I had so many palm-to-forehead, “Whaaaaat???” moments throughout my twenties. There were so many times I found myself in deep trouble, stuck between a rock and a hard place, and facing major consequences for my own actions that I didn’t even know were bad. I remember at these times feeling like, “Shouldn’t I get a free pass because nobody told me?! Shouldn’t every young adult get a get out of jail free card for their first time this happens?” And I couldn’t believe what major things nobody warned me about. I mean, massive stuff. Like what an urgent care bill looked like when you didn’t have health insurance. Or how someone can have your car towed if your bumper is just a little bit in their driveway (those people are jerks, but they’re still within their right to do that.) Every time I found myself in these situations, I just felt completely…cheated. I felt like my educators had failed me.
The truth is that, while a college education can certainly give you a leg up in, say, your career prospects, it doesn’t always give you a leg up in life. Going to college is like adulting lite. You do learn some important life lessons there. Some learn how to do their own laundry for the first time there, or how to manage roommate politics, or how to boil rice. You develop confidence because you have to build an entirely new social circle. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to handling real life.
I can’t believe I spent so much time analyzing Shakespeare literature and so little time analyzing the pros and cons of a high-deductible, low-monthly car insurance plan. Where was that in “Hamlet?” And it’s great that I learned how bacteria mutates in biology but why didn’t anyone tell me about packing a mask on airplanes to avoid touching my mouth and nose? Here are ways college leaves us terribly underprepared for life.
Budgeting for taxes
I wish someone had told me, “Okay, when you are offered your first salary, first of all, you can and should negotiate. And second of all, consider taxes.” I didn’t think about what my pay would look like after taxes. I thought $17 an hour was great! I didn’t realize it’d be more like $13.50 an hour after taxes. I certainly didn’t consider that when choosing how much to spend on things like rent and my car payment.