So you’re entering your final year in college and prepping to graduate. Now get a job, ya deadbeat! If you think reality TV is crazy, wait until you see reality. A career, home, family—you’re looking down the barrel of a lot of long-term commitments. You’ll hear a lot of motivational speeches during your graduation ceremony about how you should follow your dreams because the future of our world depends on you. I’m not here to fill your head with gum drop dreams of you becoming the next leader of the free world. I’m here to give it to you straight. Here are five things nobody tells you about graduating from college that you seriously need to understand…

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1. Grades Don’t Matter

You put your nose to the grindstone and got straight As throughout your schooling. That’ll get your foot in a couple of doors, but in six months, your grades will mean absolutely nothing. You’re not in school anymore. Nobody cares how many points you score in practice. When you go pro, you’re only as good as your last project. If you ruin a data import that pushes the company behind and costs millions of dollars, the 24-hour on-call IT and accounting managers who have to fix your problem aren’t interested in your ability to guess the right answer on true/false quizzes. Don’t rest on your laurels.

To counter this trapping, keep working harder. Don’t expect to get hired for an executive-level position straight out of college. You’re likely going to have to start at the bottom somewhere. Odds are you’ll be working for someone with a lesser degree than your own; don’t let it get to you. Keep working harder. People grade you in the real world by giving you their money. Keep doing your homework and reaching for those high grades, and you’ll eventually see a payout.

2. You’re All, “A Loan…”

Haha, you got ripped off, dude. First off, I hope you noticed the majority of your textbooks weren’t available on Kindle. When Reddit founder Aaron Swartz noticed educational information isn’t publicly available and attempted to correct the situation by downloading and releasing educational databases, he was prosecuted to the fullest extent of outdated digital laws. That’s a sign of a huge racket refusing to change. To make matters worse, you’re stuck with a $100 History of Ancient Rome textbook you’ll never crack open again because a new edition has been released with new information about something that happened 3000 years ago that’s relevant enough to necessitate the release of a new edition. If that’s not bad enough, you took out loans to pay for all of this insanity.

Stafford and Sallie Mae are a disease transferred to your social security number when you were getting nailed by your school. The debt from financial aid never goes away, and it’s immune to bankruptcy. If you let it go untreated, your pay will be garnished to automatically pay for it (which may or may not leave you with enough left over to continue living your lifestyle). The only thing you can do is treat it with monthly payments.

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3. You Should’ve Dropped Out

I never got a degree myself. It’s not that I didn’t have enough credits or intelligence; I just never wanted to give credit for all of my future accomplishments to some university. The idea of being haunted for the rest of my life by letters from the alumni association asking for money was too much for me to handle. Despite dropping out, I’ve had a pretty good run thus far. At Bank of America, I was working alongside people with degrees. I even managed quite a few of those people. Since I left the bank, I worked to build a career as a writer, and my career was accomplished enough that nobody ever asked whether or not I have a degree.

Anecdotes aside, plenty of people are successful without a college degree. You may not be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, but you still have a lot more options without graduating than you do by graduating. Even if you don’t drop out completely forever, drop out for at least a year. It will only set you back a year up front, and you’ll more than make up for that in the long run with the experience and wisdom you gain by traveling, pursuing a dream career in the arts, and just living life. Once you’re ready to graduate, come back and get that albatross of a degree to hang around your neck. No harm, no foul.

4. Employment Isn’t Guaranteed

Once you graduate, you’ll be placed in a position you like that’s related to your degree, and everything will work out. If you think that last sentence was true in any way, you’re wrong…but you’re not alone. A lot of us thought life worked that way at one point or another – I know people in their 50s and 60s who still feel entitled. It’s not your fault; people throughout the education system were feeding us the Kool-Aid, and we trust them because they’re educators. It turns out you can’t trust anyone in life.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers estimates over 1.7 million people will earn a bachelor’s degree in 2013. You may have heard the term “one in a million” used to reference you in a good way, but when you’re one of the 1.7 million people clamoring for the same jobs, the odds are against you. You may have to accept a job you don’t like or feel is beneath you. Make sure you only do this if it’s related to your actual dream job. There’s no shame in a call center or manual labor position, but those “transition jobs” you take while waiting for your dream career can quickly drain your time. The next thing you know, you’re a career McManager. Be prepared, and be willing to look outside of your box. Learn more about how to effectively search for jobs with this Lifehack.

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5. Don’t Forget Anything You Learned

When you start your new job, someone will tell you to, “forget everything you hear.” What they’re trying to tell you is that your book learning isn’t going to help you in the real job. This is true to a point, but somewhat of a misnomer.

It’s true that you’ll learn a lot of proprietary information in your job that you couldn’t possibly have learned in school. There are also classes (Computer, Accounting, etc.) you took once, twice, or even every year that you’ll never use. Just because you took an accounting class doesn’t mean any company in their right mind would allow you to touch their accounting data if you’re not an actual accountant. The thing is, what you learned in school is important, and you should be mindful of discrepancies.

If you were working at Enron, Worldcom, Countrywide, etc. during the collapse of these companies, there’s a good chance you were unaware you were even doing anything illegal. Even if you were aware, you likely didn’t do anything to stop it. This is because you forgot what you learned in school. Ethics matter, and you’re not always going to learn them in the real world. All the basic foundational skills and facts you learned in school are extremely important; never forget that… no matter what anyone tells you.

Need more tips for school? Check out: The Ultimate Student Resource List

Featured photo credit: roger4336 via Flickr

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