Thought Catalog

No One Cares That You Graduated

  • 0

Hey there grads, congrats!

Finishing college is hard, kind of, and you finally did it. Most people don’t. You should be moderately proud of yourself, and enjoy your moment in the sun. And I don’t mean to rain on your parade here, but I am going to let you in on a secret that you don’t hear often in the academic world.

No one gives a sh-t about college.

Shh!

Don’t say it too loud, or you might scare the incoming Freshman. You might scare your parents, who probably just dropped $60,000 to put you through that school. You might scare yourself, because you are now saddled with an insane amount of debt and entering the ‘real world’ for the first time.

Here is exactly what is going to happen when you graduate: At all of your ceremonies you’re going to see and hear a bunch of people telling you that you are in charge of this country’s future, that the nation’s prosperity rests in your hands, and only you can bring about all the positive changes that need to be made with your energy and intelligence.

You will never hear anyone seriously tell you that again.

The instant that you walk out of the auditorium, the instant you cross that line on stage, you become another punk kid trying to get a job. If you’re anything like me and my friends, you will saunter into that first post-college position ready to take over the company, entitled to all the perks and special considerations because you’re a college grad. Then, about six minutes and forty two seconds into your first day, you realize that no one cares about you or the school you went to. You realize that the four (or five, or six) years and tens of thousands of dollars you just dropped were spent to make you into a nameless, faceless, drone for a company that would terminate you in a second if it were profitable.

You think quietly to yourself: This kind of sucks.

This little seed germinates, then grows, and finally becomes an infestation in your mind, that makes you hate your job — and if you hate your job, you eventually will hate your life.

I’m not judging, or being condescending, or even hostile toward corporate America, no matter how bitter I sound. Hell, I am not even bitter. I worked for some good bosses, have made many friends, and liked most every person that I worked with. I am merely speaking from experience, and not just as a man who once thought it was significant to graduate from a top 20 institution (this means nothing) with a degree in the humanities (less than nothing), and obtain a job that paid pretty decent in a Fortune 500 company (again… sigh). I was once a man who felt he was on top of the world because he could afford an Xbox, flat screen, movies, and booze.

But happiness that is defined by products that you purchase isn’t happiness, it’s an illusion. The new car. The TV. The nice apartment. The condo. The house. Each one is a step up. It’s addicting to improve yourself materially. But every purchase you make, every loan you take, becomes a link in the chain that keeps you in a place you can’t stand.

“I can’t leave my job because of my mortgage.”
“I can’t find a new job because of my car payment.”
“I can’t quit because I have kids.”

This is the Greek Chorus of any office, and you will hear a few people say this every day for years. Older people. People who have been working for about as long as you and I have been alive. They aren’t bad people. They have just been working at a job they didn’t like for so long, that they forgot that life shouldn’t suck. They are miserable, they complain about everything — and worst of all — they are hopeless. None of them looked forward to anything more than a long weekend, or a week at the beach, and retirement/death.

They were island castaways, who don’t even bother to keep a fire going anymore. That job will occupy the substantial majority of waking hours for the next 40 years of their lives. Then they will die.

This can happen to you.

Easily.

Did you go to Yale? Harvard? Or a top three state school? No? Then prepare yourself for at least a decade or two of menial office work. Remember Office Space? That is about to be your life. Remember Fight Club? Guess who is Edward Norton. And real life Office Space is not hysterical, and real life Fight Club is not awesome.

It is terrible.

My experience in the corporate world was comparatively brief, but Russian soldiers didn’t need to fight in Stalingrad to see that their surviving comrades had been through hell. As someone who saw what the Machine can do every day in the hollow, desolate faces and destroyed attitudes of some of my older, more seasoned coworkers and managers, I believe with all my heart that what grads need most isn’t a congratulation message, but a warning.

Since childhood this generation has had it drilled into their heads that college is the answer to everything. It isn’t. In reality, college is the answer to nothing. Whatever you do after you finish, if you do it for money, or to make your folks happy, or because you think you have to, and not because you love it, you’re going to be miserable.

That is all you need to know about life after college, and it’s something they don’t really tell you in college.

It took me about six years to work up the courage to quit my job, and to acknowledge that what I was doing was slowly killing me inside. Now I write, poorly, and barely eke out a living selling pizzas and sweeping floors, trying to scrape a living together writing a blog that no one pays attention to, and pitching article ideas no one wants to read, let alone pay for.

Yet.

I am not complaining about my situation. I am celebrating it. This is the happiest I have been in my entire life. I am more proud of myself for quitting my job than I ever will be for graduating. I will be more proud of getting paid $10 for a piece than I will about the couple hundred thousand I got with my degree. I care more about the quality of this specific essay than I ever cared about anything any company ever paid me to do.

I have read more, learned more, and thought more this past year, than I ever did during my five in college; and I did it all so that I could work up the courage to escape the place where my bachelor’s degree brought me in the first place.

So, grads. That’s my unsolicited, unwanted, unwelcome advice.

Throw your degree in the trash — it’s just a piece of paper — and start working on making your life yours.

Because school’s out forever, and you don’t know anything.

Yet. TC mark

image – Bianca Morais
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  • Anonymous

    Ohhh you’re so angry :(

  • Guest

    “This little seed germinates, then grows, and finally becomes an
    infestation in your mind, that makes you hate your job — and if you hate
    your job, you eventually will hate your life.  ”

    After a year in the real world, no statement could sum up my current outlook on life more perfectly. I want to tell every incoming freshman to run away and never look back because a degree means nothing today except a massive amount of debt you’ll be paying forever.

  • Guest

    Wow…you’re a real asshole. Probably a college dropout too, hence the bitterness!

    • poo

       wow…you didn’t read the part where he got a degree and a job

    • Andrew Rowland

      Can we give negative likes to people who clearly don’t read the article?

  • Dave

    Sounds like you got an accounting degree

    • villanelle

      Did you miss the part where he said he got a degree in humanities?

  • http://twitter.com/EvWasLike Ev Junior

    As pithy, narcissistic (by the actual definition of the word), cynical, and sad as this was, I agree with every word.

  • Sonia Thomas

    I would like to know if you regret education at all. 

  • https://twitter.com/#!/jmanes92 James Manes

    Agree in some ways. In others I do not. Every senior in Computer Science at my college is already signed up for some company willing to pay them 60k a year at the least. Sounds pretty good to me. I know a lot of people in CS that do not enjoy it though. They are “doing it for the money.” That is a terrible reason to pick a major or job on any occasion.

    Anyhow, getting an engineering job is not as easy as graduating high school and then applying. Imagine going up to IBM, Apple or Microsoft and saying “Hey! I never went to college because it is worthless. I taught myself. Here is my resume.” Does anyone really think they would choose him over someone who got a 4.0 in CS during college and was guaranteed to know the logic behind the computer? In college you basically teach yourself in a lot of ways, but your grades reflect just how well you actually comprehended what you learned.

    I honestly think there are benefits to college if you go for the right major. That being said, you’d better enjoy your major while there, or else it will be hell.

    • Darcy

      how is your second paragraph relevant to anything in the article……………you’re missing the point……………….

      • https://twitter.com/#!/jmanes92 James Manes

        Getting a degree would greatly improve your chances of getting a job. Thus giving you money. Makes you happy if you like doing what you are doing.

        Quit using dots……………………………………………………….

    • Amine

      I just don’t agree that marks should really reflect how any person can be able to do a specific job.

  • Anniejrhodes

    Is this really true? I hear this all the time and I never know if I should believe it.

    • N Looman

      Its true for me and 90% of the college grads I know.

      The Liberal Arts degrees between my friends and I have led us to working as

      Factory office employee
      Grocer
      Window washer
      Coffee shop employee
      web development/coffee employee
      valet
      daycare admin
      sales rep, sales rep, sales rep, sales rep etc.

      and while we are, for the most part, happy and still learning, climbing, loving, growing, we are not where we want to be or where we thought our degree and “necessary” debt would take us.

  • Jazmyn taylor

    Why not also speak to the freshman and tell them to start making their life theirs while they are in college?

    And, for many people a college degree is more than a piece of paper. It symbolizes much more than the job it may give you.

  • DELAWARE23

    This whole article is based on the premise that everyone who graduates college got some kind of business/accounting degree. Some people major in what they love from the start. Some people happen to love things you consider menial. Or some people have the ambition to rise to the top of a company like that, where they can actually see the results of their work. 

  • Hry

    Phew….. lucky I go to Yale then

    • http://twitter.com/todd_clayton Todd Clayton

      Ew.

  • Nikki Renee

    I like this, but I feel like so many articles on here just seem to make it seem like degrees are useless, and unless you’re “following your heart” with some kind of leaning towards a creative type of employment, you’re destined for a life of misery.

    I’m in law school, and believe me, I struggle with it every day. But when I started interning, and I saw people whose lives I improved and I saw the happiness and security I brought others, the nights of anxiety worried for tests, the reduction of free time, and the thousands of dollars I’m spending for my degree suddenly seem a lot more worth it. 

    I’m glad you found your calling. I’m just saying…it’s not the degree that makes or breaks you. It’s if you truly want it and how you use it.

  • Anonymous

    THANK YOU. 

  • Andrew Rowland

    I don’t think his point was that graduating college isn’t  worthwhile, just that it’s not the crowning achievement it’s supposed to be. Nowadays, it seems like an undergraduate degree is the highschool degree of years past, and a graduate degree is the notable accomplishment… I think academia is getting out of hand.

    • asil

      That’s what I thought, so I went and got my masters in Administration with a focus in Applied Communication.  It didn’t do ANYTHING for me.  Ugh.

      • Andrew Rowland

        I’m in the process of applying to grad school right now (for an MBA). Not even sure why I’m doing it other than my work will pay for most of it.

  • http://twitter.com/meganfauxxxx meg

    While I am currently happily, albeit apprehensively, shuffling towards the edge of the cliff that represents my college career, I must say that there is some truth within this article. I don’t think that the writer honestly was trying to sound bitter or angry in the least, but more or less attempting to bring caution to you: Education is never a true measure of knowledge and success (unless you, cough, come from a family of power), nor will it ever be. That’s nice that you got a Bachelor of Arts degree, but honestly school can never teach you what the real world can. Travel. Learn. Discover. Don’t tie yourself down to a job working for a corporation that 16-year-old you would vomit profusely on. I know what I want out of life, and that’s Happiness – fuck a 9 to 5 job, fuck making money for a house, for payments, for loans. I will come out of University scott-free and with that I know I am lucky, and I intend on branching out and leaving the po-dunk towns I grew up in. Don’t ever settle for less than perfect, and don’t ever settle just because you have a college degree in a subject you worked your ass off in and only have a paper and a few essays to wave around. College is a joke, just live. I can assure you, you won’t regret taking a chance. 

    • https://twitter.com/#!/jmanes92 James Manes

       I too come from a very small town. I call it the black hole. People are born around here, grow up here, and never leave. They never get a college education simply because they don’t want to, and they live on a day-by-day basis. I hated that. I was always interested in computers and programming, and the only way to get out of here in my opinion was to reach for a CS degree. I’m a sophmore now and doing great in my field. I know I have what it takes to push myself toward a successful career, and I honestly don’t think college will harm me.

      Sure, there is debt, but there is also a 90% hiring rate starting at 63,000 a year. Considering my college will cost exactly 60,000 after I graduate, I think I have it covered.

      • dude

        is nevadas r-5 school district paying you that 63k a year yet?

  • Degree_sucker

    I loved this. Truly. But, I need to add a couple things.

    Upon graduating I recommend going to work for small-medium sized companies first so you can know what its like to be exploited like the sweatshop whore you truly are equivalent to. It allows you to work really hard for barely any return but you can fuck up a lot while learning and (probably) not get fired more than 50% of the time. More importantly you get to see a lot of employment settings you will remember for life as being “Absofuckinglutely not acceptable to ever experience again”
    Then I wholeheartedly recommend doing contract work (if you have a skill that allows it) so you can know the joy of being your own boss and then the horror of realising you don’t know how to budget once you hit a 4 month dry spell and 3 months earlier you blew your nest egg on some dumb 3rd world debauched vacation with your fellow idiot drunkard friends.By this point night classes might seem like a good option so you can stay current (if tech is not your primary livelihood where you are going to be constantly learning until death anyhow) and then use this to transition into the soul sucking corporate job. By this point the benefits plan, training & professional development allowances, regular bonuses ‘just because’, and the community of seemingly motivated put together near well to do’s will appear to be the pinnacle of one’s working life.

    Now, all the stuff the author said will come true.

    BUT

    You at least have some added perspective so when you decide to say FUCK IT you really know what awaits your fiery descent from corporate hell. More hell of course! But at least you can better prepare for the version you think you’ll be able to tolerate until your next mental breakdown!

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    My only regret is that I haven’t gone for my PhD yet.  Perhaps one day I will be Dr. Costa, the eminent biologist.  I doubt my eminence is imminent.

  • agandaur

     If you didn’t have that couple hundred thousand sitting safely in your bank account… I doubt you’d be pursuing this $10-an essay dream lifestyle right now.

  • Guest

    i was really concerned about my post-college life until i read “top three state school.”   glad i’ll dodge this bullet!

    • Alex

      I went to the top state school in the country. Doesn’t help. The important thing is your major. Engineering, CS, and some of the sciences (like chem) you’ll be ok. Anything else and you’re screwed.
      -Psych major from UVA 

      • https://twitter.com/#!/jmanes92 James Manes

         My thoughts exactly. I am a CS major and all seniors in my college in CS are already on contract to start a very good job right out of college.

      • Guest

        it was light sarcasm; i know it all comes down to major. 

        (UVA Commerce 2014)

  • Mad

    Depressing and rude.

  • Luke Crane

    Glad I go my masters at Duke then

  • Emma


    Whatever you do after you finish, if you do it for money, or to make your folks happy, or because you think you have to, and not because you love it, you’re going to be miserable.”
    This is so applicable to my life, ugh. “Because you think you have to.” I’m a sophomore at UF majoring in biology and spanish (I want to be a teacher) but I really love illustration and writing more than anything. I guess I feel like I “have to” aspire to do something really helpful or productive because that’s what I’ve been told my whole life. But this article just validates that little nagging voice in the back of my head. Is it normal to feel so uncertain about everything all the time?!

    • ...

      Productivity is paramount. You could choose to look at it as generating honest, exchangeable, merit-based value for fellow men OR as a selfish, commercial interest. Your call. But that’s what you need to figure out for yourself; land some certainty. I’d wager that if you’re any good at writing and illustration, you will be productive and that will help someone – commercially or otherwise. 

      And a brilliant, driven illustrator is worth far more than a mediocre teacher. God knows  the world has enough of the latter already.

  • Marita Abraham

    This is a sentiment I have been encountering repeatedly these past few weeks (just about when I’m ready to graduate). It’s a strong sentiment, coming from people who have backtracked because they have spent their time doing what doesn’t make them happy. But as a graduate, that decision is EXTREMELY difficult. When you start out, choosing not to be well off is something that most of us do not have the courage to do, because we have a lot to lose. 

  • Saradio

    Hey dude, I totally feel you.  I got an international education and couldn’t even get a job at a coffee shop when I graduated.  I wanted to write and eventually got one of those fancy jobs that everyone said would be awesome, but I was so unhappy.  While I was doing a shitty job at that work I was writing as much as possible and once I got fired it was a blessing.   Just keep pitching, friend, work will come as it has for me.. on my OWN terms.  

    There’s something to be said about being poor and happy than being one of those drones.

    • Alex

      theres nothing like getting fired to help you work on your dreams :)

  • http://twitter.com/OneHundredUSA One Hundred Apparel

    As a 2011 college grad I can tell you that this author is completely right. I graduated from a top 3 public school spent a good chuck of last year looking for a job. My degree was worthless, It was like employers just ignored it completely. 

    I worked as a waiter for a few months, and while that’s one of the best ways to make a ton of money, I can tell you it destroyed my soul like the authors corporate job did. You work all day catering to the fickle needs of privileged people, and every single second you are thinking about how to extract more money from the people around you. I only worked 7 hrs a day (a lot when you are on your feet) but getting home at 1 in the morning, and waking up at 11, doesn’t really give you a lot of free time. 

    The catch is that I DO have my own business, and It makes me 100% fulfilled. Not only is it mine, but the whole purpose is to help people. I LOVE it. However,  I would come home each day depressed, and exhausted, unable to work for my business because I was so tired. I wanted to quit, but unlike the author I did not have 10 grand in my bank account to finance me through the trials of starting a business, and what little I had went directly into the business. So that left me chained to the job. 

    Luckily, I got fired. I was able to use that time to continue building the business, and now I work as a lifeguard to pay the bills (silly for a person with a top degree) but I love what I’m doing with my business, and I want to be able to continue to do it without having to worry about money. 

    • Maryjane

      “The catch is that I DO have my own business”…aka you sell drugs

      • http://twitter.com/OneHundredUSA One Hundred Apparel

        If you just looked at my username and icon the nature of my business would be obvious…

      • http://twitter.com/OneHundredUSA One Hundred Apparel

        Also, drilling wells in developing countries where they don’t have access to clean water is about as far away from selling drugs as it gets. Don’t be rude and ignorant.

    • MistaT


       I was disillusioned with what I felt was a lack of authenticity; the people around me wanted to improve their resumes, justify their fraternity, or gain job experience. I never felt like these groups and their members were working for something other then themselves. That year I decided I wanted to do something to fight this trend of “pseudo-humanitarianism”.

      DUDE YES. I’m also a 2011 grad of the school you went to, and this statement cannot be more true.

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