6 Lessons about Life That I Didn’t Learn in College
by Matt OKeefe
There’s a lot of useful stuff you can learn in college if you’re the right kind of student, but it doesn’t teach you everything there is to know about life. There are all too many things that I didn’t learn in college, and you probably didn’t either. Here are 6 of the biggest shifts you’ll experience once you leave the college setting.
1. You don’t have a straight path.
Freshman year. Then Sophomore year. Then Junior year. Then Senior year. You do that on a semester-by-semester basis for four years, and then you’ve graduated from college. You probably didn’t learn in college how your path becomes a lot less clear after that. Even if you get a job right out of school (which isn’t easy nowadays) you’re still adjusting to that job, probably living in a new place and getting used to life without a GPA. It’s a whole new environment that you have to get acclimated to, and one that doesn’t come with any syllabi.
2. You can’t meet people as easily.
Once you and your friends are out of college, expect people to start moving away. What you didn’t learn in college is that once you’ve graduated, you and your friends are no longer congregated in the circumference of a school campus. Most of your fellow employees at your job probably aren’t going to be in the same age group as you, either. Life, at least at first, is probably going to become a bit lonelier. Over time you’ll build back up a group of people you can depend on and socialize with, but you probably didn’t learn the feeling of isolation that’s awaiting you in life after college.
3. You have to attend everything.
You can miss a class or two or ten at school, as long as you make it to your exams and turn in your term papers on time. You didn’t learn in college that that particular luxury evaporates once you’ve graduated. Your employer is not going to be okay with you missing a day of work, or even with you being late more than once or twice. You were rewarded for your perfect attendance record in high school, and benefited from it in post-secondary education. After that, it’s absolutely mandatory.
4. You can’t have any incomplete assignments.
Professors are sometimes willing to give you incompletes instead of Fs. You didn’t learn in college that you can’t expect that kind of lenience in the workplace. If an assignment at your job is due on Friday, you damn well have that project finished and polished by 5 p.m. on Friday. Earlier, if you know what’s best for you.
5. You won’t get new bosses every semester.
At least I hope not. Professors come and go. Even though people don’t stay at job positions as long as they used to, you’re going to typically have the same employer for more than a semester. That means you can’t risk getting on the wrong side of your bosses. Whereas spirited differences with professors are largely encouraged, conflict with your employer is almost always looked down upon. Make a good impression and stay in their good graces for as long as you stay at their place of work.
6. Success is defined by something other than a letter grade.
College, though complex, is in so many ways a simple thing. You get out into the real world for the first time. You make friends. You experience life to its fullest. All the while you find yourself getting a score from your professors at how you’re faring in school. You probably didn’t learn in college how to get a clear idea of how you’re doing. Even if you’re getting progress reports at work, you will probably never have as definitive an idea of what your boss thinks of you as you did in college.