College, the ‘real world,’ and advice you never got

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Claire Ballor, Commentary Editor

 

 

As a college senior, I am starting the daunting process of accepting the fact that the 17 years of my life dedicated to formational education are quickly coming to an end. I know I’m not alone in experiencing the discomfort brought about by a looming graduation date, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. After months of trying to understand how exactly to prepare myself for life after graduation, I’ve realized the best piece of advice that I’ve needed to hear all along is one I was never told.

The common dilemma for college graduates seems to be how to prepare for a world you’ve never lived in. As a starry-eyed, lanyard-holding freshman, I wish someone had told me that the real world isn’t waiting for me to graduate; I’m in it right now. Like many, I ignorantly started freshman year ready to take advantage of a four-year extension from real world responsibilities. I have since learned that anyone who tells you that college isn’t the real world is wrong.

Possibly the most detrimental mindset that college students can have is that they are not living in the “real world,” but that they are supposed to start preparing for it or at least thinking about it senior year, maybe second semester senior year…maybe after Groundhog, maybe after finals.

Sure, you can go through college as though you aren’t living in the real world; it’s deceivingly easy to do, but this mentality doesn’t get you job offers or pay your bills.

We are often told to enjoy college while we can before we have to enter the world outside of our four-year bubble. While there is rationality behind that advice, it seems that our generation has taken it too literally. The truth is, it is up to us whether or not we participate in the world around us, but it won’t stand still for us.

The workplace has drastically changed in the past decade. Internships that used to be structured for college seniors are now geared toward high school seniors. Babysitting no longer suffices as workplace experience. Entry-level jobs have twice the expectations that they once did. The competition is fierce and having a bachelor’s degree no longer makes you a top contender. Doing just enough is no longer enough.

As the workplace continues to change and job positions become more competitive, the mentality toward college will have to adjust as well. That being said, college should still be taken for what it is, which is a unique and memorable time in life. There is a balance to be retained between career development and academic and social priorities, but regardless of how that balance is achieved, it is imperative not to separate college from the real world. To do so is to fail to recognize opportunities to progress professionally, which only impairs a highly capable and intelligent student’s chances of a successful postgraduate career.

 

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