Congratulations for a job well done! If you find yourself saying, "I could have," cast away the thought. There's a lot you have done – and you have done well.
Move forward; always look through the front windshield, not the rearview mirror. What has happened is in the past – opportunity is in the future. When you are looking back you will miss the opportunities ahead. Grasp the opportunities and see where the paths will lead you!
Pack up your stuff before your family arrives – and save your graded papers!
It's amazing how fast parents can transition from "I am so proud of you" to "I can't believe you haven't packed." When you pack, save your favorite papers that have faculty comments on them – you can use them later to remind professors of your work when you need recommendations for graduate school.
Get ready for the "real world." (You've actually been there before.)
Not so long ago, Tom Brokaw shared the following words of wisdom on the green during Commencement:
You have been hearing all of your life about this moment - your first big step into what you have been called and told is the real world. What, you may be asking yourself this morning, is this real life all about? Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2005 at Dartmouth, it's not college - it's not high school... Real life is junior high.
The world you're about to enter is filled with adolescent pettiness, pubescent rivalries, the insecurities of 13-year-olds and the false bravado of 14-year-olds. Forty years from now, I guarantee it, you'll still be making silly mistakes, you'll have a temper tantrum, you'll have your feelings hurt for some trivial slight, you'll say something dumb and at least once a week you'll wonder, "Will I ever grow up?"
You can change that. In pursuit of passions, always be young. In your relationship with others, always be a grown-up. Set a standard and stay faithful to it.
Take the first step towards your future.
If you don't know what you are doing post-graduation, one of the hardest things about graduating can be leaving Dartmouth without a firm knowledge of what's next. It's okay. Your next step doesn't need to be perfect. You just need to make one. As Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu (604 BC – 531 BC) said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
If you are 22, you have approximately 45 years before you are eligible to collect Social Security. That's a very long time, and in that time it is quite likely that your interests will grow, evolve and change – just as they have at Dartmouth. That's natural and okay. The hill winds will know your name here. There are thousands of Dartmouth alumni standing by to share their experiences with you. We are confident that you will find your way in the world – after all, we too are in awe of much that you have accomplished so far.
Congratulations – and good luck!