5 Things They Don’t Teach You in College

(an irreverent list by an even more irreverent post-grad in possession of a history degree that apparently only truly prepares you to live at home with your parents even though you are almost twenty-five and technically not a dependent according to the IRS.)

I learned a lot of things in college. Most of these things don’t really translate to marketable skills that would fit on a resume. Things like calligraphy, the art of spending the least amount of money possible at Taco Bell, or pulling all nighters for a week straight. Or writing your fifty page senior thesis the night before it’s due. (That is a true story and a point of pride for me. Not that my professors were ever made aware of it.)

I learned some interesting tricks at the small private Christian college I attended in Portland, OR. But as illuminating as my education was on a purely academic level, it left out a few key survival skills that would probably have been helpful as an adult who is supposed to be mature and able to make her own way in the world. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my patient friends I’d probably be useless.

So…here are five things I wish they had taught me at college!

1. How to NOT be an introvert.
I’m rather shy. I could expound on this for an entire post, but let’s just say I was homeschooled. (You’re nodding in sympathy now, huh? Yeah that usually clears a few things up…) I’m quiet and I don’t like the venture outside of my comfort zone. I’m told you usually get over this in college. You know, when you’re forced to live with people you’ve never met? Not me. No, I became very good friends with the library and my books and my laptop and the Hollywood video store down the street. Also with my professors. I knew they wouldn’t expect me to make plans with them on Saturday nights.
Of course, if they had offered a class on small talk or unleashing your inner extrovert, I probably wouldn’t have signed up. Unless it was online.

2. How to live alone.
I think in my entire life I’ve only lived alone for the span of two months a couple years ago when I was in Vegas. And it was not by choice. Growing up and in college, I lived with people, more specifically with loud and occasionally obnoxious and rather dramatic women. Thought I heard a creepy noise down the hall? There were about 15 other women who would check it out with me. Left my purse in my car in the dark parking lot? I could drag my roommate into the wilds while I retrieved it. Feeling sick? My roommate would check on me every so often to make sure I wasn’t dead. It’s nice to live with people.
Unfortunately, being adult means sometimes having to be on your own. And I really don’t know how. Because who do I talk to when I have really awesome moments of brilliance and most of my friends hate talking on the phone? Or when I want to make a midnight run for ice cream and need an accomplice to justify my junk food choices? Or when the cute guy at the store looked at me and I need to dissect every nanosecond of the encounter while “cleaning” the apartment? Living alone is the worst. Especially when it comes to cleaning…

3. How to come up with legitimate excuses to get out of things.
I liked to skip out on classes a lot. I was kind of a terrible student, even if my grades said otherwise. Didn’t want to get dressed and walk across campus? Forgot to do an assignment? I’d send a quick email to the professor coming up with some ridiculous excuse. (I was sick a lot. And I may have once implied a family drama…) And I got away with it. Mostly I think the professors didn’t really care because I’d do the work anyway.
But this set a bad precedent. In the real world, saying “I feel kind of vaguely and non-specifically –insert lie here—“ isn’t going to get you out of anything: not work or bills or that blind date that your friend rescheduled five times. (That last one is hypothetical. I don’t date ever.) And it’s hard to fake a family emergency when you work for your family. And the credit card companies don’t care if you missed a payment because you felt a little under the weather. Guess that whole responsibility thing isn’t limited to alcohol consumption.

4. How to pay back your school loans.
Colleges are really good at getting you take out loans. Trust me. And anytime I buy anything these days or hear about people making extravagant purchases, my first thought is “how much of my loan payment would that cover?” The second thought is “how many books could I buy with that?” Loans are pretty necessary to going to college these days. And the cost is high. It’s a commitment, one the government tells you is worth it.
Of course, since the government makes money off the whole thing, they would say that. It would have been nice if in between handing me the loan papers and watching me sign them, the loan counselor had given me a chart on how to pay those back before I die. Or informed me that liberal arts isn’t necessarily the most cost efficient degree. Or suggested that maybe I just wait until I actually know what I want to do before I aimlessly spend thousands of dollars on something I’ll change my mind about later. Ugh.

5. How to answer the inevitably “why are you still single?” question without seeming like a spinster.
Granted, I went to a Christian college. They probably assume you’re going to find the love of your life within the first semester, court for the second semester, then get engaged and married before you even graduate. So being single at graduation is the exception rather than rule, leaving the idea that some people might need to come up with a reason for not having a significant other sounding ridiculous.
But it would have been nice to have a list of reasons. Especially around the holidays when aunts and uncles wonder if I’m ever going to settle down. And when my sister’s friends meet me and say ”you’re going to be an awesome aunt.” And when people email me asking for relationship advice and I have to explain how I have no experience. Yeah, I would have signed up for that class. It would have been more useful than Golf 101.

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.

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10 thoughts on “5 Things They Don’t Teach You in College

  1. I was a master at “How to come up with legitimate excuses to get out of things.” I was always on call for work, I worked at a radio station. I even had a pager, as outdated as that was, to let me know when there was an emergency. I might have called the pager myself during class once or twice to get myself out of a boring class session.

    Right now my answer to that last question is to laugh and mention something about not being ready to give up my life of being on the road for various tours.

  2. I feel the same way about loans! They should really tell you how long it will take you to pay them back before you sign the dotted line. And you are definitely not the only one who didn’t graduate from Bible college with her Mrs. degree.

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