The Graduation Message Most of Us Need to Hear

“Commencement doesn’t mark an ending, but rather, a new beginning…”
Yada yada yada, blah, blah, blah, godspeed.

It’s that time of year again. The annual momentous, overly commemorated season of graduation; from grad school, college, high school, grade school, kindergarten, pre-k–basically every organization with tests and teachers.

Few of us have or ever will graduate at the top of our class. And thanks to a study from Boston College about high school valedictorians, we don’t have to feel so badly about that.

Education researcher Karen Arnold followed male and female valedictorians from 81 Illinois High Schools. And to no surprise, they are winners. Arnold noted that by and large, valedictorians enjoyed nice careers and felt generally well-adjusted. They proved, by most measures, quite successful.

But they weren’t leaders. They weren’t innovators. They weren’t game changers.

All of which makes intuitive sense. High school’s achievement parameters  are general and conformist. A high school valedictorian must do well in a number of areas against uniform, defined measures. But the real world has no set paths and few defined measures. Achievement post graduation rewards innovation and specialization.

These findings help explain the study that puts the median college GPA for millionaires at 2.9. And if nothing else, they also help the rest of us feel a smidgen better about our non-valedictorian selves. Thanks for that Karen.

Congratulations to anyone and everyone graduating from anywhere on anything.


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