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A Whole New Ball Game

By Amy Yelin

Think about it: Most of us spend about 16 years or so going to school. And then, when we've finally mastered the in-and-outs of academia (and, yes, it does take some of us 16 years to master it), we're thrust out of our womb-like existence and into a strange new world where we're forced to get a job and support ourselves.

"Feeling unprepared is especially common among liberal arts majors. It's a feeling of 'Okay, I have this great degree. Now what?'" - Janet Kendall, Boston University Career Counselor

"Life after graduation wasn't at all what I expected," says Chris, who graduated with a degree in film. "I thought you just get your degree and then someone offers you a good job. Yet I didn't even have the skills to get a temporary office job. I walked into a temporary placement agency with a cocky grin on my face and basically said, 'Hey, I just graduated college and I'd like a high-paying office job.' They looked at my skills and experience and offered me warehouse work. Plus, they made me take some test where you have to stick these little screws in the right holes. It was humiliating."

You're not the only one
Elaine Sozzi, a Career Counselor in private practice, has worked with a lot of confused young people like Chris. "Again and again, I see college graduates who are scared and frustrated because they don't feel prepared for anything in the real world -- they feel all the time and money spent in college was a waste. Psychologically, this can be really difficult."

"Feeling unprepared is especially common among liberal arts majors," agrees Janet Kendall, a Career Counselor at Boston University. "It's a feeling of 'Okay, I have this great degree. Now what?'"

Besides feeling unqualified, many new graduates are overwhelmed by the amount of freedom they suddenly have. "It's a huge adjustment not to have your life mapped out by semesters anymore," explains Meryl Glatt Rader, former Director of Career Services at Brandeis University. "You have to make big decisions like where you're going to live and what you're going to do with your time."

The time clock that is your life
Dave, who spent his first year out of college working at Gillette, biking through Utah and Colorado, and moving furniture, says, "The most challenging thing in making the transition from college to real life is that there's no one here to tell you what to do anymore -- you don't have the structure that school provides. This feels really liberating at first, but it also makes you wonder what you're doing with your life, and why. It forces you to live for yourself."

For many recent grads, the first year out of school is also the first time they've had to work 40 hours a week (at least!) and answer to a boss.

Dan, who worked at a music store after college, told us, "The biggest adjustment for me was that I had to be at work. While you're in school if you don't feel like going to class, you don't go. Work isn't like that. If you don't show up for work, they fire you. Big difference."

Other grads are more disturbed by the time they have to commit to their jobs. "The most difficult thing for me was dealing with the drastic reduction in free time," says Bill, a recruiter for a consulting company. "Having to cook dinner and go almost straight to bed, only to have to get right back up and go to work. And suddenly having to accomplish every errand on Saturday. It's depressing."

Yet not everyone feels this way. Margaret, who moved to Boston her first year out of school and worked a variety of jobs, says, "Life after college is different because after you get home from work, you have time to do things for yourself and you don't have to spend time doing homework." But she also adds that she misses the intellectual stimulation of college. "I love learning and once you graduate from college you become solely responsible for teaching yourself and gaining access to new things -- there are no teachers there making sure you've read the chapter on evolution or the Bronte sisters."

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