5 Things No One Tells You about Graduating College
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:
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"
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?
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.