So Why Is It Called Commencement?

I walked into a local department store this week and was met with a special little section devoted to celebration. Among the party prerequisites were streamers, table decorations, plates, etc. I seem to recall the word ‘Congrats’ visually repeated and reprinted on many of the items.

It seems Graduation Season is upon us.

As I was walking past all that diploma decor, I overheard someone ask the question: “What does ‘commencement’ mean”? I didn’t stick around long enough to hear the other person’s answer, but I tried to think back to when I was that age, and what I thought it meant.

To those of you who are unclear, the word ‘Commencement’ means ‘to begin’. But begin what? Aren’t we celebrating the end at these things? I mean, what have students been doing the last four years if not looking forward to the end; a final culmination of the learning that has taken place?

I submit that it actually is the beginning. The time spent has been preparatory in nature. The type of preparation that is needed to ‘begin’ a life for you (you, not your parents and you). It’s actually important for some of your focus to be on what is ahead, in addition to what has taken place.

In my new book GREEN ABOUT MONEY: A Graduate’s Guide To Personal Finance, I aptly named the first chapter ‘Commencing’. In it, I begin to tell the reader how to start thinking about their personal finances at that important age in life. I can tell you that setting goals during that time is crucial to having success with both money and major life events that lie ahead.

The graduate can oftentimes feel overwhelmed at all the things that are about to begin; new environment, new friends, new daily rituals. It can be stressful for many. However, it is the ability to commence that allows people to benefit from the personal growth process that we all go through in our lives.

So whether you view the celebrations we attend this time of year as a beginning or an end, remember to pick up a pack of ‘Class of 2017’ napkins at your local department store in about 2 weeks (they’re gonna be really cheap).

And, of course, don’t forget to say ‘Congratulations’ to the new graduates out there. They’re about to commence an important time in their lives.

Jeff Tarman is an entrepreneur, investor, and author of GREEN ABOUT MONEY: A Graduate’s Guide To Personal Finance.

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