Real-World vs. College: How is the World of Work Different from what you Expected While in College?

As young adults we always saw the “real world” as light-years away. The struggles of taxes, bills, and housework, combined with the stressors of the corporate life looked like something in the far-off future. But here we are, fresh out of undergrad and entering our first job… and it’s different to say the least. There are overlapping scenarios between that of college life and that of real life; yet they are vastly different.

It’s really about what you make of these experiences.

1. Everyday life:

  • In College: A student’s focus revolves around educational stressors – from preparing for exams to making sure you are finishing your homework on time and to your best abilities. Other than this, many other factors are secondary. But there is the stress of financial aid and making sure that your future is secured as far as graduation and employment goes. Yet all of this is only secured through the success of your academics; thus, the primary focus goes to excelling in the classroom.
  • In the Real World: In the “real world” there are similar deadlines, meetings, and deliverables but on top of this, there is your financial focus. Where is my money going? What bills do I have this month? Savings to 401k are where your next focus goes to.

2. Social Life:

  • In College: Social life for the average collage student is booming, having friends in every nook and cranny, and plans for something to do Friday through Sunday! It’s always easy to de-stress and relax after a long week of exams, assignments, and hours in the library! The options and the company are endless.
  • In the Real World: Most of the time your job has you move out to another city or sometimes to another country, so getting your bearings around a new area may take some time. You’re out on your own, living in a new city, with brand new people. However, most of the time, you’re alone and far away from family and close friends. It’s a little more difficult to make new friends after college. Most times, you have to explore different opportunities in order to make and build new friendships. This comes as a new and exciting challenge!

3. Goals:

  • In College: A student’s goal is to excel academically – making sure your assignments are done to the best of your ability, that you are making connections with your professors, you are studying to achieve above standards in your next exam in order to ensure your future post-grad. This is quite a linear process; if you do well in class, the options open up for your post-grad. Thus, many of these goals are academia focused, and rightfully so in order to prepare the student for post-grad life, whether that be for a masters or doctorate program in addition to corporate!
  • In the Real World: An adult’s focus is a bit more abstract, there are career goals one should have that keep them focused on how they could develop as an employee and how they can further improve their career. In addition to this, there are financial goals. From being able to buy your own house, or car, or pay for a dream vacation, the aspirations here grow larger than that of a student. Along with these, the ability to make connections to further develop skill sets for your work and maybe move companies is also something many working adults make sure to keep in mind. Staying in one place is great but being able to develop your skills and offer them in new settings allows one to strengthen their own resume!

Overall, there are many similarities between the lives of a college student and that of a working adult in the “real world”. Career goals/aspirations, meeting deadlines, producing good work and so forth are all commonalities, but with age comes more responsibility. It may all seem daunting at first, but just as you were able to succeed in school, the transition will come easily as well. Make sure to keep up your hard work, perseverance, and dedication, and the real world may not seem so daunting after all!

Guest Blogger, Shreya Suresh, is a HR Pointnext Operations Advisor at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE). She is a Bachelor of Arts graduate from the University of Oregon; having studied Psychology and Business Administration she has a deep passion for working with people and helping improve their lives.



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