Oct 30

Four Important Things College Won’t Teach You

In 1999, Annie wanted to be an elementary school teacher. She was seven years old, and her career path was clear. Elementary school, middle school, high school. And then on to college where she’d major in education, before going on to fill her days with pigtails and puppy love, multiplication tables and Muffy the class rabbit.

Or so she thought.

Annie — who prefers Anne these days — is a senior in college now, and she didn’t major in education, but in English literature instead. Somewhere along the way, she discovered that reading books, and talking about books, and writing about books satisfied her intellectual curiosity far more than things like human growth and development did. Her parents were wonderfully supportive, and they know she’ll do great things, but graduation is only a few months away, and Anne’s feeling unprepared for the “real world.”

College is great, but there are some things only experience will teach you.

1. You don’t have to work in the field you studied.

Anne will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English; people are going to automatically assume that she will go on to teach — but maybe not. A degree in English, one that equips graduates with exceptional writing and critical thinking skills, could qualify her for work in public relations, as a writer, in marketing, or even business administration. Think outside the box.

2. Social media matters. 

A detailed LinkedIn profile that lists the clubs and professional organizations you belonged to in college, and details the duties you carried out during your internship year will impress future employers. But there’s a flip side: That same prospective employer might gather a negative impression of Anne when he sees albums filled with drunken bar crawl photos.

3. But grades don’t.

The hiring manager looking to fill an entry-level job probably has dozens of resumes to sort through, the chances that he will ask to see your college transcript are pretty slim. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to party all the time, or to only go to class half the time, but at the end of the day, your boss isn’t going to care about your A in British Lit 2, and he’s not going to care about your D in Spanish 4.

4. Network, network, network.

Your favorite professor might be willing to serve as a professional reference; ask her. Anne did, and she landed a great job in Washington, DC because of it. She doesn’t know very many people there yet, so she took it upon herself to find a small, organized group of alumni from her sorority — what luck! It’s great to have friends, and even better to stay connected with like minds.

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