Leave college with MORE than a piece of paper.

First off, congratulations to everyone who graduated college this year! Four years (ehh… or so for some) of hard work has paid off and now you have your college diploma. Woopty doo! Let me let you in on a little secret though now that you’re done with school and finally in the “real world”: that college diploma means absolutely nothing. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada (thanks, Spanish 110!).

Yes, I’m here to tell you that you just spent four years working your ass off for a piece of paper that will get framed and hung in your parents basement to collect dust and serve no purpose other than to be shown off like a trophy wife. But wait! It’s not all bad.

For me, my time at college will likely always be the best four years of my life. (Or at least senior year will go down in the history books.) But it’s been a year since I graduated Ohio University with a degree in Advertising and I can honestly say I have yet to put it to any use. So what was the point of all that stress and money?

Well, I’ll tell you…

What your college degree REALLY signifies
That you became well-rounded. That degree of yours doesn’t even begin to touch on everything you learned at college. I don’t care if you graduated with a degree in Astrophysics or Physical Therapy, your major does not define you. In college, you learned from more than textbooks. You learned about life and what it means to make a positive contribution to the world. You did extracurriculars like Ad Club or athletics and maybe you even took a class in jogging. Maybe you were in a frat or sorority. Your degree does not define you because who you are cannot be defined by a word… especially not “astrophysicist”. You gained more knowledge outside of the classroom than in it and that is far more valuable anyway. Never let anyone take that away from you.

That you learned the truth about love. And it can hurt. There will always be those high school friends that you will forever fuck with but for the most part, when you went to college those relationships disappeared as everyone proceeded down their respective paths. In college, you really learned about loving others. You lived with your friends, spent days on end with them even. You had fun together, got too drunk together, fought, laughed and cried together. And if you’re anything like my college crew, you even dove into dumpsters together looking for pizza! You also might have had your first true love in college. Never in your life will you share the same proximity with so many of your peers like you did in college on a daily basis. Those relationships that you formed in college will be with you for the rest of your life. When you graduated high school, you were excited with the prospect of leaving for college. And now that you’ve graduated and are leaving college, you’re looking back at those quick four years with longing… wishing that the best parts could go on forever. From personal experience, I can tell you that those tears you shed when you said goodbye to your closest college friends will be among the realest of your life.

Most importantly, that you figured out exactly who you are. By the time you got to college, you were done with puberty and some of you may have even been completely done physically growing altogether. In college, you pretty much became who you will be for the rest of your life. And I hope you became comfortable with it. For me, the years leading up to my senior year were tumultuous, confusing and full of growing pains. I did things then that looking back on still make me feel like I’m a shitty dude. But I’ve gotten past them and even used them to better define who I am now. Even if you barely ever went to class or didn’t graduate with a 4.0, leaving college comfortable in your skin is the most positive way you could possibly leave.

Yeah… that’s all great, right? You have some awesome experiences and you grew as a person. Sweet!

Leave college with MORE than a piece of paper

But what the hell do you do now?

Well, you could start by applying for jobs. And trust me, you will apply for many, you will hear back from few and you will be left feeling like the unathletic kid in gym class. You will feel lost. You will feel confused. Sometimes, you will feel like giving up. Don’t. EVER!

It’s safe to say that less than 10% of the people you graduated with will end up with their dream job right out of school. And less than 10% of them will actually find their dream job as dreamy as they dreamt it. Your employers will try to numb you and make you fit into a mold that is profitable for them. Some will try to take away your pride and individuality.

Granted, to accomplish your dream you will have to do grunt work. You’re going to have to do things that will seem beneath you or like they’re a complete waste of time. It’s not a waste of time though. As long as you are working hard, accomplishing goals and above all, maintaining your vision, you will succeed. You will be happy. Maybe not soon… but I promise that you will be eventually. Never compromise, never be satisfied, always want more. Be eternally hungry.

And when you finally get the opportunity to pursue whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do, you may fall flat on your face. But don’t fret! That is by no means a failure. The only failure is when you decide to give up. Remember those late nights and those long reports where you wanted to call it quits and move back in with the rents? Well look at ya now, ya college grad!

Graduating college is just the beginning. Life is about more than pieces of paper and you should never feel restricted by anything that can be ripped up (diplomas, money, love notes, etc.). Stay curious, stay humble and most importantly, never convince yourself that you’re in it by yourself. If you keep those memories and relationships from college close, you can never possibly be alone.

Now go on, get the hell out of here and show everyone how awesome you are!

Author: Eric White

Eric graduated Ohio University in 2012 with a degree in Advertising and immediately went out to San Diego, California to start not using his degree. At the start of 2013, Eric quit his job, let his lease run out and started backpacking North America. Eric has worked with Amtrak, Crowdtap, HootSuite and others, and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA... when not on the road.

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  1. So, I see this nice picture on the home page of your blog of you posing with your diploma, an older man reflected in the pane of the framed paper, I click into the article…and there are no images at all! Just huge chunks of text.

    Spice it up, man. I know you take photos.

    Post a Reply
    • I appreciate the insight and I did go back and forth on whether or not to include pictures in the text, normally I put at least one in. But I purposely didn’t because I wanted all of the focus to be on what I had to say about the topic. Was that the best approach? Maybe not.

      I’ll make it up to you tomorrow Sir Shredder.

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