I may be beating a dead horse here, but for those of us who have pushed through the 4-5 years it takes to get a bachelors degree, the end of this specific life season can be much expected or a complete disappointment.
For a lot of people, leaving college is like a bad dream. No more are your friends in close proximity. No longer can you justify eating crap food for most of your diet. No longer will your parents treat you as a junior adult.
I have a hard time having sympathy for college graduates facing this degree of disillusionment. I honestly want to feel sorry for people, but having worked every semester that I’ve been in college (1-2 jobs at a time), I find it difficult.
The people who couldn’t afford binge drinking, or don’t accept it as a legitimate habit actually find jobs. People who have settled for convenient relationships without actually challenging themselves for four years have a really hard time moving on. They are often disappointed when friends who were “really close” when they lived across the hallway become distant. When your entire social circle has to redefine it’s existence in order to conform to the rest of the world’s demands, you might get disappointed. If you don’t have to face the reality of what a non math/science bachelor’s degree is worth until the very end of your college career, that cynicism is going to suck coming all at once.
It’s a lot easier to remain a little skeptical at all times. By taking what you are told with a continuous grain of salt, you develop stronger friendships, and even if some of those friends don’t stick with you as you leave, at least if you meet up again in the future you can say that caring for them was worth it.
Whether or not parents or students want to hear it, the undergraduate experience is over-hyped and over-priced much like Disneyland. Everything, from the lodging to the theme park (classes) to the food is difficult to maintain, and you feel pressured if you can’t keep up with appearances. Some savvy families find ways to eat their own food and lodge off of Disneyland property, but still, most people leave with a handful of pretty decent memories and an overpriced bill. Given all the companies that advertise to students and how students are taught to believe that they need special furniture for their apartment and that their primary goal should be to enjoy college, of course graduating broke and without having invested in long term dreams is going to suck. That should be a given.
A bachelors degree on it’s own really doesn’t prove much. It’s a piece of paper that says that you’ve hopefully learned something. There are so many people in my classes who rarely show up or play on their computers the entire class, and honestly, our work is not hard to turn in and never have to be there. A bachelors degree alone is not why you should do college.
Do college because you want to put work into your classes. Do college because you want to develop long term goals, and learn how to achieve them. Do college because you want to apply yourself to the process of finding a good job. Do college because you want to be capable of providing for a family. Do college because you want to make the world decent, and you have goals outside of yourself. Do not define college by only what you do in your classes, or the friends you meet in your dorm, or holing up in the bars like it will earn you something. It’s a lot easier to know what to expect for getting a job if you manage to work as you receive an education. It’s a lot harder to live blind to what things actually cost and abuse what you can borrow in loan money if you work a job where you only make up to $600 a month. Even if you take out loans while you work, you will look at borrowing money entirely differently.
Take responsibility for yourself and pursue a decent way of living, one that focuses on being a decent friend, a good student, a decent employee, and learning what it means to take care of others. Actually understand what your salary will look like once you leave, and ask people while you are in college (and not just as you are trying to stay above drowning at the end) what career paths or people they would have you consider. Don’t overly rely on their opinions, but have an assortment of people you trust who can give you legitimate feedback. This means you have to go outside of your comfort zone.
Instead of getting the job where you can do your homework, get a job where you actually learn something. Think of it as a paid internship, and invest in growing your skills outside of social trends.
Transitioning from school to work naturally sucks if the time you’ve spent in college lacks substance. Even if it feels like everyone is taking it easy as you are working your butt off, let them. When it’s time to actually look for a job and make good on the skills you’ve been accumulating, things are going to look differently. I won’t say the tables turn completely, but just about. The people in your classes who never contribute to a meaningful discussion and seem to pressure the class to lower their standards are the ones who have a hard time finding gainful employment. Eventually, we all have to leave school, and it’s easier to leave knowing you actually learned/gained/wanted something than to drown in student debt and realize that you’ve wasted your last four years.