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Surviving Commencement Week

By Christopher Schonberger

Class of 2008, congratulations! Some of you have already shipped off and, most likely, entered a vaguely vegetative state that will last until early July. For the rest of you, the end of the road is nigh—three to eight years of intellectual discovery, “hard work,” and late nights of various types will soon culminate in one momentous ceremony. You’ve probably already begun winding down into “I’m basically done” mode. But while the final round of tests and papers is almost out of the way, one more major obstacle stands between you and that diploma: commencement week.

Thankfully, this final challenge is considerably less irksome than an Econ exam, and it involves even more drinking. That said, it shouldn’t be taken lightly—the two weeks leading up to graduation have broken the backs of even the hardiest coeds, and unfortunately there are no do-overs. Having been through the surreal experience of commencement season ourselves, I've compiled some quick tips for making it out with your head held high and your dignity somewhat intact.

Pace Yourself

Commencement season is a pretty all-out affair, and the endless parade of parties, farewell dinners, champagne brunches, and trips to Six Flags can be pretty tiring. It’s advisable not to sprint out the gates with a 48-hour bender after the last day of classes—needless to say, the ensuing days of sickness and self-hatred will not foster the ideal mood for meaningful goodbyes and extended fun. Bear in mind there will probably be meals with parents, grandparents, and your best friends’ parents/grandparents thrown into the mix, so you may have to carefully manage the moments when coherency is necessary.

Prepare for the Inevitable

Even if “thinking ahead” wasn’t your M.O. in class, don’t slip on taking some simple measures to help calm the end-of-college storm. First and foremost, take care of your body. Drink water and eat as if you are training for the Beijing Olympics, because you will need all the energy you can get. Secondly, pack early and make sure you’ve made all the necessary move-out arrangements in advance. Nothing “spoils the moment” like scrambling around in your cap and gown trying to find out if any neighboring towns still have U-Hauls available.

Don’t Burn Bridges

Now is not the time to destroy the good name you spent four years building. Resist the urge to send out an “anonymous” email from the science center ripping into your professors, because those blokes in computer services will track you down. The desire to go out in a ball of flames lurks somewhere within all of us, but acting on it would not be a good look. Instead, take the time to say farewell to any professors you were close to, because you never know when you’re going to need that grad school recommendation. If you’ve still got beef with anyone, just let bygones be bygones and celebrate the fact that you’ll probably never have to see them again.

Peak at the Perfect Time

Pacing is not only important in terms of the last two weeks, but also in the global sense. Remember those dudes who showed up freshman year and impressed everyone with their high school football stories, beer-drinking prowess, and ostensibly carefree ‘tudes? Well, come commencement time they’re notable by their absence. People like an underdog, so ideally you’ve achieved the perfect balance of humility and intrigue that will finally be revealed in the final hours of college. Suddenly, everyone will say, “Wow, I never really realized what SICK college career you put together.” If you are poised for such a moment, we must grant you beaucoup props—it’s the most difficult achievement in all of college.

Don’t Worry About the “Future” (Yet)

If you don’t have a job yet and your only firm plans for post-college life are moving back into your childhood bedroom and watching all five seasons of The Wire, don’t freak out like some kind of maniac. You’re going to need a little R&R anyway. Once you’ve had a chance to get your feet underneath you again, come visit us at Gradspot.com for all the tips and tricks you’ll need to thrive in life after college.

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