I’ve been out of college for some time now, but each spring, I still reflect back on the time around my graduation. It was a happy time, full of promise, and yet, it was full of unknowns.
What I’ve realized over the years is what college doesn’t teach you can cost you.
College doesn’t prepare you for life on your own. Sure, college gives you a lot of great information. You learn skills you’ll be able to use throughout your career. But it doesn’t prepare you for the loneliness of life on your own.
In college, you live in dorms. You eat with a group of friends for ALL your meals. You are always studying in groups and hanging out with people. Most if not all of your meals are provided to you with little effort on your part. You seldom need a car because you can walk everywhere you need to go. You have weekends off and holidays off.
Then you graduate. Suddenly you are out on your own with a new job and a new apartment. Lonely and in search of food, you head to the closest shopping complex.
And you buy yourself dinner and maybe a nice outfit (or three) because you have a career now, and you deserve it. And the next time it will be a new cell phone or a vacation to anywhere. And then there’s the new car that looks so much better than your old one…. it’s hard for you to see your old friends because none of you has any time off or money anyway.
Okay, so maybe this is a bit of a dramatic picture. But the above scenario is how thousands of young, bright college graduates self-medicate themselves into oodles of credit card debt.
College doesn’t always teach you how to take care of yourself outside of your career. It doesn’t prepare you for the emotions of life. And many people end up spending money on material goods trying to deal with those emotions.
My advice to young college grads is this: Don’t try to keep up with anyone. As Dave Ramsey says, if being in debt is normal, be weird! Material things won’t bring you companionship. Food won’t make you feel less lonely. Accumulating debt won’t help anything.
Learn to like yourself and to find things that allow you to meet new people. Take a class, head to the local library, join a club, find a hobby. There are lots of low-cost ways to meet people and to expand your horizons.
Most importantly, take responsibility for your life. It’s yours to do with as you wish. Pay down your debts, build up your savings, and continue to grow as a person.