Although no two people have the exact same college experience, most of us can agree those four years (and possibly more, depending on your course of study) will stay with you the rest of your life. The all-night cram sessions with friends, rolling to class in your PJs, catching some sun in the quad — ah, those were some good days.
And while we undoubtedly absorbed at least some of the information our professors tried in earnest to drill into our heads during class, some of the most important lessons you learn in college don’t sink in until after you cross the stage in your cap and gown to accept your diploma.
Here are a few of the pearls you’ll pick up post-graduation (and kind of wish you knew all along).
1. Major, schmajor — you might not even use it
As an English major, I was told about a million times my major was pointless unless I wanted to be a teacher. The truth of the matter is that unless you’re pre-med, you’ll probably go through at least one period — and quite possibly the one as soon as you graduate — working in a field that has absolutely nothing to do with the major you so faithfully adhered to for four years.
2. Day napping is frowned upon in the work world
Oh to be young, an undergraduate and able to get away with a nice, long midday siesta! As much as you want to put your head down on your desk when you land that first post-college job, you won’t have the luxury. Or, if you do make that mistake (hey, old habits die hard), it won’t go over well with the boss. In your defense, studies have shown naps during the ol’ 9 to 5 are beneficial.
3. Making friends isn’t quite as easy in the post-college era
In college, you can’t swing a stick without hitting 10 people your age, many of whom likely have shared interests. Real talk: It’s not quite that easy for the remainder of your 20s. If you’re lucky, you wind up making some amazing friends at work. Still, it’s not the same as having the social security blanket of knowing that an entire hall of people have your back. The upside? The friendships you do make are forged from serious substance.
4. Adulting requires a lot of forms
I thought filling out my orientation packet was a pain in the ass, but it didn’t hold a candle to all the paperwork I had to complete after leaving campus. Employment agreements, insurance forms, retirement account info, taxes — it’s best to start limbering up your fingers senior year.
5. Having a meal plan made life much easier
Sure, you might not have the variety you get when you’re in the real world, but you also didn’t have to put extraneous thought into what to eat, where to eat and how you were going to pay for it. See also: Adulting does not include a mystical conveyor belt that washes all your dishes.
6. Not every relationship lasts forever — and that’s A-OK
When you were in high school, you couldn’t imagine a world without your BFFs. Then you went off to college and added some new besties, who you were certain would be by your side for the rest of your life. But people grow and evolve, and sometimes that means the people you always thought would be around don’t last the long haul. And it’s OK. It’s healthy to reevaulate relationships periodically.
7. Ending your day at 3 p.m. was, like, a dream come true
It was the worst during college when you waited until the last minute to register for classes and got stuck with back-to-back morning classes, keeping you tied up until 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. Man, I really took a lot for granted during my collegiate days, because that scenario sounds like heaven when it’s 5:30 on a Friday afternoon and you still haven’t left work yet.
8. Care packages are essentially a thing of the past
Why is this not a thing? Let’s petition to bring this back, shall we? I’d trade my eye teeth to open my door and discover a box filled with ballpoint pens, gummy bears, cute stationery and letters from home. These don’t completely halt after graduation, but they aren’t a regular occurrence like they once were. (You hear that, Mom and Dad?!)
9. There’s not nearly as much time in the day as you’d thought
This is kind of a pro and a con, if you ask me. I literally spent some undergrad days trying to think of things to do after catching up on my favorite soap operas, taking a nap, eating a bowl of Top Ramen and getting irrationally angry over the cost of textbooks. After graduation, I couldn’t seem to find enough time in the day to get everything done. And there’s something to be said for staying busy.
10. You have to start at the bottom
You want to know the best thing about that? There’s nowhere to go but up! While I didn’t expect after spending four years and a whole lot o’ money to get a double degree that I would be known as the copy and coffee girl at a community newspaper, it felt good to do something that tangibly helped the team. Besides, your job won’t be your last job — it’s just the springboard into your future.
This post was sponsored by Vera Bradley.