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5 Things No One Tells You about Graduating College

Updated on March 19, 2013
YAY!  I owe $20,000 in student loans and have NO CLUE how I am going to pay them back.
YAY! I owe $20,000 in student loans and have NO CLUE how I am going to pay them back.

I graduated from FSU with a degree in Art History (go ahead and giggle...I'll wait...) a year ago and am still working in the same field. The point being, I am no expert on moving into the "real" work force after college. This article was inspired by numerous discussions over cheap beer with friends who also recently graduated from college. Turns out, I am not the only one who felt a little let down after graduating. It is supposed to be life altering, an epiphany, the last step before true adulthood, right? I am not telling you to skip college, or telling you that graduating doesn't make you proud of yourself. But after spending nearly a decade on my post high school education, I felt a little bit let down. In fact, I can easily say that graduating from college was one of the most anti-climatic experiences of my life. It seemed so darn important to graduate! Then...what? Turns out there is a few things no one really tells you about graduating college....

5. Student Loans? They ACTUALLY Want That Money Back

Alright, so anyone who made it through college knows that loans are just that. They have to be paid back. But nothing quite prepares you for that letter in the mail. It usually reads something like this:

"Dear Danielle,

We here at ABC student loans would like to congratulate you on your recent college graduation. Oh, and by the way all that money that you used to travel to Amsterdam and get drunk five nights a week....yea.....we're gonna need that back now. Just go ahead and send us $200 a month for the next ten years. If not, we are going to garnish your meager wages to the point where you will still be living off ramen noodles when you turn thirty-five. Good talking to you!


ABC Student Loans"

I m in there somewhere....
I m in there somewhere....

4. There is No Magic Job Fairy

Logically, I knew that no one was going to come pounding down my door to offer me my dream job. Turns out, I still don't know what my dream job is. But as a college graduate I did have some sort of delusion that I would get a real job after college. Somehow. I mean, I have a college degree, right? Yeah....about that. So does everyone else. Congratulations, you are just about as employable as a high school graduate in 1980! Turns out you actually need to do things in college so you can meet people to help you get a job after you graduate. Real people, like ones who already have good jobs and can help get you in. (That means talking to other college students in a bar doesn't count...sorry)

3. After Spending (At Least!) Four Years Studying, You Will Likely Not Work in the Field You Got A Degree In.

I spent ten years getting a degree in Art History. Everyone asks "Well what are you going to do with that, work in a museum?" Yeah...funny story about that. I don't actually like museums. Don't get me wrong I am okay with going to museums. Being able to see works that I studied in classrooms for years is pretty freaking cool. (Oddly enough, they look exactly the same as they did in the book.)

However, working in a museum sounds soul crushingly boring to me. Mostly because I know I will not be working on the cool stuff. Instead of setting up new exhibits or restoring newly discovered works of art that the art history world has yet to see, I will be stuck in some dusty back room filing or some other equally meaningless task.

A lot of my recently graduated friends are not working in the field they studied in. I have one friend who graduated with a very high GPA in biology and currently works at the front desk in a clinic making less than she did in college. Another friend spent years getting an education degree then discovered that she didn't like teaching. She is now a manager in a retail store. One of my closest friends got a degree in international affairs and is now a police officer. 27 is the new 17, and none of us really know what we want to do, even after spending over $25,000 to figure it out.

2. Very Little You Learn In College Prepares You For the Workforce

I paid my way through college, and I am going to go ahead and assume you know how to pay bills even if mommy and daddy paid your bills for you. Companies send you a letter saying "Hey, give us money." and you send them a check. Pretty simple. But all the other stuff you learned in college? No matter how you spin it for your resume, you are still very under qualified. And employers know this. Here are a few examples of what you put on your resume versus what prospective employers read.

What you write: Able to prioritize tasks and function in high stress situations.

What they read: This one year I had a final at 3pm on St. Paddy's day. I managed to stay just sober enough to take my exam before dashing back to the bar to finish playing my round in beer pong to win the game.

What you write: Able to multitask and complete tasks on a deadline.

What they read: I used to finish my papers the night before they were due, while sitting at my local pub drinking micobrewed beer and trying to pick up chicks.

What you write: Highly motivated.

What they read: My folks cut me off and I still need beer money.

What you write: Able to communicate with superiors and ask for clarification of tasks when needed.

What they read: My college adviser told me to write that. It sounds good, right?

About to lose my $20,000 hat..careful!
About to lose my $20,000 hat..careful!

1. You Still Have No Clue What You Want To Do With Your Life

This, in a nutshell, is what no one tells you about going to college. Most people go to college to get a better job or because they are supposed to. The reality is you may have just spent anywhere from four to twelve years studying a subject and still have no real clue where your life is headed.

College is an amazing experience, and I am by no means trying to convince people not to go to college. I just spent so long focusing on the goal of going to college that it didn't hit me until after graduation (and after I was rejected from graduate school) that I still have no freaking clue what I want to do with my life. I do know I don't want to be locked into a 9 to 5 job. (I am young and single, I will be idealistic if I wanna!)

You know what I don't know? I don't know which path my life will take, and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. And I am ok with that.


I decided to update this hub as I am now nearly four years post-graduation. I finally found one of those "real" jobs that every one has been talking about. I have (really crappy) benefits and something called a 401K that is supposed to pay for my applesauce when I' m old. Today, I am making less money than I did bartending in college and still owe more than the cost of a nice car in student loans. But don't worry, I am busy climbing the corporate ladder and should be rich right about the time I die. It'll totally work out.


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    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      "Turns out you actually need to do things in college so you can meet people to help you get a job after you graduate. Real people, like ones who already have good jobs and can help get you in. " Absolutely!

      Here is an article I wrote about how to succeed in college:

      It may be late for you, but perhaps you can still get some benefit from it.

      P.S. - about your 401k - you can deduct as much as 15% without missing it, and it may very well make you rich. Educate yourself about money! Here's a link to another article I wrote, under my pen name Ana Kolomeka:

    • profile image

      greeneyedblondie 2 years ago

      Yes, this is what I've been telling people. Every job practicall required a college degree it's worthless. You have all of these people with BA's and BS's, more or less, with student loans to pay off and jobs are like, "We all have a BA, why does it matter that you have one?"

      My mom as an Associates Degree in computers and technology. The only thing that did was land her at a desk job answering stupid computer questions.

      My sister has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. Totally worthless. She says that the government has so many regulations on research that she doesn't have to be in the psychology field.

      My brother has a Bachelor's Degree in History. He works at a clothing store folding laundry all day. It didn't help them, why will it help everyone else?

      If you watch Undercover Boss there are CEO's that never went to college or got a college degree. Some of them got a degree in something like Russian Literature. They still got a job that had nothing to do with Russia. :)

    • profile image

      Jacob 4 years ago

      I just graduated a month ago. my degree is in History. I loved my time in school, I learned so much, and focused on my education. I learned not just a bunch of facts, i learned how to think. I applied that skill, that VERY marketable skill to get a job. I sell medical supplies. I started 2 weeks ago, and my salary is nearly $200K. college is not for getting a job. if that is your reason, then get out, because you will end up depressed. if you pursue an education, however, in the pure sense, then you gain significant skills, and can market those skills very easily. the degree to get a job method, as ive seen, leaves people simply miserable.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 4 years ago from United States

      9,000 people just graduated between 4 collages here. Sadly there are very few jobs where I live. Every week there is another story in the news about this company or that closing down or "trimming" their work force. Something that many of those 9,000 did not know is that they will have to move to get a job. Hopefully things get better, but for now that is just the way it is.

    • profile image

      jellybeancounter 4 years ago

      RE: Having to pay back student loans and not being able to avoid them in bankruptcy.

      Not true. Bush admin passed the Department of Education's income-based student loan repayment (IBR) program in 2007 which was expanded by Obama recently.

      Apply for this, and your federal loan payments will be capped at 10-15% of income. After 20-25 years, the remaining balance is forgiven.

      Not enough people know about this and debt is crushing grads. Get it and tell your friends.

    • wooleywriter profile image

      Katarina Radford 4 years ago from Southern United States

      Thanks for the hub. I think #2 is the most important point. I have never had a job that I didn't learn how to do with on the job training. After college, you rarely use what you have learned.

    • profile image

      Ruth Pieterse 5 years ago

      I only discovered what I wanted to do when I was 42. So it's never too late - just don't stop looking.

    • Drstabile profile image

      Drstabile 5 years ago

      English major here; I feel your pain!

    • Raven Hubbard profile image

      Raven Hubbard 5 years ago from USA

      I share your pain, Graduated last year with a BS in Criminal Justice figuring you're always gonna need cops I'll make a great cop, be able to drive fast and shoot guns and have a free pair of handcuffs, then I hurt my knee, and found out I had thyroid cancer and I'm now a security guard at the hospital. This is not how my life was suppose to be after college. I still think the degree is worth it, it's just things don't happen quite the way we plan do they.

    • profile image

      ElleBee 5 years ago

      I've been out of college for three years, and all of these lessons continue to slap me in the face on a regular basis! All so true, I'm glad you can take an honest, humorous look at the situation.

    • profile image

      carozy 6 years ago

      Great hub, helpful, honest, and funny!

    • mr-burns profile image

      mr-burns 6 years ago

      Sadly this is reality. You are completely right. Thanks

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      Very true Jmartin, graduates looking for experience often fall into the "intern trap". I have never understood how it would be feasible for anyone to work for free. I suppose I would understand a few hours a week, but most of these internships require full time hours! It is def. a mess!!

    • jmartin1344 profile image

      jmartin1344 6 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

      Just graduated and this hub definitely speaks the truth ha! What I would add is that the most frustrating thing is that even after getting a degree and good grades, your resume is useless because you lack "2 years of work experience in 'x' area". But how do you get the experience while you are a full time student, and how do you get the experience if you need experience to get the experience???! What a mess.....

      Great hub!

    • JSParker profile image

      JSParker 6 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Things are different now than when I graduated (1970)! I immediately got a job as a high school English teacher which matched my educational plans. However, I only taught one year, and since then I've had 10 different jobs in 4 completely different fields, answering for myself, at least, the question, "What can I do with an English degree?"

      In those days, I never even heard of a student loan. My parents paid my first year, then I worked for the last 3 years of college.

      Good luck to you!! I still believe your degree will help you in the long term. I suspect you'll be amazed looking back 40 years from now.

      Best wishes.

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 6 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      Funny and accurate! My college days happened decades ago, but I still remember the huge relief of FINALLY paying off the loans! Good luck as your future unfolds before you!

    • rmichaelf profile image

      Michael Fielder 6 years ago from North Central West Virginia, where the green grass grows...

      The thing about history repeating itself? Something else never acted on. It has been 45 plus years since my "graduation" and I felt this same way then, and remember reading this same hub in a magazine article. Three generations? And still the same quandary plaguing twenty somethings the only real difference is the amount of debt it takes to arrive at the same destination.

      It seems if it wasn't, it has simply become a condition of being human. If it wasn't, it seems it has simply always been a condition of society (whichever society you were born into or raised.)

      Or, it is quite a statement on intelligence of the human race. We, as a society, have never acted with much, if any, forethought. We have always suffered a firm lack of belief in our ability to create the ideal version of a future we always seem to write about and we can complain about blaming it on some situation or circumstance out of our control.

      Fear not recent graduates. If you are not careful, you are already all that you can be. Want to know where you might be in five years, look around at your friends a piece of wisdom given to me four or five years ago by a 21 year old friend and as far as she and I go, that piece of wisdom holds true...

      Good Luck,


    • Karen Banes profile image

      Karen Banes 6 years ago from Canada

      LOLing at the hub, but not at one of the comments. Educational debt is never forgiven, even in a bankruptcy. Is that true? I had no idea!

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I also graduated, as an older adult, in Art - 2 Dimensional. Well, I am still working at a desk, but I really love coming home to my oil painting, watercolor or pastels. It is when I really live! I have actually sold a few of my paintings, but the joy I receive from making art is worth more than any one could pay. Hope you enjoy what you are doing - you could be an art curator at a museum - don't close the doors, just yet. Best wishes.

    • profile image

      RobertsReports247 6 years ago from Long Island, New York


      This is my life in a nutshell...I am two classes away from graduating with a bachelors in business administration, although very much broader than your major, I am having a similar experience. Another thing that no one tells you is that even though you have a degree that almost 80% of employers will only hire people with 3 to 5 years experience in that field. How can you get experience when no one wants to hire you because you're inexperienced? They say internships are suppose to take care of this but how can we pay for college if we are working for free or "stipends"? So what we end up doing is the same thing we went to school not to do...I did gain some valuable information but I'm having the hardest time applying it to anything. It's a no win situation.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      This is such an unfortunate but realistic state of affairs today, especially in this uncertain economy. I have seen lots of young teachers experience the exact same thing that you are talking about. Either they don't like teaching once they get into it or they can't find a job. It is really disheartening to see so many people feeling stuck. Good luck on your career endeavors and your nomination!

    • angemac23 profile image

      angemac23 6 years ago from Canada

      So true! THanks for the tips!

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks! I hadn't seen the email yet. Thanks so much!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I finished a College degree in Dentistry and then after two years of working, I decided to quit! You can just imagine the horror I have given to my parents for that decision. This made me realized how important it is to help students find what they want in life. Thanks for this hub!

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Check your email for the notification! Enjoy.. :)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I know exactly what you mean. I majored in Psychology and Minored in English. Only now with online writing am I working with my English degree. To work in Psychology I would need more than a BA and I studied Psychology to compliment my writing. For the last seven years before he became semi-retired, I was Dad's bookkeper. Yes. Nothing to do with my degree. Not what I enjoyed doing. But practical. I ampartners with Mom in selling her artwork. that is related to my degree as advertising is a major part of the business. But that has been in recent years too. I graduated in 1999. Go figure.

      Congratulations on your nomination

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      SO TRUE!! SOOO TRUE!! Though I am one of the rare cases... I got a job in my field right after graduating, and I knew what I wanted to do. I don't know how that happened @_@

    • .josh. profile image

      .josh. 6 years ago

      Absolutely, Danielle. At least you've got the tips!

    • Matt in Jax profile image

      Matt in Jax 6 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

      Useful and pretty funny. All pretty true in my own life as well.

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      @josh I guess I should be happy I am at least a bartender!!

    • .josh. profile image

      .josh. 6 years ago

      @Lilith: though if it allows us to see other parts of the world, I'm all for it. Sounds like you've got a pretty solid plan, and who knows - maybe all will be well once you've completed your time over there.

      @CW: It's absolutely a part of life for most of us these days, but I think the problem lies with those who have an undergraduate degree, piles of student debt, and are still working at a restaurant as a dishwasher.

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      Very true Cwanamaker. I mean you KNOW you will have to pay the money back, but at that age (with everyone telling you it is worth it) you just don't understand how much money it really is!

    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 6 years ago from Arizona

      The funny thing about student loans is that it reduces your expendable income significantly for at least 10 years after graduating One of my friends had so much debt after graduating that his little bother has more monthly spending money than him. The really sad part is that the brother works at a restaurant as a cook/dishwasher.

      Don't worry though, he realizes that his degree will reap its benefits for the rest of his life. His overall income in the end will be far more than the average persons. Debt is just something that people don't tell you about (and you don't really think about) when you go to college.

    • Lilith Eden profile image

      Lilith Eden 6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      That sounds like an unreal experience, Josh. I've had my eye on overseas as well, but more in the direction of Europe. As a native German speaker, teaching at an American Military School wouldn't be an impossibility for me, and sounds far better than suffering in this economy any longer. It's a pity that all of us educated in the "land of opportunity" are now trying to escape it in order to make something of ourselves.


    • .josh. profile image

      .josh. 6 years ago

      I was in a similar boat, so I came to Australia and got my Masters (in teaching). Perhaps a little more expensive than other avenues, but it allowed me to go on a bit of an adventure, and I am at the top possible pay grade when I return home.

    • Lilith Eden profile image

      Lilith Eden 6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      I am looking towards that same path myself and am studying for the PRAXIS exam as we speak. Good luck to you in getting your certification!


    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      It is pretty common Lilith. I am not sure where you live, but I am actually working on my teaching certification to teach k-12 humanities. Here in Florida it is really easy to get a temporary certification, then you look for a job and have three years to finish up your education courses while you teach (Which I think the school system helps you pay for). You might look into that.

    • Lilith Eden profile image

      Lilith Eden 6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      It's an epidemic, isn't it?

      I graduated a little over two months ago and have been incessantly pounding my face against the dry wall ever since thinking, "Oh, how clever of me to have gone to school for five years to attain degrees in Anthropology and History. Now i'm under-qualified to teach, over-qualified for flipping burgers, and completely uncertain as to what the hell I will do with my life".

      I'm sorry that the same has happened to you. Just know that you are not alone; we can cherish our worthless degrees together, and with some form of pride.


    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks josh!

    • Health Talk profile image

      Health Talk 6 years ago from World

      yeah, i do feel what i am doing, that crazy college men making money and i am doing sort of duh. Sometime why these people want degree, only high school not enough.

    • .josh. profile image

      .josh. 6 years ago

      "27 is the new 17..."

      Love it. So true.

      Great hub!

    • Rosie4491 profile image

      Rosie4491 6 years ago from North Idaho

      If this hub were not funny, I'd feel bad laughing... does that make any sense? =] Anyhow - these are the very reasons I decided against going to a traditional college. Not to mention my dad is anti-college. I figure. Find something you can tolerate that requires little more than JUST a highschool diploma, get trained, do that, THEN once you can sustain a life, decide what you want to do with it.

    • profile image

      Lea Williams 6 years ago

      I can relate to this quite a bit. I studied psychology when I really wanted to study art because I thought it would be more "common sense" and that doing art would get me nowhere. That was a huge mistake. So now I am trying to get an MFA (in order to be qualified to teach art at the college level), but I have to take some undergraduate art courses first, and another thing they don't tell you is you should be sure before you graduate that you won't change your mind, because once you graduate you can't get grants for undergraduate coursework toward a second bachelors degree.

      I see tons of people who I graduated with or around the same time as who still don't have jobs a year or even more down the line, or who are working at dollar stores.

      Nice hub, and good luck with everything!

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      I did art history....and now I am freelance writing and bartending to pay the bills. I actually had a friend who graduated with a marketing degree and is now working at a local community college in the office where they help new graduates find jobs. It is all a bit depressing :)

    • LaynieLou profile image

      LaynieLou 6 years ago from USA

      Love this! I'm a college senior in Texas and finding (already) that my Marketing degree would probably land me a job in Retail Management faster than at an ad firm..AND now that I'm here so close to graduation it's still not what I'm passionate about. I went into this field because it was more "practical" than that music scholarship I landed. This is spot on!

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks leandralap and betterdays. And I am in the same boat- still having to bartend to make ends met. But I will say I would rather be in my position in today's economy (where I can get a job in a BS field) than high up on the ladder and have no way to get a job.

    • Better Days profile image

      Better Days 6 years ago from The Northeast, USA

      I totally relate. I never would have guessed that I would still be working in bars serving starry eyed, carefree college kids after I got my degree in 2008.

    • leandralap profile image

      leandralap 6 years ago from Kentucky

      Agreed, kids need to be aware of what they're getting into before they go to college and spend all that money. Like you said, 17 is the new 27 and I've read numerous times that most people these days go through their twenties not really knowing what they want to do. I hope I can get used to this! haha - good job.

    • maplethorpej profile image

      Jerad Maplethorpe 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minn.

      Haha, I like your writing style :)

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks man from modesto! And you are very right. Under no bankruptcy code can education loans be forgiven. And they really can garnish your wages. It works the same as child support debt!

    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 6 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

      A very good book I read after leaving the Marine Corps is "What Color is Your Parachute?" It leads you through a series of self and world examinations. The most interesting thought provoker is this question, "Who do you most admire?" That is the job you want to consider for yourself.

      One important note: educational debt is now the #1 debt in America, ahead of home mortgage debt, ahead of credit card debt. If you default, fines and penalties can almost triple the amount you owe. Here is the clincher to pay on time:


      Not even in a bankruptcy.

    • danielleantosz profile image

      danielleantosz 6 years ago from Florida

      congrats, that's a great school! I actually lived in VA beach years ago (in like 1991). Have fun and keep my tips in mind.

    • NathanielZhu profile image

      Nathaniel Zhu 6 years ago from Virginia Beach

      VERY useful and great hub.

      I'll be a freshman at George Mason University in a month and this will really help me out.