Going from college graduation to the real world is a huge adjustment. There are no more classes or professors, all-night study sessions, super-late nights out followed by an 8 am lab, midterms or final exams.
Once all the stresses of college are put to rest, there’s the real world. What defines this world? It's the world that naturally comes after college, and you’re forced to make a living, take care of yourself and realize it is time to (almost) grow up.
In reality, the real world isn’t as bad as it seems. No, there isn’t the luxury of skipping work as you would skip class, but it is nice to have a paycheck, to come home without homework and to have a cool apartment just the way you want it.
But no one can really explain what the real world is like, and you don’t find out until you’re actually in it, since everyone experiences that adjustment differently. Here are five things I learned in my first month of the real world:
It's expensive as hell.
If you had the luxury of extra money from your financial aid package, good for you. But that large sum each August and January quickly disappears once you graduate, and uh oh, it’s time to get a real job.
But until your first paycheck, which could be two weeks away, there are expenses. If you don’t live at home at first and rent an apartment, it isn’t just the rent that will cost you.
There are security deposits, application fees and even renter’s insurance, which will all deplete your savings account quicker than a blink.
Want cable and Internet? That requires a set-up fee. Need energy and electricity? Duh, it also requires a deposit. In addition, whether you live at home or not, you will commute to work, which will cost you in gas.
Then, there are groceries; no more meals at the sorority house or Mom’s home cooking. You’re on your own now.
Oh, and let’s not forget that after a long workweek, you’ll want to go out with friends on the weekends, right? Or even during the week for Tuesday night trivia?
Everything in life requires money, and it is important to understand how to spend it wisely. If you don’t need high-speed Internet and can go for the slower package, take it. Be conscious of your electricity and water bills. Plan your meals ahead and create a grocery list.
Download the GasBuddy app on your iPhone to find the cheapest gas in your area. Create an account on Mint.com to track your spending and create a budget. All this will only help you, so you won’t be stressing to make ends meet. Live frugally.
Life is full of surprises, and you never know when you may need something that will cost you lots of money, like replacing the power booster in your car (yes, I just did that $600 ago…), or an expensive prescription your insurance won’t cover.
Be conscious of your spending, and you’ll be much happier.
Weekends are your pride and joy.
The workweek is long. It took some time to get used to being in an office for eight hours a day, waking up super early and staring at a computer for all that time. I’m a very active person, so I get up every 30 minutes to an hour just to walk around.
Studies show it is good for you to get up and move rather than sit in a chair all day. With all this in mind, you will be going out less during the week unless you want it to negatively impact your job performance. In college, you could frequent the bars nightly, but in the real world, you can’t go as often.
Monday Night Football at the sports bar, Tuesday night trivia at the brewery, Wednesday night wine specials and thirsty Thursday will wear you out. And that’s all before the weekend.
A benefit of working hard during the week is that you’ll appreciate your weekends even more. Besides, you don’t have any homework on the weekends, nights in to study for Monday’s exam or the stress of organizing that group project because your team members can only meet on weekends.
Enjoy the weekends to the fullest -- that’s what they’re meant for.
You find out who your real friends are.
Upon graduation, everyone says, “Let’s stay in touch!” and “I plan to visit you!” Or perhaps they actually do live in the town you moved to. Regardless, it becomes more difficult to keep up with friends once you graduate and no longer see them on a daily basis.
Think about your friends from high school and those you haven’t seen in years. Friends come and go and the truest friends will keep in touch because they want to.
Friendship is a two-way street, and one person cannot reach out without the other’s reciprocation. It’s better to have a few close friends you hold near than tons of “friends” who are mere acquaintances.
Your first month of work is a lot like freshman year.
Being a freshman isn't as fun as being a senior, just like being the new employee isn't as fun as someone who's more experienced and has been there longer.
During freshman year, if you screwed up on a test, it didn't really affect your GPA because you had more semesters to go. If you didn't understand something in class, you could ask your professors; they don't assume you know absolutely everything as a senior would.
Your freshman year is all about learning and finding out which classes you like, which new friends you'll get along with, which student organizations to join and which bars to hit.
Your first month (or two) of work is quite similar. If you need help, ask your coworkers or your supervisor. Your company doesn't expect you to know how to do everything. Whatever mistakes you may make, you can simply attribute to the fact that you're new and not as experienced as everyone else, and that's okay.
We all have to start somewhere. We can't get to our senior year without starting as freshmen, and we can't jump to the supervisor position without first going through the entry-level positions.
Your college years are about growth, and so are your first few months of the working world.
College life is fun, but post-graduate life is even more awesome.
College had its perks: It felt like living in a bubble in which you really didn’t need to think about the future and a full-time job, how you’d make a living and where you’d live.
Yes, there was the dread of going to class and making an A on the final, but then there were the fun nights out, the “YOLO” mentality of senior year, the epic spring break adventures, basketball games, football tailgates and Greek life.
Those adventures take on a different form after college. There’s something called “vacation time” when you’re working (Bonus: You’re paid for it.). So, you may not call it an epic spring break adventure, but you could go to the Caribbean any other time you want during the year.
With that steady job comes a steady paycheck. So now you actually have money to spend on that vacation or cute Kate Spade bag or the latest Frye boots.
Besides the material stuff like vacations, money and a cool apartment, there’s a sense of pride when you can say, “I graduated from so-and-so, and I’m working at so-and-so.” There’s pride towards both your alma mater and your new career path.
Enjoy the ride; it’s your 20s, not just college that are the best years of your life.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It