4 of the Worst Lessons You Learn in College

college grauation

College graduation | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

College is important — there is no doubt about that whatsoever. It provides countless benefits — educationally, practically, competitively, and financially — to those who attend. Pew Research found that these days, the earnings gap between college grads and those without a degree is even wider than in years past. As of 2012, the median annual earnings for 25- to 32-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree was $45,000, compared to only $28,000 for those with a only high school diploma. “In addition to earning more, college-educated Millennials also have lower unemployment and poverty rates than their less-educated peers. They’re also more likely to be married and less likely to be living in their parent’s home,” reports the Research Fact Tank.

While going to college is beneficial, like most things in life, it comes along with some pros and cons. Cost, of course, is perhaps the biggest factor people consider when deciding whether or not to attend. That is, the cost of the degree itself, plus the opportunity cost — lost wages and potentially putting one’s life and maybe even career on hold.

For those students who decide to attend college, what are some of the other negatives? Aside from a financial and time investment, what else (if anything) do students just reaching the age of majority have to lose by attending college?

Well, the short answer to that question is four or so years of a different life experience. As many of you may already know, college is very different from real life in that it serves as a transition from dependence to independence for many students. Particularly, those student who attend on-campus and don’t have any other commitments (like a sport, a family, or a part-time job). Along the way, students who are just reaching adulthood learn valuable life, career, and financial lessons. They also learn such lessons that are — well, not so valuable. Here are some of the worst lessons young people learn while living on a college campus.

1. Your major is anything like your job


Studying | iStock.com

Whether you major in business, math, art, or whatever, the chances that your job will closely resemble your college classroom are slim. No degree can cover every single job out there, so each one does its best to provide enough of a framework for you to succeed in whichever position you choose within the field.

Also, life is funny sometimes. Just when you think you know exactly what you want to do, another door opens — situations change, people change. A Career Builder study from last year found that one-third of college-educated workers work in occupations outside of their majors. That same study found that 36 percent of college grads wished they had majored in something different.

Colleges seldom make students fully aware of this fact. It’s not often that students hear how they’re going to change careers 11 or 12 times throughout their lives (according to the BLS, the average Baby Boomer has changed careers 11.3 times).

2. Second chances are a common occurrence

Angry man | iStock

Angry man | iStock

Most colleges have policies that allow students to retake courses they fail without much consequence. This is one college’s policy on retaking courses: “If you earn a failing grade (F, WU, or FIN) in a course and then retake the course in a subsequent semester, earning a grade of A, B, C, or CR, both grades will remain on the transcript. However, the failing grade will no longer be calculated in your … GPA.” Many other schools have similar policies.

At work, if an employee continues to submit work that’s sub-par and doesn’t meet expectations, that employee will more than likely be fired after a short period of time. He or she would not be able to continue to resubmit his or her work until it was correct on the company’s dollar.

The same applies to late policies and missed assignments. Many college classrooms are far more lenient than any workplace would ever be.

3. Class is over once you graduate

college degrees, multiracial graduates holding diploma

College degrees | iStock.com/michaeljung

College tends to give the impression to students that once they’ve finished their degree, they are topic gurus in a specific area. For instance, “I have a management degree, so I know management,” or “I have a finance degree, so I know the world of finance.” Soon after students graduate, they realize just how little they really know.

The New York Times published data from a book called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, which attempted to find out how much college students really learn and study. “They found that 32 percent of the students whom they followed did not, in a typical semester, take “any courses with more than 40 pages of reading per week,” and that 50 percent “did not take a single course in which they wrote more than 20 pages over the course of the semester,” reports The Times.

Even those students who challenge themselves and study hard will spend their entire lives learning new information. Life is a classroom and there is always more to learn, no matter who you are, how smart you are, or how much you think you know.

4. Mundane is a bad thing

man multi-tasking at the office with a cup of coffee, a planner, and computer

Paperwork | iStock.com

For many college students, life is exciting. Sure, it’s a time for learning. But, it’s also a time for socializing, meeting new people, and partying. Core Institute data published on About indicates that a shocking three out of four (73 percent) of students on college campuses drink at least occasionally.

Once college is over and it’s time to settle into a career and have a family, things calm down quite a bit. A routine develops within the household and a calm, stable environment is ideal. This doesn’t mean that people start spending their evenings knitting sweaters and completing crossword puzzles once they settle into their lives — it simply means that because family and work come first, going out and partying is no longer a priority (not even a little bit).

College doesn’t necessarily teach you the work-life-fun balance. If anything, while you’re there, it kind of makes it feel as though responsibility and a routine are a bit boring.

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