This past May, I graduated from college with the class of 2016. Five months later, it’s the middle of October, and for the first time in my life, I am not sitting in a classroom for most of my week.
Being out in the “real” world is kind of a scary feeling. Scratch that – an overwhelmingly terrifying, throat-gripping feeling. I get why they call it the “real” world now; because college is such a fairy dreamland compared to this place, you’d think it’s almost too good to be true. And I can’t help but feel that I am in NO way prepared to be out in this daunting world of adults. Why didn’t my decades of schooling prepare me for this?
You really have one simple goal in college: don’t fail your classes. Seriously, just do your homework, and study, and don’t go out drinking every single night, and maybe get a part-time job. It’s really not that hard. You get to live near all of your closest friends, and you get a smorgasbord of ready-made meal options laid out for you in the dining halls. You can even wear sweatpants to class if you really want to.
After graduating, I moved back home with my parents. Yes, I share one of the most common generational plights with my fellow millennials. Most of us are tens of thousands of dollars in debt, you know. I took advantage of the opportunity to be a vegetable on my couch for about a month, basking in the glory that felt like summer vacation. After that, I hit the internet hardcore on a job hunt. Of the hundreds of resumes and job applications I sent out – I received ONE interested party. So I tossed the job application idea all together, threw my resumes in the air, and decided to follow my dreams instead. I started my own small photography business, which I hope will one day be successful enough to be my full-time job.
Alright, maybe a business class or two could have helped me with my post-grad entrepreneurial endeavors, because I’m starting to learn about needing a business license, vendor’s insurance and god knows what else the hard way. But the rest of life? I’m sure I can’t be the only millennial that throws her hands up when I’m told I have to find health insurance, dental insurance, car insurance…renter’s insurance???? Basically every kind of insurance under the sun. Because not all jobs just come with those kinds of benefits, especially if you’re a self-starter like me. How does one even go about finding all of that stuff?
And seriously…what are taxes? Why is the government trying to take all of my hard-earned money away? And why are there so many different taxes? Income tax, property tax…a breathing tax? I would honestly not be surprised if the government tried to tax me for the oxygen that I consume. And how in the HELL do I file taxes? Why didn’t anyone teach me about this in school?
How does one balance a checkbook? What does that even MEAN? Do I even need checks? Because I don’t think I have any.
What is a W-4? What is a W-9? What's my tax ID number? Why am I only just finding out that these things exist and are kind of important?
Should I go to a car dealer to get a new car, or chance it with Craigslist? Should I buy or lease a car? How do I get a car loan? OH LOOK – another new payment! So far we’ve got: health insurance, dental insurance, taxes, a car loan payment, rent and renter’s insurance (if we ever all get out of our parent’s houses), a student loan payment…oh, don’t forget you’re beloved smartphones, kids. That’s another payment! Why didn’t school teach me how to manage all of this?!
All of a sudden, my $120,000 college degree is looking less and less useful.
A fellow millennial friend of mine, who now works as an economist since graduating last May, summed up the issue pretty well: “I haven’t used Pythagorean Theorem since high school, and that stuff was covered in like six different grades…but damn do I have to Google what the hell a 401K is.”
And need I mention that college doesn’t really emotionally prepare you for the real world? I’m having a hard time accepting that moving to a new state and starting a “real” life will mean that I’ll live hundreds of miles away from the friends that I lived down the hall from for four years. And you can’t really get away with having Domino’s delivery for dinner twice a week anymore. Ramen won’t cut it, either.
In fact, everything out here is a lot harder than sitting in a classroom and paying attention. I mean, what’s the biggest struggle in college? Rolling out of bed in the morning to make it to your 8am class? That's nothing compared to trying to budget for a big move. Seriously, why didn't college prepare me for the cost of moving to a new place? Or the hardship of making new friends in that new place? Why didn't I learn about office etiquette or fostering client relationships? It’s assumed that some of these issues are just life lessons that you learn along the way. But a lot of people have already learned these lessons, and they could probably teach them to us poor unsuspecting, unprepared souls.
I’m not saying that college is a waste of time, but a lot of universities require you to complete core classes, which leads you to taking ultimately pointless classes that you don’t care about and will never use in the future. To fill my core requirements, I took classes like statistics, biology, and physics – ultimately useless to an English major, and still useless now that I’m a photographer. Obviously, those classes are useful to someone going into a profession related to the sciences – but the core classes like literature and intro drawing are probably equally as useless to them as science classes are to me. Instead of impractical core classes, or even just as possible elective courses, it would’ve been nice to have a couple classes like “taxes 101”, “how to not screw up your finances”, “how to move to a new country”, or really just “how to survive out in the world” – I guarantee those courses would have one hell of an enrollment list.
For anyone else who is as hopelessly lost as I am, check out this handy site that helps teach you how to adult. An actual adulting professor would be preferable, but this is a good start.