Yesterday I had the opportunity to work The University of Montana’s 2011 Commencement Ceremony. I feel like I was the best usher out there (just ask the proud mom from Ohio who talked my ear off). Graduation was held in Washington-Grizzly Stadium and the commencement speaker was one of my favorite media figures of all-time, Tom Brokaw. Despite very annoying winds that reached 30 mph consistently the whole ceremony, it was cool to watch. In fact, it made me reflect on my own graduation day.
Exactly two years ago I graduated from college. It was an exciting time and also an uncertain time. You see, I had earned a tuition waiver and a teaching assistantship for graduate school but I was also in the running for a job I desperately wanted (I ended up getting that job). My future was anything from set in stone when I was handed my diploma so I relate with all of the 2011 graduates who do not have all their questions answered yet.
However, I know there are many of you out there who do have a plan and who will soon be in the work force. It is for all of you who this post is for. I want to lay out my top 3 pros and my top 3 cons of living life as a young professional as opposed to a college student. Before I go too far, I want to say that I feel I have the best of both worlds. Although I am no longer a student, I work at a college and many of my good friends are still in college. I have not been cut off completely from the college world and I am thankful for that.
Benefits of the Real World
1. Money: The absolute best thing about entering the real world and leaving the college years behind is your financial situation. When I was in school I had to budget my meager earnings from my job in residence life tighter than the way an 18 year old manages his chips at one of those poker free rolls that Montana casinos always seems to have. I had to live lightly and do what I could to make sure I had $20 left at the end of the week to go downtown. Now, my situation is much nicer. Because I am single and because I have never knocked anyone up, I only have myself to worry about. If I want something, I buy it. It is an amazing feeling and it allows you to have a lot of fun.
2. No Homework: This one took me a lot of getting used to. I would come home from work and would ask myself “Okay, what paper/assignment/report should I start on first?” It would then dawn on me that I was out of school and had no obligation to turn anything in. I was an obsessive student who while in school put in about 5 hours a night studying so to finally have evenings to do whatever I wanted was empowering. Two years later I still feel very fortunate for my free nights. It is so nice to be able to watch the Mariners play from the first pitch of the game to the final out of the ninth inning. It is enjoyable to go out to the theater and watch a movie. It is relaxing to go to bed at a decent hour.
3. Prestige: I do not get wrapped up into this one too much but it is nice to have the status of a young professional. People look at you differently and treat you differently. Also, I kid you not, you receive a much better shot with women, especially older women.
Drawbacks of the Real World
1. No Excuses: Once you graduate from college, you lose most of your ability to make youthful, dumb mistakes. You are held to a higher standard. Things you did in college no longer fly in your new life and consequences are much steeper. Bars, Facebook, and football games will no longer be the same.
2. I’m Getting Old: After you get your diploma, you start to feel old. It sucks, but it is definitely a fact of post-graduation. It is tough for me to say that I am in my mid-20’s. This past Saturday when I saw the graduates in their gowns with their mile wide smiles I saw that youthfulness still in them. Sadly, it fades fast. After college, pretty soon you are just an average adult. Welcome to the club.
3. College Challenge: Now up above I stated that one of the benefits of post-college life entails not having your whole night taken over by homework. I stand by that. However, I do miss the challenge college gave me. I loved nothing more than to succeed on a paper, succeed in a class, succeed in a semester. College gave me drive and it gave me great purpose. I always played a game of me vs. the professor. I was out in the arena (classroom) to defeat the opponent (the professor). Sure, you will have challenges every single day for the rest of your life. College is different though. In college the challenge is much more laid out and succeeding is much more defined. I miss that.
Congratulations to the Class of 2011!! Don’t Blink.