I’m graduating college in May. Boom. I said it. I’m still a little bit in denial, thinking that after 17 years of education, I’ll be handed a college degree, the university’s way of telling me I’m ready for the world. I’ll walk out of here knowing how to write articles, how lake-effect snow works and how the Union won the Civil War. I’ll walk out of here knowing everything I need, right? Yeah. Everything except real life.
I wonder if anyone else has walked off this campus thinking, “Oh, now I have to pay bills. Now I have to do taxes, pay back loans and take out new ones. So how do I do that?”
Why there has never been a class on “real life” is something that has me wondering. I’m not talking about math 102: “Math in the real world” because we all know everything we learn in that class is outdated and has been replaced by other things.
I bet every college student remembers filling out their first W4 forms, and if they haven’t done that yet, I am sorry. The ones that do remember looking through the many pages of seemingly never-ending lines, boxes and complex language. I remember when I first got mine. Besides my job as a traveling musician and singer/songwriter, my summer job in 2013 was my first official job. I was 20 years old, I thought, on the brink of the adult world, and I couldn’t even figure out the damn form to get me paid. They might as well have given me a paper with quantum mechanic equations on it, in German, upside down. That’s about what it looked like to me.
The only thing I was sure about was not to check the box saying I had committed a crime. Sure, I was able to ask my employer for help, but who wants to do that when you have a degree that says you’re ready for the real world?
In just a few months, I’ll have to start paying back loans. Wait, how do I do that? How do I go about that? How do I take out other loans when I want to buy a car or a house? I wonder if I’m going to be able to know what I can financially afford and what I can’t. When tax season comes, I don’t know if I will be prepared. When I turn 26 and need to buy my own health insurance, will I be able to figure that out?
How many times have you or someone in your class asked your teacher or professor, “When are we going to use this?” In this case, I feel like the things that are essential to learn, the very set of instructions for adult survival, are the things students aren’t required to learn.
This frightens me, not only for myself, but for other people. It frightens me when people I’m graduating within a few months don’t know how much their phone bill costs because their parents have paid for it their whole lives. It frightens me when people spend their whole paycheck at the mall on Saturdays. It frightens me that when I graduate, I won’t be ready for the real world, and college should have offered me an opportunity to become ready.