This one's mainly for the monkeys still in school, but the rest of you can feel free to contribute to the discussion.
I'm only a couple of years out of college (this may be news to some of you who thought the profound wisdom in my previous posts came from someone older and more experienced) so a lot of what my life was like in school is still fresh in my memory. Some of that experience I miss dearly, but I occasionally still have nightmares about certain other parts. Unfortunately, college for me was like being in a giant bubble, and I was definitely shocked to see what the real world was like after I stepped into my finance career.
So without further ado, here are five things about the real world that really surprised me after I turned the tassel at graduation.
1. Weekends and evenings*
"Weekends? Evenings? What are those?" These may be your thoughts if you went to a target school or if you worked hard for good grades at any college, because any time you were not in class was usually time for doing more work. If you were lucky, you had a little bit of fun in between papers and problem sets to maintain your sanity. On the other hand, time off work in the real world is amazing. Especially when you're young, you have no responsibilities and can pretty much do whatever you want or be a complete bum to rest from a long day at work. And the responsibilities you end up having are mostly by choice and are ones that you enjoy having (like me writing for WSO).
*Apologies to bankers and others with terrible hours, but when you do have time off, you agree..right?
Holy crap, taxes = a lot. The upside about not having any income during college was that the government didn't try to take your zero away from you. However, in this past year, the amount of my salary that went to the government could easily purchase a new car. But hey, we all love this country, right?
There are no longer days when you didn't have class until noon so you could sleep 10 hours to catch up on a rough week. On top of that, in the real world, your body quickly deteriorates from its golden times (~21 years old or so), when it could finish countless games of beer pong, pass out on a couch, and wake up the next morning ready to go again, all magically without gaining any weight. Sitting at a desk 10+ hours a day will slowly kill you if you don't regularly exercise, watch your diet, and get adequate sleep.
Your schedule will become a lot more structured, for better or worse. While it'll feel awkward at first when you have to actually be a responsible adult and make plans days or weeks in advance, it definitely is a good feeling to have more control and stability in your life. Gone are the days when a text from a friend at 2am causes you to make bad (good?) decisions when you should be sleeping or studying.
It's a lot harder to maintain friendships in the real world. Especially in big cities, people are often busy all the time and both parties need to be very intentional about their relationship to keep it strong. It's even harder to start new friendships. You might meet up with a new friend once a week if both of you make an effort, but that's still getting to know each other at a rate seven times slower than you could have had in college when it was easy to see someone every day of the week. The same applies for romantic relationships, and I remember a quote about from an older friend when I was still in college: "If you're dating someone senior year and plan to keep that relationship, you can go into finance; otherwise, consider another route like consulting. You can maintain a relationship while working in finance, but it's near impossible to initiate one."
College kids, I hope this helped. Other people in the real world, feel free to contribute.