Goodbye college, hello reality

For some Suffolk students, their four years of college are quickly coming to an end. Most of the graduating class is elated, happy to not only be done with college, but to finally be done with school in general. For the rest, and even for those in good spirits, this moment is also a bit of a downer.

Those on campus who know me know that I am not exactly a Spring chicken. I went through college back in the day, and spent a considerable amount of time in the “real world.” I am well-versed in the anticipation that graduating from college can bring—and the total let down, and joy, of life after college.

When I left college the first time, it was a sad moment. I wanted to be done with it, more than anything, and was ready to move on. But it was hard. Most of my college friends are now dispersed around the country. Some went back home.  And some went on to graduate school. I also felt a bit institutionalized. It was sad to be leaving a place that took up so much of my time, and sanity.

Looking back on that moment now, it was more of a closing than a beginning, as I didn’t attend college straight out of high school. That came a few years later, so I was already familiar with the trials and tribulations of making my own ends meet.  I was prepared to re-enter that world.

Seeing what the majority of my friends went through and talking to a few Suffolk students who are about to dive head-first into that world, it is evident that most college students simply are not prepared for what will happen next. The first year after college is a doozy for most. And no one tells you that; they can’t. It is something that is impossible to fully grasp until you’ve experienced it, too.

One major realization that life as you know it has changed is when the summer ends and you are not going back to school. You are getting up to go to work instead. And when you think to yourself, “Am I going to have to do this for the rest of my life?” just remember that you won’t get a month off for Christmas, either.

The good news is you will not be staying up half the night doing homework. Work tends to stay at work, so you will find that your free time is there to do as you please, and, incidentally, you have more of it. You will also be making money, and finding new ways to spend it—such as in paying those bills that keep showing up, month after month, for the rest of your life.

Then January hits and instead of taking on a new course load, you will continue to do the same job. And see the same faces. Sure, you can drop a job or withdraw from a career, but unlike college, life continues on in the real world.

Another big stab is that you will begin to miss the social atmosphere of college. College is generally a self-contained environment that is full with people your age who share similar interests. Your circle of friends will shrink, but the quality of friendships will grow.

Of course, I am speaking in generalities here. College never really held that level of nostalgia for me, and after my first year out, it was something already forgotten. That is just me, though.  College, past or present, was never the “best time of my life” for me. In fact, it always seemed more like a chore. My best experiences in life thus far have had nothing to do with college.

I do know this is not going to be the case with many of you. This is the last time you can get away with partying at inappropriate times, or wearing your pajamas out of the house. For the most part, these years will feel like the only time you got to do what you wanted to do. This is particularly true when your career begins to feel like work, and it will, and those bills won’t stop coming in. It is easy to find life frustrating when such aspects make it feel like you are not in control anymore.

Ironically, even though the responsibilities of the real world seem burdensome, the fact remains that you actually have more time and freedom on your hands. Some of you will adjust quicker than others, but even if you are struggling to make sense of it all, keep in mind that you are not alone.

The real world might seem foreign to you right now, but once you get used it—and you will—you will find it more rewarding than these last four years.