These days, a degree seems pretty useless. Everyone has one. Trust me, as an economics major who is going to be waitressing full time and living with good old Mom and Dad (thanks guys!) it’s hard to justify the last four years. Was it really all worth it? All of the stress, networking, and dependency on caffeine? Well yes it was. Because believe it or not, that little piece of paper stands for so much more than a bargaining chip in your next interview.
1. It shows that you are a person who can be trusted to no fuck things up, terribly. Most degrees require an internship, capstone class, and a great deal of group work. A successful degree doesn’t mean that you are an expert in anything, but that you can be trusted to get answers and do it correctly. Think of all the struggles of learning new citation formats, struggling over Microsoft Excel when you had no idea what a spreadsheet even was. Think of the times you took a blind shot in Google Scholar, to find the article of your dreams. Or when you pulled through and carried the group into success (whether or not they deserved it). Your degree is a testament to these skills. Don’t be afraid to remind others of this.
2. There’s so much that goes into a degree that transforms you on an intrinsic level, one that doesn’t go on your resume. You probably had a lot of your firsts in college. Whether it was your first long term relationship, death in the family, one night stand, all night cry session, bad hair dye decision, concert, or the first time you left the country. These events change who we are, make us stronger. Think of the time you stayed up all night with your crying roommate, this made you into a more empathetic person. That time someone held your hair back after one to many? You learned trust and humility. Leaving the country thrilled you in ways you didn’t know existed. These milestones change us; they are manifested in those four (or more) years. How can a piece of paper signify those important changes? It can’t. Treasure these moments. I’m of the opinion that there are few periods in our lives that rival the absolute onslaught of emotions brought on by a college experience.
3. The people standing next to you at graduation: Remember when you went to class the first day? Scared you would never fit in. Most people make lifelong friends in college, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Sure there are those stories of people meeting their friends on the first day, but for most of us, we have to go through a lot of people to find our people. I know that the people standing next to me are a product of my own decisions. Think of the toxic people you removed from your life, because you realized how much your love was really worth. Your friends challenged you, questioned you, asked for advice, called you out, and most importantly loved you. Through everything. We learn how to be fierce friends in college. How to love people at their worst, how to love people when we’re at our worst. To trust them with the ugly secrets. The people by your side are arguably more important than the degree in your hand.
4. Your love of learning. College is a lot of work. You’re a fool if you think it’s not. Even if you do the bare minimum, a lot of love goes into it. Most everyone I know works part time jobs, leads clubs, goes to conferences and maintains a good GPA while they’re at it. It’s so easy to give up. To stop paying thousands of dollars a year to suffer at the hands of cumulative finals. Trust me, I thought about doing it every semester. But your degree shows that you committed to learning. That you got your priorities in order and finished something of value. That’s amazing. You have something that is yours. Something you worked so hard for, and that nobody can take away from you. For the past few years you have committed yourself to your craft. All-nighters, unsaved documents, and caffeine binges played a role in this, but most of all, you did. You did it.
So here’s to us, Seniors. Think about all of the work, experiences and love that went into your degree. When you walk across that stage, and they mispronounce your name, know that this is something truly amazing. Congratulations.