To A Student At Graduation Time: An Open Letter From The University Chaplain

Photo Courtesy of Hagerstown Community College

Photo Courtesy of Hagerstown Community College

Dear Student,

You are leaving this place for new adventures and new responsibilities. Some of that is exciting and some of it is scary. Some of it is just unknown.

But you can be certain of one thing. The relationships that have been so meaningful for you while you have been here are about to change radically. 

If you are graduating you have already started to think about this. I’ve heard you reflecting on what this university has done to open doors of opportunity for you. I’ve heard you talk about the friends that you’ve made and the late night movies and the 2 hour lunches. Graduating students understand that things are about to change a lot.

But I think that returning students rarely take the time to realize that most of your relationships are about to change significantly as well. Maybe you are changing majors or changing roommates or just changing schedules, but you may never have the depth of relationship with these friends in the way that you do now.

Things happen. It doesn’t mean the friendship wasn’t real and important. Things just change from year to year and from season to season of your life. Today you may be thinking, “nothing will change with her, we will still be the same.”
“I’ll still see her every day.”
“I’ll still have classes with him.”
And you may be right. It may not change. But sometimes even the ones that look like they will be the same will never be the same.

There are two really natural responses to changes like this. The first response is grief. It’s just sad. That is how I feel this time every year as some of my favorite students graduate and leave the university. I’ll have to grieve again in about two weeks when another group of students will leave here and the relationships that used to depend upon daily lunches will depend upon daily status updates.

Its appropriate for you to grieve the loss of relationships that comes with graduating or moving on from how it’s been this year. In most cases, the relationship will continue in some new form. You can still grieve what is lost, even while there is something ahead.

I expect that you understand the grief part. Even while you are celebrating graduation, no one has to remind you to be sad about what you are losing. That comes natural.But there is something that you might miss if you aren’t careful. Whether you are graduating or whether relationships are just changing before you return next year, this is a time for gratitude.

Think about all the ways that the people around you have enriched your life this year. Maybe you have felt real acceptance for the first time. Maybe you have laughed harder than you ever have. Maybe you have had friends stand by you in some of the most difficult struggles of your life.

When you have experienced that kind of beauty, the most important thing that you can do is give thanks to God. It’s the most basic kind of prayer that we can offer…a prayer of gratitude for what God has given. It’s the very first prayer that we taught our son when he was 2 years old: “Thank you for this day. Thank you for this food. Thank you for each other.”

Today is the day to thank God for the people that he has put in your life this year. If you are graduating it is a day to thank God for four years worth of friends. The most important thing that you can do during this graduation season is simple: Whether you think these relationships are going to change or whether you plan on things to go on just as they have, today is a time to prayer together, to thank God for your time together, and consider the great gift that your friends have been to you this year.

So take some time today to gather with those special friends and pray…thanking God for their friendship. If you are graduating, this may also be a time to go back to some of those old friendships that have changed over the years and thank God for the time that you had.  And don’t forget to hug each other a lot.

Grace and Peace,


Still wondering what you are going to do with your life? Check out my series on Exploring God’s Call on your life.

Related Post: To A New College Freshman: An Open Letter From the Chaplain




  1. Betty Matthews says

    Leaving a school, leaving a job, leaving your family – they all share this grieving/thanksgiving opportunity. Don’t shortchange either challenge! It’s worth it! And it helps you grow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s