5 Real Life Issues College Does Not Prepare You For

Cum laude Ivy league graduate, summer internship at Goldman/Vogue/Sotheby's, tons of friends, perfect boyfriend/girlfriend, unmatchable partying skills … sound like your professional and personal resume at 22. Still have absolutely no idea what you’re doing with your life? You’re having a quarter-life crisis, and you’re not alone. 

The moment you graduate you are a freshman again, but this time, you are a real life freshman, with no academic adviser to guide you through your new schedule, no dorm RA to tell you too cool it with the Jell-O shots, no sympathetic history teacher to cry to when you sleep through your third day of class (or rather, work). You might be a master of excel and beer pong, but that doesn’t mean you have any idea what to do now that you’re in the real world. 

Here are a few real life issues that college does NOT prepare you for

1. You have to start at the bottom


Yes, you really do. If you’re not some sort of child actor or entrepreneur, chances are you have to put in your time (even if you went to Harvard) doing skills you could have done when you were 12, let alone in college. This may seem like a simple notion to grasp, but for so many of us it’s not. Word to the wise: getting coffee and answering phones is much more enjoyable when you smile. You won’t get anywhere by rolling your eyes just because you’re “above” a task anyway. College professors forget to mention this when they are “preparing” you for your future career.

2. You don’t know where your next meal is coming from, a.k.a there is no real life dining hall

Maybe your office building has a cafeteria, and maybe you live in New York and use Seamless as your personal chef. However, there is at least one meal a day that you probably have to put some thought into. Teach yourself how to cook simple foods (even pasta and sandwiches count!) and stock up on basics. This would also be a good time to invest in some pots and pans.

3. Hangovers


True life: I turned 24 and found out what having a hangover means … it means I’m getting old. And when you have an eight-hour work day to get through instead of a 50-minute Calculus class, a Gatorade and a bagel won’t cut it. So cut yourself off, even before you think you need to.

4. Dating etiquette

In college it seemed like relationships just happened — one day you were friends, the next you were dating. There were no formal dinners, drinks, or even coffee with the opposite sex, perhaps because you were guaranteed to see your crush at the campus bar or library everyday. Real Life Dating 101 would have been a useful class: asking someone out is just the beginning. 

“Should I offer to pay if someone takes me out to dinner?” “Girls shouldn’t pay, right?” “Is it too soon to ask her on a second date?” are common questions among single twenty-somethings. I say go with what feels comfortable: offer to split the bill sometimes if you’re a girl, and if you’re a boy, let her. And if you like someone, ask them out. Texting and g-chat does not a relationship make.

5. How to balance your checkbook, budget … and your life (and why you should)

So you’ve finally landed your dream job (okay, maybe not just yet, but perhaps you’re at least on your path to your dream job). So now you’re happy, right? Turns out there’s more to life than what you’re going to be when you grow up. Learning how to live off of your (likely meager) salary and how to stay sane despite your (likely insane) work hours are just as — or dare I say, more — important than choosing your career. Despite what path you’ve chosen, you are probably struggling with either or both of these issues. The sooner you realize that finding a job that allows you to have a fulfilling extracurricular life, the sooner you’ll find happiness.  


Good luck out there, twenty-somethings. Apparently there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is called turning 30.

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Emma Greenberg

Emma is a freelance culture writer and new contributor to PolicyMic. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 with a degree in English and Creative Writing.

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