One year ago, I finished college. After 20 years of formal education, I’ve now been a “real person” for a year. Here’s what I’ve noticed about this new life so far:
1. I have a lot more free time.
I’ve never had so many free evenings and weekends in my life. While I fundamentally don’t agree with an “8 to 5” job, it sure is nice clocking out in the afternoon and not thinking about work until the next morning. In college, homework and projects and studying were always on my mind. No clocking out.
2. I have more money than I’ve ever had in my life.
This one is a gimme. During college you can’t work much more than 15 hours a week, and your expenditures are always more than your income (unless you’re my little brother Braden and get paid a bajillion dollars per semester to go to school). Luckily, I still spend like a college student, but I make money like a boss. My bank account is happy.
3. Nobody cares about my GPA.
In middle school, high school, and college, I never once got a B. I worked for that. And I admit that the high school grades saved me a lot of money. But after getting into college, it hasn’t mattered a bit. Having interviewed people myself now, I realize how little I even care about a graduate’s GPA when I’m looking to hire them. Why would I? I care much more about their personality and their skills than I do about how much they worked their teachers’ systems. I’ll never regret getting straight A’s (since it fed my competitive cravings), but it has been interesting to realize that moving forward nobody cares about it and probably never will.
4. Nobody cares about my major.
In college, for whatever reason, everyone seemed to emphasize how important it was to choose the right major. It seemed like our major would determine the next 50 years of our lives. Not the case. Most of my co-workers majored in stuff completely unrelated to what they’re doing now. The fact of the matter is that in the workplace you need to learn and execute work-specific skills and tasks. And 90% of these things are things you don’t learn in school. So unless you’re a nurse or a highly-specified engineer, you can major in whatever you want and be just fine. After a year in the workplace, nobody asks what my major is, I rarely use things I learned in my major, and I find myself wishing I had majored in something cooler like acting or philosophy.
5. It’s much harder to stay in shape.
What do you get when you drive to work, sit all day, go out to lunch all the time, and get home and are too tired to do anything but relax? Fat. I didn’t realize how much being a student got me moving! Turns out that all of that walking and standing and stressing helps you lose weight. For the first time in my life, I have to consciously set aside time to exercise and stay in shape.
6. It’s much harder to stay involved in the things I love.
Students have no idea how lucky they are to have things like theatre and intramurals and clubs and dances and social groups and friends just handed to them on a platter. This past year I haven’t really been involved in…anything? No singing groups or plays or frisbee teams. Sure, it’s mostly my fault. I know there’s stuff out there in the community. But it has sure as heck not been spoon-fed to me. Leaving college really makes you look in the mirror and ask yourself who you are and what activities you want to keep in your life (since now it takes a lot more effort). On the other hand, I have had a lot more time to travel and write and pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. That’s been nice.
7. I haven’t really changed as a person.
Sure, my identity of “student” is gone (along with the greatly-missed discounts); and I’m a little richer, a little pudgier, and a little more carefree, but I’m still Travis. I still have my same quirks and hobbies and habits. And thanks to facebook, I still have my friends and acquaintances. And of course, my family dynamics haven’t changed a bit.
Perhaps the biggest surprise after a year of being a graduate, is how little has actually changed, after all.