Explaining The Real World To New College Graduates [GIFs]

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Here’s your other commencement speech, recent college graduate. It’s going to be hard out there in the real world. Not “The Real World,” but the rest of your loan-vexed, non-academic life, where the stakes are higher and your diploma really doesn’t matter much anymore.

Two to three months after you strut across the stage in your graduation regalia, you’ll get a letter from your college or university. In it, you will find a request for money. Not for more tuition — for a donation, anywhere from $10 to $1,000. Does that sound like something you might be interested in?

Aaaaand it won’t be long after graduation that you’ll receive your first student loan bill. Remember those thousands of dollars you borrowed for tuition, books, housing, booze? Paying it all back is going to feel something like this:

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Remember, you’re paying the loans back with interest! Lots and lots of interest, depending on whether they were public or private loans, but definitely with juice.

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That’s OK, though! Relax. Just relax. Because you’ve got a job and you’re making great money and eventually you’ll pay it all off.

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Oh, what’s that? You don’t have a full-time job yet, or any job that will allow you to begin repayment?

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Actually it might be your fault, but the job market certainly does suck. Take a deep breath. You might end up having to take a job that’s only tangentially related to what you actually studied in college, or at least a far cry from what you want to be doing with your life.

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But let’s not jump too far ahead. Maybe you’re job-hunting or working at an entry-level position and can’t quite afford your own place yet. Or maybe you just want to save up. Either way, you just might end up moving back in with your parents! No big deal. More and more recent grads are doing it.

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One week after moving back home…

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One month later…

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But eventually, if you’re persistent, you’ll find a job that pays reasonably well. Somewhere. Maybe in a city where nobody knows your name.

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Seriously. Your friends and family are elsewhere, other places, all over the country. Don’t worry, you’ll see them on vacations and holidays.

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Hey, you’ll work really hard at keeping in touch. Distance and time and life’s many other obligations will never drive you apart!

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Not that easy, compared to walking across campus or knocking on your housemate’s door. Sorry. Ever have to schedule plans months in advance? How about several months?

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Anyhow, your job! It’s going great so far. You’re waking up early every day, without fail, even earlier than you did for that dreaded 8:30 a.m. class that you used to skip “as needed.” Well, a day will come when you’re really hungover and just don’t want to go to work. Just hit the snooze and call in sick!

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Thanks, Kanye. He’s right. FIRST you must ask: How many sick or personal days do I have? The job will afford you only a small supply.

Speaking of sick days, let’s open the entire employee handbook. This isn’t your part-time job anymore. You might be eligible to participate in an employee-sponsored 401(k) plan, to receive health insurance, dental and vision coverage and some other perks. Excellent.

Your employer will cover your health insurance, won’t it? Yes? Move on. No? Eek. Because Mama and Papa’s might work now, but their plan will only cover you until you’re 26. So, if you’re uncovered, make sure to not get sick, ever.

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Anyhow. College was no breeze — actually, it was a lot of hard work — but largely you could do it at your own pace. Maybe you crammed once a week or for three days before a final. Now, you’re on someone else’s watch. Plus, there’s workplace politics.

There’s politics in every organization, club or social group, but now it’s kind of a bigger deal and you need to play your cards right. And often that means pacifying your superiors, i.e., doing whatever they ask, whenever they ask for it.

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Like working on a weekend when you had planned a camping trip with the boys.

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Sorry about that. But hey, at least you’re getting a paycheck. A paycheck that will rapidly dissolve after paying all your bills. This will be especially difficult for you if you became accustomed to living off of your family’s dollar.

But regardless of your privilege situation, you’ll now need to get grownup clothes for work if you’ve got an office job that requires more than casual attire. Not just one suit or a couple nice dresses (#girlcode), but an entire wardrobe with pants, dress shirts, ties, belts, shoes and more…which is really f***ing expensive. You can’t just show up to the office wearing whatever getup you want.

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By the way, remember napping in college? That was fun, right? Almost a sport. This is how you’re taking naps now:

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Only you’ll probably have a computer at the desk. And thanks to other technology, like the smartphone and email and Mark Zuckerberg‘s utopian connectivity paradise you enjoyed in college, you just might be on a virtual leash, expected to check your inbox at all hours. 

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So…what happens if you don’t get a job (or a job that pays enough), and you’re just scraping by, getting crushed by debt? Well, college graduate, simply declare bankruptcy!

HAHA! Wait. The nuclear panic button would annihilate your credit rating and won’t even work in the majority of cases unless you can prove extreme hardship (and meet other criteria). So, get comfortable with those loan payments.

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Well, that’s all for now. Oh yeah, congratulations on graduating college!

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Brett Smiley (@brettsmiley) is only this cynical on Tuesdays and Thursdays.