their presence and encouragement has been- and will continue to be.

ICYMI- You did not do this alone.

#3. You ARE ready.

Many students in the summer prior to college, or in their first year on campus, question themselves. Can I do the work? Will I be able to make new friends and re-establish a community away from home? Did someone in the admission office put in the wrong code and accidentally admit me?

If you are reading this blog, I have no doubt you are ready for college. Again, you adapted and demonstrated amazing resilience by handling high school during a global pandemic. Adaptability and resilience are two of the most important characteristics of a successful college student. You got this!

You are up for the social and emotional challenges. You can do the work academically. You have that tremendous support system (see point #2) around you. You are prepared. You are ready for the adventure the next four years will bring.

I’m sincerely hoping your graduation speaker did not say that college is the best four years of your life, because that’s both sad and wrong. They are, however, extremely unique. Freedom, friends, exploration, discovery, and time to enjoy all of that. Amazing! My hope is you will look at this next chapter in that way. Take a class that sounds interesting just because you want to. Learn to unicycle, try an instrument, eat some food you can’t spell or pronounce. Go on a 10- hour road trip to a state you’ve never been in before. Enjoy. Use your skills and talents and all the ways you’ve been equipped to learn and have fun!

ICYMI- You. ARE. Ready!

#4. You ARE NOT Ready.

Don’t get too cocky, my friend. There is no way you can be fully prepared for everything the next few years will throw at you. Some of you will see letters on your first semester transcript (B, C…) that you’ve only seen on an eye chart in the past. You may not make the team or be selected to the organization or club you are hoping for. Big break-ups, failed internships, best-friend betrayals… and that’s just first semester.

Even worse you will inevitably have a night or two when you are scrolling through posts from friends with big smiles, good food, and obnoxious hashtags like #bestdayever or #livingmybestlife.

Everyone. EVERY ONE. EVERYONE has those days and moments. It’s not just you. We all question ourselves, doubt our choices, and wish we could just…

This will happen. And when it does, my hope again is you go back to #2. Keep those graduation pictures close. Reach out to the people who love you and know you the best when you need them the most.

One of the biggest mistakes first-year students make is not reaching out to campus support as quickly as they should. Students languish academically or socially, when all the resources they need are just a building or two over, or a text/phone call away.

You have not made it this far by yourself, and there is no way to enjoy or succeed in college or life beyond with that mentality either. Reaching out for help is a strength not a weakness. Don’t try to do it all by yourself. You don’t need to. It doesn’t work—and it’s no fun anyway.

ICYMI- You ARE NOT ready.

#5. Remember Graduation Day

My hope is you will make an effort to build a college career (and a life in general) that looks a lot like graduation day/season.

  • Put yourself in situations that make you smile, and regularly celebrate your accomplishments.
  • Reflect regularly on what habits, patterns, traits have helped you achieve, enjoy, and thrive
  • Real, honest, authentic friendships are hard to come by. Make an effort to keep up the ones you have established.
  • Congratulate others on their successes and achievements (even when they have more stoles or sashes around their neck than you)
  • Look ahead to the next chapter/week/month with anticipation, confidence, and excitement
  • Surround yourself with people who know you, love you, and support you.

ICYMI- Remember Graduation Day!

Congratulations, Class of 2022! Proud of you.

Author: Rick Clark

Rick Clark is the Executive Director of Strategic Student Access at Georgia Tech. He has served on a number of national advisory and governing boards at the state, regional, and national level. Rick travels annually to U.S. embassies through the Department of State to discuss the admission process and landscape of higher education. He is the co-author of the book The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together, and a companion workbook published under the same title. A native of Atlanta, he earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from Georgia State University. Prior to coming to Tech, Rick was on the admissions staff at Georgia State, The McCallie School and Wake Forest University. @clark2college