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College Commencement Speeches Offer Lessons for High School Grads

Graduating high school seniors are about to enter a new stage in life that can be both exciting and terrifying. During this transition, students should remember that they are capable of accomplishing amazing things as a result of the solid foundation they received in high school. They also might find inspiration in advice given by other incredible people who have walked the path before. Each year during graduation season, a selection of the planet’s most inspiring people – from technology giants to comedians, authors to political leaders – share words of wisdom with graduating students. While these speeches are often delivered at college graduation ceremonies, this sage advice is just as relevant to high school seniors beginning their next chapter. As you embark on your next level of education and personal growth, think about the words of these leaders and public figures. In 2005, Steve Jobs told Stanford University graduates that "You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma – whatever." Even if you feel lost when you arrive on your college campus, be it because you are undecided on a major or far from home, trust your instincts. It is often those "gut" decisions that can open up possibilities you never realized existed. Discover your interests by taking unfamiliar courses or supporting a campus awareness project in order to try out different roles. Your college journey will help you gain new skills and knowledge that will serve you throughout the rest of your life. At his alma mater, Northwestern University, Stephen Colbert told the class of 2011 that while they've been told to follow their dreams, "whatever your dream is right now, if you don't achieve it, you haven't failed and you're not some loser." He also pointed out that achieving your dreams doesn't make you a winner. "Instead, try to love others and serve others," he told graduates. Stay open to developing new friendships and new experiences. Consider volunteering, joining study groups or studying abroad. Ultimately, your college experience will amount to how you treat each day and the people you encounter. Toni Morrison's 2004 speech to the women of Wellesley College reminded students that they are unique and can choose the tone of their own stories. "Although you don't have complete control over the narrative – no author does, I can tell you – you could nevertheless create it." ​ College is an opportunity to redefine yourself. If you were an athlete in high school, but were ​​really interested in theater, try out for a campus play. If a class is challenging, work with your professor or a tutor to get back on track. Remember that you are in control. You are the only person who can tell the world who you are trying to be – embrace it. Throughout college, you will require help, and that is OK. Take the time to help your classmates and friends when they need it of you, as well.You do not have to accomplish what others might consider grandiose. Instead, strive to pay attention to the needs of those around you. So, high school students – never forget where you come from, the people from whom you have learned or the lessons you have been taught. Be yourself, make mistakes and be grateful for what you have at the end of each day.

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