By Barbara Hewitt
I vividly remember when I was finishing up college that people couldn’t wait to tell me that college was “the best years of your life.” Face it, when else do people have the opportunity to learn just for the sake of it, be surrounded by thousands of individuals close in age, and not have the burden of family obligations and mortgages? I wondered at the time if it would turn out to be true. It was pretty depressing to think that at 22 years old my future had a downhill trajectory.
As it turns out, 21 years after hearing those words, I believe they couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hopefully, as seniors who have spent the last four years at Penn, you have had wonderful experiences and will look back at your time at Penn fondly. I am confident, however, that the best is yet to come for the vast majority of you. Earning a degree from Penn is a huge accomplishment. You have all (well, most of you!) worked hard and grown tremendously during the last four years. You now have the opportunity to go out and apply the things that you have learned at Penn to make real change in the world whether through teaching children, discovering a new scientific breakthrough, or helping a business bring a new product to market. You will move on to different phases of your personal and professional lives, eventually mentoring and managing younger employees, finding life partners, and perhaps raising families of your own. Yes, your lives will change, but simply to something different, not something somehow inferior. Take advantage of the unexpected opportunities that come your way and don’t be afraid to take some risks. Many of the most successful alumni I meet are those who haven’t been afraid to veer off the beaten path.