May 3, 2012

Graduation Advice that Mayor Bloomberg Won’t Give You

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Today is Slope Day, and for seniors, Graduation Weekend is right around the corner. In honor of the Class of 2012’s last day of college classes ever (as if you’re actually going to your 10:10 a.m. discussion instead of a pregame), here are some tips on figuring out post-graduation life that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, or any other commencement speaker, will never tell you.

In an essay published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Prof. Charles Wheelan, public policy, University of Chicago, gives departing seniors 10 pieces of advice that he believes are actually useful to 22-year-olds.

Noting that “I became sick of commencement speeches at about your age,” Wheelan says that his first job out of college was as a speechwriter for former Maine Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. Every spring, he says, he found himself giving “saccharine and over-optimistic” advice to students only a few years younger than he. These are a few of the lessons that, he says, he wishes he had been told at his graduation:

Your time in fraternity basements was well spent.

“The same goes for the time you spent playing intramural sports, working on the school newspaper or just hanging with friends. Research tells us that one of the most important causal factors associated with happiness and well-being is your meaningful connections with other human beings. Look around today. Certainly one benchmark of your postgraduation success should be how many of these people are still your close friends in 10 or 20 years.”

Marry someone smarter than you are.

“When I was getting a Ph.D., my wife Leah had a steady income. When she wanted to start a software company, I had a job with health benefits. (To clarify, having a ‘spouse with benefits’ is different from having a ‘friend with benefits.’) You will do better in life if you have a second economic oar in the water. I also want to alert you to the fact that commencement is like shooting smart fish in a barrel. The Phi Beta Kappa members will have pink-and-blue ribbons on their gowns. The summa cum laude graduates have their names printed in the program. Seize the opportunity!”

Your parents don’t want what is best for you.

“They want what is good for you, which isn’t always the same thing. There is a natural instinct to protect our children from risk and discomfort, and therefore to urge safe choices. Theodore Roosevelt — soldier, explorer, president — once remarked, ‘It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.’ Great quote, but I am willing to bet that Teddy’s mother wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2012. Check out Wheelan’s fulll list of 10 lessons for college graduates at

Original Author: David Marten