As the class of 2012 gets ready to toss their caps and take their first steps into the real world, here are seven accounts from college grads telling you what they wish they knew before graduating.
1. It’s even more difficult to “date” in the real world.
Sara, Class of 2010: “By the time I became a junior in college, I thought I wasted a lot of time caring about my appearance, the way I spoke, staking out guys who might be eligible (staking, not stalking--I want to make that very clear,) and then being oh so disappointed when things didn't work out. By the time I was a senior, I gave up on my quest to find a match and wore sweats to class for the remainder of the year. Back then, I thought the guys I met in school were bad, but the ones I meet now are worst—aliens, the green kind with three fingers.”
2. It doesn’t matter where you go to school. It’s about what you do once you get there.
Omnia, Class of 2011: “People think it’s important to attend a school with a fancy name. You can go to Columbia, take only the required courses you need, pass them, avoid taking unnecessary electives, joining clubs or getting involved in anything else that’s not required in the curriculum to graduate. After graduation, you’ll regret that you didn’t do more; graduate schools look at more than just grades. I would’ve been better off taking my science classes at a smaller college than NYU. Yes, it has a fancy name, but learning biology in a class of 500 people isn’t the best way to master the subject.”
3. An undergraduate degree is useless. Networking is everything.
Neethu, Class of 2010: “A bachelors degree in certain fields is only useful to apply for graduate school and pretty useless with it comes to helping you get a job in your field. A lot of times you think that a degree equals opportunity for employment, and right now that equation really doesn't equal out. I wish I had known to make and keep connections with people—professors, employers, coordinators. Networking and who you know means everything."
4. Use your resources while you still have them.
Anonymous, Class of 2010: “Now that I’m out of college, I realize how many resources were available to me while I was in school, and how many I’ve lost since I graduated. I feel like I’ve been thrown into the world without anyone to guide me. I have this degree, but nothing else. I wish I frequently used the resources that were available to me then—such as the career center, the internship office, etc.”
5. Pursue your interests and reach your full potential while you still have the time.
Katherine, Class of 2010: “I played volleyball since high school and throughout college, but I should've sought out and pursued better athletic programs. I took swimming and diving my freshman year; I wish I took that more seriously. If I had been more involved, I could’ve kept my mind occupied and gotten good workouts and better discipline when it came to balancing good eating habits and maintaining grade point averages.”
6. Make the effort to learn as much as you can.
Jamie, Class of 2011: “I wish I realized how much there was to learn from experienced professors. I, as many others do, rushed into class, took basic notes and rushed out—never really asked questions or picked at their brains on topics beyond the basic literature that was required. Doing it my way doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t still do well in the course and pass exams. Without fully interacting in the course by asking questions, getting to know professors beyond the classroom and learning about the rich history many of them know and have experienced, you don’t really get to fully understand the subject. Not only as it relates to a topic in the curriculum, but as it fits into life’s greater picture. I wish I would’ve taken more advantage of their presence in my life and did more to absorb all the knowledge they were willing to provide me with.”
7. Study abroad. It’s more affordable than expensing a trip abroad on your own.
Anonymous, Class of 2010: “I always wanted to study abroad, but I knew it was something you had to set up months in advance. I never made the time to apply to different programs or for grants and scholarships—some of them would pay for half the trip including stipends, and room and board. There were some that would even expense your entire stay. I look at the cost of travel out of the country now, and I can barely pull together enough to pay for a flight, let alone hotel, food and everything else.”