9 Life Lessons They Don't Teach In College

by Amy McCarthy
Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Your college years are a time of learning and exploration, even if you spent most of your time drinking cheap beer from a keg. Now that you’re graduating, it’s time to move out and try to become a productive member of society. Unfortunately, college may have left you ill equipped to make it in the real world.

College teaches you a lot of things, but it gives little insight into what it means to actually pay bills, go to work, and live in your 20s. Navigating the world is complicated, but these nine life lessons will help put you on the right track toward becoming an independent adult.

1. You’re going to have at least one terrible job.

Even the jobs that look entirely dreamy on paper can turn out to be harrowing experiences. Maybe your boss will be an unrepentant bitch, you’ll end up working with an alcoholic loser who blames everything on you, or, like me, your first paycheck will bounce. But you’ll eventually find a better job.

2. Managing money is harder than you think.

I don’t care if you graduated honors with an accounting degree, keeping track of your own finances is practically a full-time job in your early 20s, especially if you’re paying a huge student loan bill every month. US News and World Report suggests living at home, living as cheaply as you did before you had a regular paycheck, and limiting credit card debt, among other tips.

3. Your career will probably have nothing to do with your major.

Sure, your degree may say that you’re going to do public relations or marketing, but in this tough job market, you’ll take what you can get. A 2013 study said that 32 percent of college grads never worked in a field related to their major. The job you do land out of college will probably be sales of some kind, so get ready for that.

4. Your college friends will probably not be your friends after college.

Even if you all end up living in New York City in some kind of real-life episode of Girls, drifting apart from your college friends is only natural. And if you have friends all over the country now, they can tell you great places to eat when you travel. It’s a give and take.

5. Dealing with a landlord can be a pain.

Even if you lived in an apartment during college, your parents may have handled the finances. Now, you have a lifetime of stodgy landlords and corporate apartment complexes where everything is perpetually broken and all the staff has a bad attitude. Learn how to get the property managers on your side, or get ready for a full year’s worth of yelling and gnashing your teeth to get a drippy faucet fixed. MSN has some tips for dealing with your landlord, including doing research on your building's market rate and forming positive relationships with the person in charge.

6. You have to buy some adult clothes.

Those bodycon dresses from Forever 21 look great at the bar, but not so much under the harsh fluorescent lights of your brand new cubicle. Use your graduation money on a grown up wardrobe that you can accessorize with cheap camisoles and statement jewelry. Don’t forget to buy a blazer, you will inevitably need one.

7. You will have to learn how to prepare food for yourself.

There are no dining halls in real life, but there are fast food restaurants and piles of other food garbage for you to consume in lieu of cooking your own. Eating out is also expensive, especially when you can make really good meals at home. Invest in a few cookbooks and a good knife to get yourself started, and check out these seven meals grown-ass adults should know how to cook.

8. You will never actually feel like a grown up.

You will perpetually feel like a child inside an adult’s body, especially when something complicated like having to take out a car loan or buying a home happens. Making your way through life definitely gets easier, but you can always count on doing something colossally stupid at least once a year, like dropping your grandmother’s earrings down the sink drain or locking yourself out of the apartment.

9. You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s OK.

Your 20s are the time to date guys that you shouldn’t, stay up too late, and wear horribly uncomfortable high heels. You may regret some of these bad decisions, but you’ll definitely learn something. Even boring people have regrets, so it’s probably best to let yourself do a few ridiculous things rather than missing out on the experience of being a young, professional adult.