Preparing for the Real World: What They Don’t Teach You in College

As I make my way into my last semester as an undergraduate, I can’t help but panic over the uncertainty in the job market and economy. Reflecting on the last four years, I also can’t help but wonder if I took full advantage of my college education to adequately prepare myself for the real world.

As a communication major, I complained about taking general education courses in math and science as an underclassman. I avoided all business-related classes and cringed at the thought of lab work, yet becoming well-rounded is a necessary quality in the real world. Adjusting to college is a huge step, and I understand that it may be difficult to see things in the long run or visualize the bigger picture, but take my advice and try to branch out of your comfort zone to expand your skills.

For instance, I wish I had taken the initiative to enroll in a basic personal finance course, no matter how boring it sounds. Debt, insurance, loans, interest, etc., all seemingly self-explanatory terms are tossed around in everyday conversation, yet I feel my knowledge is severely limited in such a fundamental area. The biggest survival skill post-graduation will be how to live within my means, stay practical and pay off debt. If classes like this are ever offered, take advantage of them, because it will pay off in the long run and make the leap into the real world much more manageable.  

Along with learning how to save and invest, try to take an economics course. With one caveat, many economic courses may teach students the typical business model without addressing the economy from a global perspective or addressing the economic crisis. Flexibility is another key skill for college students, for the culture is always changing, thus impacting the business model and corporate culture as well. 

It is a tough realization, but a college degree does not automatically translate into a job. Experience and involvement are just as important, if not more important than high grades. While the significance of grades depends on your major and what you intend to do after your undergraduate years, they don’t mean anything if you do not know how to effectively communicate with others. This is why classes focusing on negotiation, management and interpersonal skills are a good idea to look into regardless of your major curriculum. 

Finally, take advantage of your school’s career center and alumni network. As I mentioned, communication and interpersonal skills are imperative, so start practicing your networking skills, and be sure to maintain those contacts even after you graduate. 

Transferable skills are essential when for recent graduates, so begin looking at the grand scheme of things as soon as you step foot on campus, constantly aware of life after graduation, especially in the area of personal finance and time management. After all, college is about finding that balance between work and play, and by discovering this element of life early on, you will be far more prepared to enter the real world than you may realize. 

Melinda Boisjolie, NACAC Communications Intern 2011–12​




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