Monday, May 12, 1997

Week of 05/12/1997

A Word to the College Graduates
- by David Matthews 2

Since college graduation is fast approaching, I thought I’d take this time to speak to those of you who are about to get their sheepskin.

I was like you once. Degree in hand, knowledge in mind, and gold in my eyes. I thought once I graduated I was going to set the world on fire. Boy was I wrong!

You see, the majority of you won’t be moving on to higher education. Getting a masters or a Ph.D. won’t interest some of you. Or perhaps you just can’t afford graduate school. Instead you’ll try your skills out on the real world. And that is where you’ll run into the biggest obstacle all of your education will not prepare you for - reality.

In the real world, academic theory only goes so far. Theory doesn’t pay the rent, it doesn’t buy your clothes, or put food on your table, and it certainly doesn’t pay the bills. And speaking of bills, don’t forget that now you’ll have to think about paying all those student loans.

Yes, you’ll now have to get a real job - and not just the kind of jobs you worked during summer vacation! But at least this time you’ll have more opportunity to get that job than when I was graduating. You see, I graduated in 1988 - at the start of an economic recession. The bottom was just starting to fall out of the economy, and if corporations were going to lay off the more experienced workers, they sure as hell weren’t going to hire any novices fresh from academia. So I and everyone else in my graduating class entered the world with the realization that there was no such thing as job security. But now you have more opportunity because the recession is over! The graduating class of 1997 will be entering an employee’s job market. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to earn your living so you can pay off those huge student loans!

And when you get your first after-college paycheck, take a good look at all those numbers on the pay stub. That’s money going OUT of your paycheck to pay the government. Since you’re going to be out in the real world, you’ll have to start paying taxes like everyone else. No more "full-time student" tax exemptions for you!

Since we’re talking about the real world, let’s also remember that you’re on your own here! Partying all night and coming into work looking like death warmed over will get you fired. Unlike class, you don’t get paid at work just for being there. Same thing applies to those people who lived on so-called "dating rules." Out here in the real world there is no such thing as a "social relations committee" that will tell you whether or not your date violated "your boundaries." As a matter of fact, all of those politically correct theories can be left back in the make-believe world of academia where they belong. It’ll be time for a lot of you to grow up and begin to accept the responsibilities of the other adults instead of relying on committees.

This is not to suggest I want you to give up everything you’ve learned all these years. Education is very important, and you and your parents invested much into yours. But now the time for speculation is over. The time for theorizing is over. It’s time to make that investment pay off!

But before you leave, there is one more piece of advice I have to offer to all graduating students, and even those who aren’t ready to graduate yet: Keep your books! Don’t sell them back for beer money! The knowledge you gained through cramming won’t be there years later, but the books you bought will last as long as you keep them. You can return to that knowledge years later and read them at a time when you are really interested in it!

And so to the graduating class of 1997, it is time for you to shuffle off that fantasy world of academia and enter the real world of adulthood. May you enter it with you eyes open and your head on straight.

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