So you've finished your term papers, your final exams and perhaps even that dreaded undergraduate thesis. Good work. Now, the real pressure to start a career and a life will set in.
But don't panic. There are a few things you might have heard about life after college that aren't really true — here are a couple corrections to help you put everything in perspective.
Your alma mater is everything.
According to former California labor department director Michael Bernick, multiple studies of college graduates have confirmed that the specific institution of higher learning a student attends isn't really connected to how much they earn later. Bernick wrote employers tend to be much more interested in skills, experience and other factors like mastery of technology.
Your liberal arts degree is worthless.
While liberal arts degree holders do tend to make less in their early careers, there's good news for those graduates who were uninterested in spending their college years studying math, science or finance. Four-year degree holders still earn much more than those without a college degree, and the 40% of those who pursue a master's or doctoral degree end up making more than those who studied professional and pre-professional fields.
Student loan debt will follow you for the rest of your life.
It won't, though it's likely to overstay its welcome by at least a decade. The average bachelor's degree holder pays off their loans after 21 years, so there's a good chance the debt will be gone well before they hit their golden years. This isn't really fantastic news, but it isn't debtor's prison either.
It's time to start a family.
Americans are waiting longer to get married and have children, as well as increasingly seeking alternate familial arrangements like cohabitation over marriage, according to the Washington Post's review of recent survey data. According to the Atlantic, Pew Research Center polling shows the average age men and women in the U.S. get married has increased to 29 and 26.5 respectively, a far cry from the days when Americans tended to get married in their early 20s.
While there's some debate on whether that shift reflects economic insecurity, a mismatch in the number of available partners, or a deep cultural shift, it's clear fewer and fewer young adults are choosing to get married in their early 20s. That should relieve young people who want to focus on their careers, intellectual and artistic pursuits or even just themselves.
It's your fault if you struggle in the job market.
The Great Recession may be officially long over, but a 2015 report from the Economic Policy Institute suggests it "had lasting effects on employment prospects of young people entering the workforce after graduating from high school or college."
According to the EPI report, recent graduates still face "elevated levels of unemployment and underemployment" and lower entry-level wages. The think tank noted "the unemployment rate is currently 7.2% (compared with 5.5% in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 14.9% (compared with 9.6% in 2007)."
But don't feel too disheartened, young graduates. People with a college degree have far better initial job opportunities than those without a degree, who are truly getting screwed in the modern U.S. economy.