The Institute of Style Graduation Speech

May is a fine month to celebrate the academic achievements and hopeful futures of college graduates — but not when the speaker is terrible. No, that leads to the needless and miserable stoppage of time, where one minute feels like a lifetime — a lifetime of melting in the sun as Senator So-and-So drones on endlessly about “reaching for the moon” and “seizing the day” and “changing the world,” etcetera.

RUBBISH!! Clichéd nonsense like that never helped anyone, just as it didn’t at my own college graduation not long ago.

I do not recall the specifics of the speech — other than it lasted 13 hours or so — but I am positive that I did not benefit from it and likely ended up dumber for having heard it. This is why I’m here to drop some truth on you, Mr. and Ms. College Graduates. Some useful, quick tips that will in no way inspire you, but rather will help you. I’m here to give the commencement speech I WISH I’d heard at my graduation. (Oh, the time/money/problems it would have saved!!) You’re welcome.

*      *      *

[grabs the microphone]

I’ll keep this quick, you guys. You have a billion photos to take and parties to go to and nobody really likes these much anyway, so let’s get on with this.

Congratulations, everyone. You are now college graduates. You know what you’re aren’t?? You’re not lounging around the quad any longer, playing hackey sack in your cargo shorts and contemplating life. You’re IN life now. Real life. Time to lose your flip flops and cutoffs and look sharp.

You may be inclined to now go out and buy your own place. DO NOT BUY YOUR OWN PLACE. Rent your own place. Because when you buy it, and then the sewer line or furnace inevitably needs replaced, that’s on YOU. Because as soon as you buy a house, EVERYTHING BREAKS AND/OR NEEDS REPLACING, all at once, at considerable costs — that is a known Truth of the Universe, one of six or so. There’s no shame in letting a landlord pick up those heavy tabs.

Another added perk of renting: no lawn work. Lawn work is a never-ending, spine-murdering annoyance that will plague your weekends in the decades to come. No need to worry about that nonsense right now.

Subscribe to at least one news magazine. A REAL news magazine, with insights and advice and stories you should be reading. “208 Ways to Build a Beer Bong Out of an IKEA Couch” is not one of them (anymore). Your days of hot chick magazines are over … your days of fashion and style magazines have begun. You do not need a thorough understanding of the intricacies of the financial climate in Micronesia, for example. Just the basics of what’s going on in the world, at the very least.

Get a credit card and use it to buy small, everyday things — and only small, everyday things. And then PAY THE BILLS ON TIME, simply to build your credit score. This is crucial. It is boring and dry, yes, but crucial nonetheless. Think of your credit score as your new GPA. The GPA of your life. Nobody told me this, which is why I almost failed out of life in its first semester.

Seriously, do not get a credit card and then promptly go buy a $4,000 television with it, which I may or may not have done. (I did.) Not only is it financially unwise, but then all your friends will be at your place for weeks on end to watch the games or fights or movies — and then you’re the one stuck buying beer/guacamole dip/whatever else and cleaning up their filth. You do not want to have the nicest television in your circle of friends. You want to have the worst.

Whatever your political ideology, do not be obnoxiously rigid about it. And if you cannot help it, then do not talk about it at dinner parties and the like. You will not sway a single person to your side, I promise you. Rather, you will sway them toward hating your smug, ideologue-y face.

Get off regular soft drinks, you guys. If you have to have soda, make it a diet. That’s what grownups do — grownups without diabetes and tooth decay, I mean.

While we’re talking about drinks, find your go-to cocktail. All great LEADERS OF MEN throughout history had their own refined drink they turned to: James Bond’s Martini (shaken, not stirred), Frank Sinatra’s Manhattan, Jeffrey Lebowski’s White Russian and so forth and so on. The common thread there? Nobody chose an Alabama Slammer or a Mudslide or anything dumb like that. In the cruel world of first impressions, what you’re drinking at a cocktail party will define you, if only initially.

Which brings us back full circle, to those first crucial impressions. That is why I cannot stress this enough: look sharp out there, I’m out.

[drops the mic]


Melissa Zabell One year out of college, its funny how true this rings. Prateek Agrawal I had bought a VAN HEUSEN t-shirt .....itzz.... so nice....! Noah Cohen Thanks for this. Utility means something that sentimentality never will. Lauren Mara Redmond I will look back at this in four years and follow each direction thoroughly. Alyssa Black this is great. wish it had been said at my high school grad :P