It's the day after graduation. The tassels have been turned and the caps have been tossed.
The dorms are vacant. There is a futon couch sitting alone in the corner, shedding its stuffing and waiting for a car ride that may or may not come.
But what about those that still remain? No, I'm not talking about the abandoned furniture.
I'm talking about the ex-students who choose to live in their college towns post-graduation. This idea may seem like heaven to those searching for the perfect frame for their diplomas, but the reality is quite different.
There are many pros and cons to living in a college town, and it's important to consider all of them (especially the cons) before renewing your lease:
1. It's a place of transition.
Nearly everyone who lives in a college town has an expiration date on his or her time there. Unless you're a tenured professor, you probably won't be buying real estate.
Even the grad students and the part-time faculty are biding their time while working toward advanced degrees or better teaching positions. So, it's easy to feel out of place if you aren't one of the people who are marking time in semester-long increments.
Plus, when everyone else has a specific end goal, it can make your regular 9-to-5 job seem especially endless.
2. It's hard to make friends.
If you're in your 20s, you probably still view your college town as a mini-utopia where the pizza is cheap, the beer is plentiful and your best friend is waiting in the next dorm. However, when you're no longer a student, it's difficult to meet people.
In a sea of undergrads, it can be hard to find people who don't have classes together several days a week. Of the small percentage that remain, many are consumed with teaching or other work.
The most discouraging thing of all is finally meeting someone you do connect with, only to find out he or she is moving away the following semester.
3. It's crowded.
Once you do meet someone, you quickly realize any weekend plans together will revolve around campus activities. If you attended a college dominated by football games or other sporting events, you already know what I'm talking about.
If you aren't one of the super fans, interested in tailgating every Saturday from September to December, your options are limited. The bars are packed, every restaurant has a line out the door and a seemingly simple task like running to the store to get Doritos simply isn't worth it. Most year-rounders quickly learn to stock up on groceries mid-week and wait out the madness at home.
Even if you do love your school spirit with a heavy dose of jerseys and face paint, it's expensive to attend every game. Also, don't forget move-in weekend, graduation and homecoming.
This is when literally everyone's mother, brother and cousin are in town. They will deplete every store shelf and make running basic errands a living hell.
4. Then, it's quiet.
During the weeks when no one is around, things may seem great at first. That is, until you realize there isn't anything happening: at all.
The film festivals, local theater, live music and other special events mostly revolve around the students. Sure, you can now get into your favorite restaurant or bar, but the $1 specials, theme nights and featured entertainment will mostly be gone. At the very least, they will be limited.
Even the majority of the faculty take off in the summertime to places that suddenly seem wildly exotic, like Utah or New Jersey. You will be left contemplating a membership to the local YMCA and wondering if you'll get kicked out for trying to bring your own inflatable pool raft.
5. You will feel very old.
One day, you will find yourself walking behind a group of students in cut-off shorts and hoodies who are talking about how incredibly wasted they got last Friday night and how they “like, totally can't remember a thing. OMG!”
You will swear that these individuals are about 12 years old, and you will wonder what is happening to the future of America.
Nope: The freshmen aren't getting younger every year. You're just getting older.
Suddenly, the undergrads who are less than five years your juniors will seem hopelessly naive with their parent-paid tuitions and endless supply of cafeteria food.
Never mind that this was you just a few years ago.
6. You will feel very young.
Even though walking past the campus library makes you feel as old as Methuselah, the vast majority of those working as faculty and staff will be far older than you are. Even if you're one of the lucky ones who managed to find an office job, there's still an awkward feeling when everyone else has more career experience than you do.
Your excitement over successfully keeping your office plant alive for more than a few days will pale in comparison to the new business cards your co-worker ordered. While all your co-workers are eating their locally grown organic lunches, you'll be sneaking back to your desk to hide behind your potted plant and devour your instant mac and cheese.
Hey: You kept that ficus alive for a reason.
Adulting as a recent graduate is hard, no matter where you go or what you do. If you find yourself stuck in your college town after obtaining your degree, just know there are far worse places to be.
Yes, there are some definite drawbacks. But there are also downsides to moving to a different city or living with your parents. You don't have to figure everything out right away.
At the end of the day, you'll have a job that enables you to pay rent and even kind of support yourself. Plus, you no longer have to cram for finals.
You can even legally order drinks. College doesn't last forever, but neither will these early stepping stones in your career (as long as you stay motivated to keep dreaming and trying new things).
Until then, bring on the $1 pizza.