Fare Well Grads
Friends, it is my pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate this very special occasion for the members of this year’s graduating class and their families.
To you, it is clear what we are celebrating today, but for many of us who have been here before, the day demands some measure of reflection to appreciate the true significance of the occasion. You see, the sun is setting on my 16th year at Brentwood and my 15th year as a member of the University Counselling team. In that time, I have watched over 1800 students cross the stage to shake the hand of the Head of School, receive their diploma, and mark the moment that they transformed from Brentwood student to Old Brentonian. I will admit that the frenetic pace at which Brentwood barrels toward the year’s end can sometimes leave me feeling “Not again,” but I snap back quickly and recall that there is something extraordinary about this day, about this moment. For every graduate here, for every parent, for every family member and friend, this is a monumental milestone marking the time when childhood is finally eclipsed by burgeoning adulthood. For the graduates, it is an eruption of excitement as so much that is new and different and adventurous awaits. For parents, it is chaotic emotional mix of pride and joy, peppered with hints of sadness at the thought of letting go of your babies. For me and my colleagues, it is curious mix of relief and appreciation … for it is an incredible thing that we asked of you all one, two, three or four years ago: we asked for your faith … to have faith in us to shepherd these children on the extraordinary journey that is Brentwood. Thankfully, we all can take tremendous solace that they have come out on the other end of that journey as joyful, curious, and engaging individuals, all of whom have enriched this community for having been on board. It is not a small thing to have reached this place in time. Indeed, it is a culmination of extraordinary efforts and energy, of time and resource, of laughter and tears, or grit and joy. It is a moment of revelry, it is a moment to give thanks.
But ... to whom do we owe thanks? I owe thanks to these graduates for making our year in University Counselling one that was ... never dull. They kept the days interesting and the next never like that last. They gave my team in reason to smile, reason to laugh, and reason to pull our hair out on a regular basis. And thus, these graduates owe thanks to that team, as do I, for the Herculean task of offering guidance through the myriad stages and tasks of university admissions.
We thank Gerri Wiens, who handled our office’s administrative tasks behind the scenes. We thank Timothy Zenker, our US College Consultant who served our US-bound seniors as well as ever, even in the face of his own health challenges. We thank Jim Kingstone who so ably swooped in to cover for Jess Beausoleil and her maternity leave, offering calm counsel to those with whom he met. We thank Kate Coull - a woman who has happily and gracefully offered her all to ensuring these graduates were exceptionally well cared for - for her selfless devotion to our students. I continue to be blessed, as have these graduates, to be surrounded by a team that exudes such passion for our students, and I am deeply grateful. Thank you Gerri, Tim, Jim, and Kate … many thanks indeed.
Now to the fruits of the labours of these graduates. Just how did they fair in the maelstrom that is post-secondary admissions?
Well over 700 applications were submitted to just shy of 150 schools around the world, yielding just over 550 offers of admission - a success rate of 76%. Those offers originated from 111 different institutions in 11 different countries, and were accompanied with nearly $1.5 million in scholarship awards, both merit and athletic. As dizzying as any of those data points might be, the one true metric that matters most in our office is this: 86% of these graduates received an offer of admission from their first choice school. That means something very exciting: We got an A!
With virtually all plans in place, these graduates - save the 12 that will be taking Gap years for work, travel and volunteering - will soon be attending 48 different institutions in 5 Canadian provinces, 9 US states, and 10 different countries. 81% of them will attend a school in Canada, another 11% in the United States, with the remaining going to England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, France, Italy, Thailand, and the Netherlands. Their most popular destinations include the usual suspects; in ranked order, they are: University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, Queen’s, McGill, and Alberta.
While their campus choices this year have tended a bit more “close to home” than usual, it is in the selections of their fields of study that this graduating class distinguishes itself as compared to those of recent years. 40% of them - an unsurprising number - will enter the arts, humanities and social sciences. Yet we have seen impressive growth in key areas: solidly 1 in 3 of them will enter studies in the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and math; and just under 1 in 5 of them have committed to studies in business. The rest will proudly tackle medicine, nursing, education and the fine arts.
Bold plans and bold ambitions, to be sure!
Yet, there are some who would argue that perhaps those plans and ambitions are TOO bold.
You see, not a week goes by that I do not see a slew of articles and opinion pieces lauding the value of higher education, dismissing higher education as a waste of time and money, and everything in between. Of placing more importance in the STEM fields, or in humanities, or in liberal arts, or in entrepreneurship, or in the trades, or in none of the above. It is no wonder that the thought of planning for one’s future can cause such anxiety and paralysis in young people …
My best advice to these graduates and to all of you: IGNORE THE NOISE. Because no matter the prevailing winds of opinion and spin, there is absolutely no solid argument against the inherent value of education. Graduates, you must ensure one thing above all else once you have left Brentwood’s shores: THAT YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING. The challenges of this world will not be overcome by one field of study or another, or simply the most innovative or entrepreneurial or thoughtful or imaginative. Rather, it will be the collective efforts of many, leveraging the multiple talents and skills of all, that will yield results and overcome those challenges. Thus, it is incumbent on you to view the next step in your education as not the final chapter, but simply another in what will inevitably be a very long story.
Review any list of the “hottest” jobs in the market these days and you will notice something peculiar: the majority of them did not exist when these graduates started their first day of kindergarten. How does one prepare for a career when the world of work is so tumultuous and in flux? The answer is actually simple: you prepare for it all by LEARNING HOW TO LEARN … Graduates, your Brentwood education was never about the subjects you took, the tests you wrote, the assignments you submitted … it was always about ensuring that you were given the tools to nimbly and effectively transition into any new learning environment, equipped with the ability to think critically, to analyze, to communicate, and to collaborate. Wherever you go from here, you will be challenged to hone those skills further and more quickly. It will not be easy, but the most successful amongst you will be those who learn best how to manage your time and energy, communicate effectively, work productively with others, and respond thoughtfully to failure. Graduates, if you view the next stage of your journey as transactional, as simply something to complete, you will miss the point of the effort and, indeed, you are likely not to get it done. If, however, you see it as the opportunity to enrich your minds, to enrich your souls, to deepen your skills… then you will enjoy an unquantifiable return on investment. It will not be easy, it will not be a smooth or straight road, and it will most certainly not be handed to you … But what in life worth having is all of that?
Know this, Graduates: your futures are not written, and no one can write your stories but yourselves. But the ink with which you pen those stories will be drawn from all that you learn, each and every day. Keep your minds open, keep your hearts open. Fill yourself with new knowledge and new understanding each and every day. Do all that, and you’ll have a hell of an incredible journey through life.
Well, someone far wiser than me said of journeys that even the longest of them starts with a single step. Graduates, your journey starts with the steps you take onto this stage, then those you take off of it as Old Brentonians. It is time to take those steps …
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me immense pleasure to introduce to you the members of Brentwood College School’s Graduating Class of 2018.
Mr Rick Rodrigues, Director of University Counselling