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Five Things You (Didn’t) Learn in College

College is a time for experimentation, a time where young people venture away from their parents and in the great yonder— an expansive space where activity in misapplied idealism is as commonplace as expose-like sexual experimentation.   If all of life were like college the world would be a pantomime of efficiency, a farce to discipline and fetal alcohol syndrome would be as common in the U.S as AIDS is in Swaziland. It is thusly a miss-remembrance to state that college is the best point of one’s life, like stating that Meet the Falkers is the high point of DeNiro’s career.  In fact, the best things learned throughout life aren’t learned during the go-go college years: they are learned in the years that come after.  What follows are five things you didn’t learn in college, but know now.

1)      All money is not beer money. As a college student, if you didn’t put 60% or more of your money towards drinking related endeavors (including the obligatory and regrettable late night food binges) you either a) where studying or working, and thus the white buffalo of your dorm, b) not getting laid, c) spending money on marijuana or other substances (acceptable alternative).  College was when you would chip in for a 30-rack of Pabst or Bud Light that cost $10 bucks.  Since these hazy days you have learned that there are other obligations for your money outside of the art of racing towards the mother-bird position. They missed the true purpose of college. Those that have not learned that lesson are probably your friends from college that still have multiple roommates and are on a first name basis with their local bartender but not their boss. 

2)      Being tied down allows you to travel further.  There were those in college that insisted on, as they likely did in high school, on roaming from relationship to relationship like some western-era vagabond roaming from town to town, taking shelter where they could find as they drifted gradually towards the horizon.  Clint Eastwood these folks were not, more like Jim from Blazing Saddles.  Worse, they may have stuck with one relationship throughout all of college, thereby nullifying the whole point of being young and in college.  Particularly if you were a male, being tied down during college wasn’t so far off from leasing your dick: you had to limit the mileage and although you got to roam around town with it, it wasn’t really yours.  The reality in the post-college years as that the advantages of tying yourself down actually allow you to travel further.  Dual incomes, double the efficiency, an ear to complain to, and the ability to hunt for a raise instead of sex are just the tip—a game you probably remember from college, and are likely better off having retired from. 

3)      Career isn’t everything.  When I was in college my career was a primary concern after managing my harem and making sure no one scuffed my sneakers.  Since I have graduated I have learned that the priority I put in my career during college was slightly misplaced, like an inopportune compliment on the boss’s four year old daughter’s dress.  I have come to learn that many of the aspects of my college life that I valued—writing, entrepreneurship, reading, just sitting around thinking—truly need to be fought for if they are to continue to a part of my life.  The autistic-level focus I brought to my career gave me a large jumpstart and allowed me to aggressively pay down my student loans, but it left me feeling exhausted and intellectually vapid in the first few years after college.  Career isn’t everything, it is a singular aspect of our lives and the amount of space it occupies may not be as much as we thought during our college years. 

4)      Being able to cook is life skill.  The need to feed ourselves is a basic necessity of life, and not until our post-college years does this need require us to actually cook.  There were of course those few students who cooked, yet just as there were students who abstained from drinking and philandering, they were about as common as a herpes-free mouth.  Only in college is three-day old unrefrigerated pizza and Chinese food a viable meal option (the bacteria didn’t stand a chance against the copious alcohol waiting for it in the stomach). Post-college, not being able to cook goes hand in hand with being broke (from eating out), fat (from eating out) and alone (from eating out)[1].  A successful post college adult knows how to cook.

5)      You have no idea who you are.  Face it, during college you thought you knew exactly how your life would play out.  Your career was mapped out, you knew roughly when you would get married (or knew you wouldn’t), and your beliefs were locked down harder than an Iraqi teenager going through a “pyro” phase.  As you likely know now, your current life has more in common with Office Space than Wall Street, and your beliefs change with every President.  While college was a time where we tried to pin down out identity, we now understand that is a moving target that, while worth shooting for, may not ever be hit.  And we are okay with that[2].

Life is an evolving entity we are only able to absorb in retrospect, and sometimes that retrospect requires sobriety, a partner, fiscal responsibility and the awareness to know we are largely as ignorant to ourselves now as we were then.  College was a blast, but adulthood bears its own rewards reaped from the lessons it teaches— lessons that do not involve Girls Gone Wild. 

Author Bio:

The following is a guest post from our friends at Snarkfinance. Snarkfinance is what you get when you mix insult humor with a finance blog.  Snarkfinance focuses on unique, applicable approaches to financial concepts and business in general.  Its main author is a successful professional investor and financial analyst for Fortune 500 companies who enjoys nothing more than a cringe worthy joke. Follow Snarkfinance on Twitter.


[1] Can’t cook?  Good luck finding a girlfriend/boyfriend.

[2] Or not, in which case make sure your health insurance includes mental health visits.


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  1. I’m with you on No. 2 and 3. I’ve seen guys that are 15 years older than me still “chasing after tail” and neglecting their jobs. Meanwhile you got the other people in the office who never leave because work is their one and only thing they do in life. Then you’ve got the dreaded combination of the two: The guy who does nothing but flirt with everything that breathes, but then throws everyone under the bus preaching company philosophies when he makes a mistake or forgets to do what he was supposed to.

  2. Good post as always Mitchell! In regards to #1, I shudder to think of how much I spent on cheap booze while in college. I realize that makes me sound a bit on the alcoholic side, but you get my point. 😉 In regards to #4, I too was focused a ton on my career and while it did allow me to do some things, it wasn’t fulfilling at all.

    • I think people tend to fall into a sort of balance at some point, but for some that is waaayyy into their careers. I think learning the important of balance from the get-go is a great lesson, and something that perhaps should be taught (even if briefly) in college.

  3. Oh my gosh, every word of this is true and would’ve been such valuable lessons to me twenty-plus years ago. I did make one continuous frugal choice in those days, though: quarter beer night at the local pub. Never missed it. 🙂

  4. I agree you have no idea who you are…and I’d have to say most of your 20’s you have no idea who you are. The ones who would probably disagree with that are still in their 20’s. 🙂 I also sucked at cooking and I swear I lived off baked potatoes and Eggo frozen waffles. Other than that, I became more serious in college because I was away from a shitty home life. My grades improved, my social life improved, I was in a serious relationship the last 1.5 years. Overall it saved my life! College is what you make of it!

  5. I skipped college altogether, so I’m not sure what that makes me… but being able to gain perspective in retrospect is true no matter where you’ve been, you’ve just got to make the time to do it, and plan for the future based on your newfound perspective!

  6. I try not to think how much money I wasted on alcohol in my 20’s. Thousands of dollars, at least.

  7. I think I cooked once during college and I was trying to impress a potential boyfriend. I often tell people I’m not sure how I wasn’t morbidly obese during those years. My roommates and I used to buy 5 pound “buckets” of cookie dough at BJS and eat it with spoons late at night. Man, those were some days…

  8. Career isn’t everything?!? The lies! Okay I’m being sarcastic, but it’s true that colleges make it seem like your career is and always will be your #1 priority. After being out a few years I’m realizing I care about having gainful employment, but moving up in my career isn’t as nearly as important to me as I thought I would be when I was in college

  9. My husband and I have been together since we were kids. I’ve never known anything but duel income haha. Love it 🙂

    Though you sould never rely on anyone and know how to stand I on your own two feet as well!

  10. I luckily learned that cooking was a life skill in high school – I love making food! As far as #5…I couldn’t agree more. I’m just figuring out who I am now at the age of 40!

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