Academy Class of 2022 Graduation – Prospective of an Alumnus

I had the amazing opportunity to be the alumni speaker at the graduation of the graduation of the Class of 2022 of the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Technologies.



Thank you commissioner Tamaro. Please welcome from the class of 2010 Mr. Jacob Binstein.

Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of your celebration. The majority of you have spent many long hours, and countless sleepless nights, to get yourselves to this momentous occasion. Several of you have skated by, by the seat of your pants, and are honestly just kind of surprised that you’ve made it this far. I know which group I was in. But to both groups, equally, I offer my congratulations.

As previously mentioned, my name is Jake Binstein. I’m a graduate of the Academy, class of 2010. I attended Rutgers University, where I double majored in Information Technology & Informatics, as well as Jewish Studies, and more recently I went to the New Jersey Institute of Technology where I got an MBA. I’m currently a Quality Assurance Engineer at Audible.

I wanted to take this opportunity to provide three pieces of advice that I had to learn the hard way and that I hope will be beneficial to the graduates as they continue along their life journey.

There was a study by Dan Gilbert, a Harvard University professor, called “The End of History Illusion.” The study showed that if you ask a person what they’ll be like in 10 years, they assume that they will not undergo any significant life changes – that they’ll be roughly the same as they are now.

On the other hand if you ask a person to reflect on their life 10 years in the past, they’ll point to all kinds of powerful events that molded their development and affected who they are today.

Interestingly, if you ask the same person first to reflect on their life in the past and then to predict the future, they still think that they won’t change very much,

It’s fairly easy to see how all of our graduates have changed in the last 10 years, because 10 years ago they were eight, and quite a bit shorter. But what I want to tell them is that there’s an opportunity for them to change just as much in the next 10 years – whether that’s in life philosophy, lifestyle, choices, formative experiences, and more. There’s common advice to “just be yourself”, but there should also be an opportunity for you to make room for the “yourself” to change – whether that’s subtly or powerfully.

The second piece of advice is just for the students, so parents, I’m going to need you to cover your ears. And that advice is, it’s okay to fail things. Really. It doesn’t feel good, but you’ll be okay in the end.

I have something to admit to you all, and that is that in my sophomore year of college, I failed calculus 2 for engineers. But I have something else to admit, which is that, other than just, now it’s literally never come up. I thought that my life was basically over – that if I failed this class, I wouldn’t get my degree, I wouldn’t get a job, I wouldn’t get a promotion – and it just wasn’t true. When I got my first job out of college, they asked for my GPA, but they didn’t ask for my transcript. My second job out of college didn’t ask for my transcript. Even when I applied to graduate school and handed over my transcript, nobody ever brought it up. I got in everywhere I applied.

I thought it would ruin my life, and it turns out everything worked out. You think that everyone is so hyper-focused on your flaws, but in fact everyone has their own issues to deal with. You’ll bounce back.

The third piece of advice is again just for students so, parents please cover your ears. Actually, you know what, you should hear this. You can put your hands down now. It’s okay to take time off if you need it. When I graduated from college, I thought that I should enter the working world directly, and it turned out that my life wasn’t going exactly the way that I had envisioned it. So, I took a gap year – I spent the year in Israel working on myself spiritually and religiously, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I heard plenty of advice about how life was like a treadmill and if you step off for just a moment you’ll never be able to catch up, but I came back from that experience renewed and with a refreshed outlook on life. And it turns out that sometimes working straight through a hardship isn’t necessarily the only way. You can take some time off and come back to it later, and you’ll be a better person for it.

That about wraps up my time here. I recognize that I’m one of the very few obstacles between you all and actually graduating, and it’s a little bit of a dangerous place to be, so I’m to get going. But before I do, I want to once again offer you all my congratulations, and say that I sincerely look forward to seeing what you all accomplished in the future.