Six Lessons You’ll Learn after Graduating College

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Graduating college and starting your “real life” is exciting – and scary, challenging, and confusing. Recent grads, check out this article for a little insight on what’s to come. Warning: spoilers ahead.

Worried about bursting out of your college bubble and entering the real world? Don’t be. It can be tough to adjust to adulthood, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: adulthood is a myth. People never actually grow up, they just learn how to act in public and they readjust their priorities.

You’ll still play, laugh, make mistakes, fail, pick yourself back up, learn, and grow. You’ll still ride roller coasters, drink more than you should, and overspend on frivolities. People will continue to wink at you on the street and smile your way on the subway.

Certain things will change though, and some will get more difficult to deal with. But you’ll learn to adjust. People are extremely adaptable, and change is often good. It pushes us out of our comfort zones and keeps life interesting. So brace yourselves. Here’s a short list of things you’ll learn along the way.

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Hard Work is a Must

Graduating from an elite college doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a fabulous career ahead of you. Yes, Harvard graduates may find it easier to get a job, but even they have to work hard to excel in their chosen fields. The job market has become extremely competitive, and no one will praise you for doing the bare minimum. Talent is valued, but it means nothing if you don’t apply yourself to constantly improve.

You have to strive to get ahead, work on regularly improving your skills, and impress supervisors on a regular basis. It’s not going to be easy. However, as long as you’re passionate about what you do and proactive about your career, you’ll find a way to succeed.

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No Money Management Skills? That Means Trouble

Learning how to manage money will save you a lot of stress, especially at the beginning of your career. What most colleges don’t want you to know is that, as a recent graduate, you’re likely to be poor for a while. Life on your own is pretty expensive, and when you also have some considerable student debt to pay off, money issues can quickly become overwhelming.

If you don’t learn how to properly manage your money you may end up with some unhealthy financial habits that will be hard to get rid of. So live well within your means. Budget. Use credit cards wisely. Work toward paying back your debts. And, most importantly, educate yourself on the subject of personal finances. There are plenty of free online resources and mobile apps that can help you better manage your resources.

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Only You Can Define Your Success

Everything people told you about success is utterly subjective. You’re the only one who can define what success means to you. For some, success means earning enough money to afford buying a fancy plane just because they can. For others, it can mean always being home on time to have dinner with their families. Some want to start their own business, others never dream of bossing other people around.

If you want to be happy you’ll have to figure out what success means to you— even if you come up with a definition society will find absurd. Following a career path that brings you little joy only because it’s expected will make you miserable. The sooner you realize that the better.

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Friendships Work Differently in The Real World

In college, you have a sense of community and you see familiar faces all around. Most of your friends live close by, so you just have to send them a text to hang out and they’ll be there in less than an hour. Things don’t work like this in the real world. You’ll have a job, hobbies, and responsibilities. Your friends will, too. Scheduling a get-together for when you’re all available will be a pain. It will take a lot of compromising and prioritizing.

There’s also a benefit to this – when convenience is out of the picture, you’ll find out who your true friends are. At the end of the day, you should be grateful for the handful of friends who stuck by, despite their busy schedules and hectic lives. They clearly trump the hundreds of mere acquaintances you’ve made during your college years.

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You Need to Sleep

Your body catches up to you at some point. The moment when you realize that you need at least 7 hours of sleep each night, or else you’ll be unproductive and grumpy the following day—that’s when going out on weekends becomes more optional than mandatory.

Other scary things will happen as well. You’ll no longer be able to party until 4 A.M. without looking like hell for your 9 AM meeting. Hangovers will become unbearable. Also, you’ll no longer be able to live on a diet of frozen pizza and bagels, unless you make peace with the fact that you’ll lose your figure. And you’ll discover exercise and smoothies. And it will be magical.

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You Never Stop Learning

Just because school is over, doesn’t mean you’re done with learning. Learning is an ongoing process that lasts a lifetime. It keeps our brain active and prevents us from becoming discontent with where we are. Growth is a key component of happiness, as Gretchen Rubin notes in her book, The Happiness Project (it’s a fun read, you should really give it a go).

Reaching goals helps us feel more accomplished, and working towards achieving something gives us a sense of purpose. So never stop learning and developing new abilities. Your old ones might get rusty at any time.

College is a wonderful experience, but what comes after is even better. You’ll learn a lot: about yourself, your limitations, your expectations, and your friends. Welcome to the real world. You’ll truly love it, even with every hardship that comes your way.