After three years of college, I am now graduating and taking my first baby steps into the big, wide world of real life. The real world now beckons, and I am ready to put my acquired knowledge and skills to the test. Generally, college graduation is a time of mixed feelings: a feeling of uncertainty, a feeling of joy, a feeling of sadness, a feeling of pressure. Many college graduates are still planning their next step in life and also how to pay off that student loan debt they acquired. They are also trying to figure out how to adjust to life after college: how to deal with starting a career, how to pay bills and how to meet new friends. While the feeling of graduation is certainly nice, graduates still have to deal with the everyday realities and concerns of the real world, and they have severe doubts about whether or not they are ready to take on the necessary responsibilities.

I understand these concerns; I too am thinking about them right now. Having a full-time job and being out there on your own is radically different from school, and school is what most of us have been doing for years now. We’re used to teachers, classes, homework, studying and tests; these concepts have been a part of our daily routine since we were 5 or 6. And the strict daily routine that comes with most jobs is a concept utterly alien to most of us. We’ve spent the past several years having unstructured daily routines; we have freedom in staying up as long as we want and setting the hours in which we work. While we have classes to go to, these have been scattered throughout the day and there are large blocks of free time left over. In the real world, this scenario no longer exists, often to the frustration of many college graduates.

And for many people, college is a time of learning and exploration. College offers the chance to learn so much about a field one is passionate about, a field that motivates and gets your attention. Colleges are filled with people who make a living teaching and researching in their field of interest. Colleges are hubs of intellectual thinking and groundbreaking research; they offer so many opportunities for growth and development. On top of that, there are countless extracurriculars for people to engage in and to connect with others through. College is often considered the perfect time to live and explore. It's a chance to find out who you are, all for an oftentimes hefty amount of tuition and fees of course.

In reality, college isn’t perfect. Not every college student is mature and enlightened; not every professor likes to spend their time teaching undergrads. Not every college course is a fountain of learning and intellectual joy; many are often completely unrelated to your major. Not every college is a paradise of fun and partying; many colleges are tough and have very rigorous academics. Not every party is wild and crazy; not every college student lives an idyllic life of academics and fun. Many students struggle with a strenuous workload and a part-time job on the side to survive; the combination of multiple responsibilities and the pressures of the environment can lead to persistent stress and depression. Coupled with the rising costs of tuition and other fees, college can also be a hefty financial burden for students and their families; a lot of students carry tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. In short, college is often not the amazing four years that our society makes it out to be.

In my personal experience, I was a lot happier and less stressed out in high school than at Tech. I had more confidence in myself and my abilities; I also had a stronger desire to learn and succeed. Not only that, I also was more productive and more successful in the more structured high school environment. Despite this, I realize my experience at Tech made me a lot more mature and gave me a good grounding in computer science. I also met a lot of interesting and great people, who made me a better person and taught me a lot. Despite all that, I am looking forward to the real world, to tackling the next phase of my life. I understand your concerns and anxieties; I want you all to understand that college is merely a phase of life, an ultimately short one in the grand scheme of things. Life does not go downhill or end after college; there are still going to be parties, clubs, courses, video games, LAN parties, concerts, conventions, and Pokemon GO! There is still a thing called a social life; people still go out on dates and have fun out there. Think about it; the average person has 50-60 years of life after graduating college. There is so much more to life than just college; college is ultimately just like high school since its an institution with its own conventions and rules and quirks.

For those who worry about having less freedom, there is financial freedom out there in the real world. Making your own money, your own living gives you a level of freedom that you simply don’t have in college. You can buy more things and have a wider variety of places to live and things to do. You are no longer reliant on either your parents or a couple of part-time jobs for money. You have access to better food and living conditions, better restaurants to eat out at and computers to game on. Managing money can be very difficult at first, but like any other skill it gets better with practice. And once you master it, you will be much happier because you’ll have a better quality of life and more opportunities to do what you want to do, not just the theoretical ability to do it. And for those who adore the intellectual side of college, there’s always grad school. In there, you’ll get to fully immerse yourself in your passion and do groundbreaking research in that field. And once you get a PhD, you can continue doing your academic work full-time and make a living out of it as a professor. How awesome is that!

So, college graduates, have no reason to despair. College is merely a phase of life, one that trained you to become proficient in a certain field. One that made you find yourself and become a better person. One that made you more mature and appreciative of the diversity of the great world we live in. One where you met amazing people whom have become lifelong friends and partners in life. Now it’s time to go out there and kick some butt! Make your friends, your family, and your alma mater proud!