During Washington University's 2013 convocation address, Richard Smith advised the class of 2017 to slow down, explore options, and think beyond the major. For more thoughts from Smith on this subject, see Issues in Higher Education.
"In having been admitted to Washington University a door has been opened, but a door to what? Too often today what we hear about college is only the extent to which it opens a door to a job. And that your major, or even the entire institution, should be judged by the salary of that job. Or perhaps it is a door to your next degree, which then leads to a job.
But if you think of it that way you will construct your time here as one of earning a credential. That credential may help you get a job or get into a graduate or professional school, but it will not help you keep the job or to do well in graduate school. To do that what you will need to focus on is that the door has been opened for you to get an education.
An education is hard to define and impossible to quantify. It becomes part of the fabric of your personality and style. Part of your essence. And I assure you, and I certainly mean no offense - you don't have it yet. But you can get it here. Or not. It's going to be up to you."
Richard Smith, the Ralph E. Morrow Distinguished University Professor, will complete his tenure as dean of the Graduate School in July 2014, after six years of service.