RSS Feed

What Did College Really Teach Me?

February 3, 2013 by Lady Unemployed

Tonight, I am in the mood of “looking back.”  Instead of brooding, I decided to blog about it.

When I was in high school, the big “to do” was college. What college were you going to? What’s your top choice college? My junior and senior year I even had teachers read letters of former students who went off to college and told stories of their own quirky roommates.

Turns out I ended up in community college my first couple of years and really had no intention of bragging about my bus route to and from college and no intention of telling them about the school who told me their only expectation was that their students had a pulse.

Then, the college thing. Like I said, community college gave me my first taste of cynical “real world” candy. Trust me, it doesn’t taste good. The message there? Get into a 4 year college. I got great grades. I managed to get into an honor society. Eventually, I did transfer to a 4 year college.

When the 4 year college happened, I did change my major a couple of times and landed in Communication. I was in English for a while, but somewhere along the way, I grew tired of reading and analyzing books to the point where the enjoyment was gone. When I switched, I thought I would have a greater chance of enjoying my classes and finding a career that I enjoyed. Most of all, I wanted to graduate.

When I did, I loved my graduation. I was so proud and it was awesome seeing my family out there cheering me on. Not to mention, I was the first in my family to graduate from a four year school, and boy I was proud. That is what I wanted – I wanted to graduate.

I’m now in that one long semester I’ve prepared nearly my whole life for. Starting from when I was about 15 years old, I’ve been waiting for this moment.  The post-college graduation life where everything finally came together.

Ha. So much for that.

I have to wonder why I wasn’t told enough how to pursue my dreams. I mean, sure, I knew to pursue them. My mom always supported and encouraged my writing dreams. She read my stories, gave me feedback, and encouraged me to keep going. But somehow, I don’t think my schools did enough. I don’t remember at any point them telling me the “how” part of it all.

Is it fear that prevents high school teachers from encouraging us to pursue what we really want to do? I remember as far back as the 4th grade saying I wanted to be a published author. Sure, I could have majored in English. My fear was that I would become a singularly published English teacher rather than the published author I strived to become.  But how is that different than what I’m doing now?

But really, what about college? If anyone had stopped me along the way and asked me, “What are you hoping to get out of this” I’m not sure what I would have said. I had started reading books on publishing when I was ten and knew that the moral of the story for writers was to not quit your day job. So, I would have said that I want to get a low stressful, well paying job that gets me by enough so I can come home and write stories. That would have been the truth.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Instead, I’m waiting to go to a job Monday that stresses me significantly, will probably want me to work overtime soon, and doesn’t pay me enough. Not to mention, I hate what I do. So, if I was to talk to my teenage self she would ask me what the hell happened.

Sure, I’m 26 and I have a lot of time ahead of me to change things. But how? How can I really change things? Times goes by really fast and soon I’ll hit the age where what’s knocking isn’t my desire for a dream job, but a frightening biological clock that will tell me I better start trying to have babies soon otherwise I’ll never have the chance.

So, what did college teach me?

I thought I knew. Now, I’m not so sure anymore.


  1. Hi
    I don’t believe anything is wasted in life, though it may appear that way at the time. My life has taken a winding path with lots of detours but looking back so far, I see that every little thing served me. In other words, look down and see that you are on the path and can’t step off it. Now the thing is to see where you want to go and how this path will take you there.

    • Very very true. I think I miss feeling like I can take risks. I want to give myself permission to take a risk. Where do I want to go? Not sure it’s possible, but I want to venture down a path that isn’t so well worn by others. The path I’m on seems too predictable. I want to wake up excited about something for once, and not just pay day. You gave me a LOT to think about. Thank you for commenting!

  2. I could not agree more with this post! Throughout high school and my undergrad, I felt completely adrift. In my freshman year alone, I changed my major from journalism to anthropology to philosophy and ended up with a dual political science/philosophy major. Not once did an adviser ever ask me “What do you want to get out of this degree?” If they had, I wouldn’t have spent 3 years post-graduation trying to find an office manager job. I felt so jaded after I graduated, wondering what was the point of the last four years. Luck for me, those 3 adrift years gave me the time to do some much needed soul searching. I think that setting realistic expectations and goals as early as high school could have saved me a lot of time and A LOT of money – wisdom I intend to impart on my own kids someday.

    • Oh I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one! The funny thing is that I feel more confident in myself NOW than I ever did in high school. More confident in myself as a writer, especially. And I think that self knowledge and that I do identify myself as a writer now more than ever makes me realize I should have focused more on what I really wanted to do. I do know that for my kids, now that I DO have my degree, I will know for them what it means to get on the other side of that degree and what you want from it. From there, I hope to teach them how to pursue their dreams a lot sooner!

  3. Amy Boyle says:

    Lady Unemployed:
    I am a college administrator and I can certainly empathize with your struggle. I meet with students everyday who are looking for the why and the how of their futures. While you seem to have the feeling that your college did not prepare for the how, consider how they could possibly do this fully for the thousands of students they serve everyday. I do not say this to prove defend your institution, but to only suggest that you have the “how” already inside of you. They prepared you to think critically, made evident through your thoughts and writing, and that is half the battle of rising in any profession. You can do this! What you can’t do is blame it on your college or anyone else. Your future is your responsibility and you are prepared! Any job is what you make it and you have the power to choose your attitude and your perceptions everyday. Now as for some practical advice….
    Have you spoke you your Alma mater’s career center? Many times they will service alum a certain number of years post grad. Also, consider taking an assessment such as StrengthsFinder, through the Gallup Org. It might help you find out more about what you are naturally good at, thus leading to a career that will pay the bills and still allow you to do what you love. I apologize that this advice is totally unsolicited, but thought I could share some truth and compassion for someone who reminds me of myself. Good luck!

    • I loved the advice, actually! Thank you! And you do put this in the right perspective – at this point, it IS up to me to take hold of my dream. I think it’s a good idea to contact my Alma mater, actually. And I will follow up on that. And you’re right, my college professor’s would be so proud of my critical thinking skills! 😉

  4. […] shame in admitting the career part of college – the part where you are supposed to figure out what the hell you want to do (and how) – doesn’t actually exist. For my university, the career center was a joke. I got more […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *