11 Things You Need To Know Before Entering The Real World

I wish someone had told me all this stuff before I graduated college — because then I probably wouldn’t have freaked out so much.

1. Return Your Cap And Gown (And Your Library Books) Before You Leave Campus

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Return your cap and gown or you will be thrown in graduation jail. Well, not really, but you will be charged like $150 and then you’ll be sad. You’ll be even sadder if you don’t return those musty library books because then you really WILL be thrown in graduation jail, a.k.a. they will hold your diploma hostage, which will make your mom REALLY bummed.

2. Don’t Throw Out Your Student I.D.

Remember how awesome it was to go to museums for a discount while you were in college? Oh, you don’t remember going to museums while you were in college? Well… This might be an activity you will want to do, as a Real Adult, and you will appreciate not paying the full entry fee when you whip out your college I.D. (Also, J. Crew and Madewell give anyone with a student I.D. 15 percent off, and you can still get your Apple Store discount with your I.D., so it’s not just about being all cultured.)

3. Make Your Own Lunch

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You really will save a ton of money. And you’ll be healthier. And no one else is gonna put PB&J hearts on your sandwich. (Cute notes like mom used to put into your brown bag in fourth grade are optional.)

4. Use Your Commuting Time Wisely

No matter how you get to work*, spending your commuting time on something engrossing that is not email, Twitter or anything work-related will make you feel like a healthier, less-work-crazed person. Here are some other ideas for happiness-making commutes: the Slate Culture Gabfest, Boggle, your Readability queue, the Game of Thrones books, Radiolab, episodes of Breaking Bad… You get the picture.

  • If you commute by bike, please just watch the road.

5. Hangovers Will Get A Lot Harder To Deal With

Going to work with a vicious hangover is not the same as snoozing through a 9 a.m. sociology lecture with a vicious hangover. Also, you will get drunk off three drinks by the time you’re 25. (On the bright side, this makes getting drunk a lot cheaper.)

6. Keep Track Of All Your Tax Stuff

Taxes! You have to file them. And if you’re a freelancer, you should keep track of your eligible business-related deductions and spend the extra couple hundred dollars to have an accountant do your taxes. Here is another tip: If you “forget” to pay, the IRS will find you. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they will find you and then one day you will go to take money out of your bank account and it will be ALL GONE because they put a lien on it and that is NOT FUN. (This happened to a friend.) (No seriously, a friend, not me!)

7. Use Your Credit Card (Wisely)

You know how everyone warns you not to go into crazy credit card debt when you’re in college? This is good advice. But getting a credit card in college — when it’s super easy to do, plus you will probably get some fun gift like a Frisbee — is actually a very good idea, as long as you pay your bill on time. Then you’ll have a clean credit history and you will be able to do Real Adult Things, like rent an apartment and buy a car on your own.

8. Go Back To Band Camp (Or Keep Playing Soccer, Or Doing Indian Classical Dance, Or Whatever)

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Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you should drop your sport/musical instrument/extracurricular. Even if you are a Revolutionary War reenactor.

9. Sex Gets Better

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It gets (SO MUCH) better when you’re not doing it a) totally wasted and/or b) in a frat house. (Not really speaking from experience here, because I was pretty much a prude in college, but THIS IS WHAT I HEAR.)

10. Don’t Freak Out If Everything Doesn’t Happen Right Away

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Everything moves faster in college. One semester you’re a reporter for the school paper and the next you’re the editor-in-chief! That doesn’t exactly happen in the real world. It’ll take some time to adapt to not being on a semester schedule, so don’t be despondent if you don’t get promoted after four months, or if you actually just suck at your first job. It’s okay.

11. But Also Don’t Freak Out If You Never Graduate College In The First Place

As one of my friends put it: “I wish someone had told me to drop out sooner than I did b/c college isn’t for everyone and I’d save myself a ton of debt and end up with a job I love anyway.”

Thanks to Katie H., Katie N., Mary, Carolyn, Donna, John, Jack, Anna, Ryan, Cates, Lauren, Danielle, Liz, Leda, Erica, and Niharika for their awesome suggestions.

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