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Friday, April 19, 2013

Preparing Grads for the Next Step

Written by Kyle Slagley

When I graduated from high school, I remember being thrilled at the prospect of finally being done, getting to go to a university that I’d had my heart set on for a long time, and of course getting out from under Mom and Dad in the process. I also remember being very nervous about all those things.

When I graduated college, there wasn’t nearly as much excitement and a lot more anxiety. The idea that I now had to completely put on my big-boy pants and fend for myself was overwhelming, despite the fact that I’d been preparing for it – theoretically, at least – for years.

Graduation can be a very bittersweet time for both the graduates and the parents, but the right words can be incredibly empowering. Every year during graduation season, I post the YouTube video of Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth commencement address on my Facebook page. I wholeheartedly believe that if someone were to make a ‘graduation speaker all-stars’ video, this one would be at the top. It’s 25 minutes long, but I promise you, it will probably be the most worthwhile 25 minutes you spend on YouTube all year.

A couple years after I graduated, I came across the book Mastering the Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success. This book is great for anyone, but in particular for graduates. The seven decisions are really very basic ones, but the book explains them in a way that isn’t quite so ‘self-help’ and more like a reminder. It is a sequel to the book The Traveler’s Gift, which reads like a story. These titles also make for great book club selections right around graduation time.

When it comes to storytelling, nobody can wordsmith a life lesson quite like Dr. Seuss. Whether he’s telling you to be ecologically responsible, be tolerant and respectful of other cultures, or that “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” when Seuss speaks, we listen. Oh the Places You’ll Go, one of the most popular graduation books of all time, is even more fantastic when narrated by John Lithgow.

Teachers and speakers are sometimes asked to consider their own deaths and give a lesson based on what they’ve concluded – commonly referred to as ‘last lectures.’ The book The Last Lecture has gained quite a bit of notoriety in recent years. When Professor Randy Pausch was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he went on to give what may be the most famous final lecture ever written down. It has nothing to do with cancer, but it does teach the reader to value every minute. This title will be around for generations, and don’t forget to check out the DVD of the lecture as well.

Finally, for a more humourous take on the entire situation, The Worst-Case Survival Handbook is an absolute gem. You never know when you might encounter quicksand, rabid wolves, or the need to deliver a baby in the back of a cab whilst at college. For the truly prepared, also check out the versions specific to Dating & Sex, Travel, and for college grads – Work.

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