You learn a lot in college if you focus and apply yourself, but most important is what you learn about how to solve problems, how to persevere under stress and how to continue to do well under difficult circumstances—because you have to, because giving up or giving in isn’t an option. The projects are bigger, the tests are bigger, the stakes are higher and it’s all up to you to take it on and get it done. You’re always working your way through a pile of problems because no one else is going to do it for you. And just to complicate matters there are the multitude of “nonacademic” problems that come with increased independence.
Anybody can make a problem, anybody can have a problem, anybody can grumble and complain about their problems, back off from their problems because they’re stressed, ignore their problems because they’re too big, or blame their problems on someone else, or some condition they suffer from, but not everybody knows how to embrace problems, how to take responsibility for problems, how to solve the problems. You do.
When you get discouraged you don’t get completely dispirited; you manage to shift yourself into another gear we didn’t even know you had. When you get down you find a way to get yourself back up, and when you get it wrong you try again to get it right the next time.
You can break down a massive problem into manageable pieces, set realistic goals for yourself, reflect fairly on your performance and honestly self-evaluate. With humor, with grit and sheer determination, with extraordinary effort and focus, and with tremendous heart, you take it on, you accept responsibility, you don’t offer up excuses or shrink from the magnitude of the task. You make yourself succeed and you keep trying when at first you don’t.
You distinguished yourself in your four years of college as a decorated scholar, but also as a resilient and tenacious problem solver, and that, more than anything you learned in any class, will be indispensable in your future success.
Congratulations on graduating with distinction. I’ve enjoyed every minute of this journey with you.