For many people, college is a time to move away from home, become independent young adults and learn as much as you can. Though it may sound cliché, college really was one of the highlights of my life thus far. I graduated from UC San Diego in the summer of 2011 and I cannot deny that my life now as a working professional is completely different from when I was a student. While in college, I couldn't help but feel sheltered from the real world. I created a bubble for myself in which my days revolved around going (or not going) to class, pulling all-nighters studying for finals, writing endless term papers and maintaining a diet primarily consisting of instant noodles. Now that I am two years out of college, here are the 5 things I've learned post-grad:
1. You actually have to pay back your student loans
I didn't grow up with the expectation of having my education paid for, but I did take out student loans (and plenty of them). When it was time to reapply for financial aid at the beginning of each school year, I would accept the maximum amounts offered to me and before I knew it, I found myself drowning in debt. Fast forward two years later, I'm making minimum payments every month across three loan providers, not to mention on top of accruing interest. Needless to say, I am a lot more responsible with my money nowadays.
2. College is hard, but finding a job is even harder
Just because you have a degree, doesn't mean that a job will be handed to you on a silver platter. After graduation, it took me several months to find a job; several months of feeling a mixture of boredom, anxiety and defeat. I will say that I felt secure again once I became gainfully employed. I truly believe that with effort and persistence, the right opportunity will come along.
3. You may not end up in the field in which you earned your degree
I find that when some people do end up landing a job, it may not always be what they imagined themselves doing. I have friends who majored in heavy sciences, like biochemistry, and accepted jobs completely unrelated to their respective fields. Regardless, you can gain valuable experience in any job and you may find that your interests could change after your college experience.
4. Remaining close to your friends takes effort
Being in a new environment means meeting new people and making new friends. When my friends and I graduated and left our college lives for good, I realized that it requires a whole-hearted effort to maintain those relationships. Now, I realize that the friends I have remained in touch with are the few quality friends I will retain for the rest of my life.
5. You may be back in school sooner than you imagined
For some people, undergrad may not be the end of their academic careers. Those who want to further pursue their education may go into grad school immediately or spend a few years working before committing to another rigorous program (I've decided to do the latter). Whatever you choose, it's safe to say that planning ahead is never a bad idea. I'm still undecided on what type of master's program I want to enter, but it's definitely on my mind (along with taking the GREs).