This spring — like every spring before it — thousands of college graduates will fill the auditorium halls of their higher education institutes for the last time. They’ll toss their hats in the air, listen to inspirational speeches from the doctors and lawyers from graduating classes that preceded them… and then pick up their serving aprons and head back to the reality of the next several years of their lives.
A college degree isn’t as prestigious as it used to be. For many graduates entering the work force, it’s a sad disappointment to realize that having a 4.0 GPA doesn’t directly translate to a cushy corner office and a CEO position. As we work our way up from the bottom, here are a few practical skills that it’s important to realize college did teach us (Some of which can even be put on a resume!):
1. How to BS our way to success
If there’s anything college has taught us, it’s how to sound incredibly competent discussing a subject we know almost nothing about. This is going to come in handy at cocktail parties, first dates and — most importantly — job interviews. The ability to articulate what you know is, in many cases, just as important as knowing it. College may not have taught us everything we need to excel at in the workplace but it sure did teach us how to fake it with a passion.
2. How to work cohesively with the worst people ever
For the average worker, life is going to be one big group project until the day they retire. The good news is you have 4+ years of practice navigating the relationships between the anal-retentive over-achiever and the person who your textbook refers to as a “social loafer.” These people now come in the form of bosses, colleagues and co-workers… and you know the secret to dealing with them! It’s passive-aggressive compliance, followed up with a big old glass of wine when you get home. Thanks, college!
3. How to keep it together when things fall apart
The Murphy’s Law of college is that everything that could go wrong will go wrong the night before a final exam. Now that you’ve had a grandparent die, a significant other break up with you, and an over-dramatic roommate wage war three hours before you have to get up to relay all the information you know about a tediously dry topic, what can’t you do? College tests your emotional limits as much as your intellectual ones and the coping skills you pick up will follow you on past graduation.
4. How to maintain a network
The crazy thing about life after college is that the people you once chugged beer out of a pylon with may actually be in the position of employing others in the not-so-distant future. The more people we befriended in college, the more people we can rely on for tips, favors and leads to opportunities in the real world. Meticulously maintaining your Facebook profile no longer seems like a fruitless or time-wasting event. The people who ‘like’ all our statuses may soon be the reason we can make rent.
5. How to think critically about everything
College is full of lies. “Your degree will be useful!” “Your loans will be worth it!” “Your GPA matters to future employers!” You have to wade your way out of these lies by carefully analyzing your surroundings and decide where your own best interests lie. Trusting the institutions we study at or work for is a valuable plan only to the extent to which they are fulfilling our needs. College teaches you when it’s best to drop a class, switch your major or – as the real world equivalent goes – leave a job that is no longer working for you.
6. The importance of clear communication
Figuring out exactly what your professor expects from an assignment is the surest way to excel at it. The same goes for employers. Assuming that you’re on the same wavelength as the person evaluating your performance is never a safe risk to take. Anyone who’s taken an English or Philosophy class can attest to this. College teaches us to approach professors, employers and sexual partners with a shameless need for clarification as to what they expect from us. It’s the most efficient way to get anything done right.
7. How to balance conflicting responsibilities
Juggling school, relationships, extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs makes you the master of multi-tasking. It also makes you the master of taking responsibility for your actions because your boss doesn’t care that you had a huge paper due last night and your professor doesn’t care that your girlfriend is mad at you again. It’s inevitable that at some point, the various roles we take on throughout college will interact negatively and leave us to pick up the pieces. This is also a game the real world forces us to play, over and over again. In the years after college we will prioritize and re-prioritize our lives more times than we will be able to count. It takes a lot of trial and error to get things right, but that’s a game we’ve been familiar with for years. After all, succeeding at college is the art of taking educated guesses. And so is succeeding at life.