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20 Biggest Differences Between College And The Real World

In an ideal world, reality would be an extension of college. You know, bed 'til noon, a few hours of work (in between tweeting and Facebooking), happy hour at 3 (hey, it's 5 o'clock somewhere) and a night full of beers and best friends.

But once you graduate, reality smacks you in the face – hard – and you discover that good beer is expensive, making happy hour on time is rare and updating your status is something that your mom does better than you.

And even though the real world is a lot better than waking up in a random field wearing nothing but a neon crop top and glittered leggings… we rounded up 20 of the biggest changes you should be prepped and ready for.

1. Showing up

No one cares if you don't show up for class. If you want to blow tuition on video games and daytime television, no one's going to threaten your paycheck and benefits. Showing up, however, will win you major participation points and we all know you could use those.

In the real world, showing up is everything. You can't even miss a gym class without being penalized in the real world – and don't even think about skipping that 9:15 roundtable discussion at your job. Time is money… and money is everything.


2. Money

In college, mom and dad manage your accounts. Need an extra $50 for “books” that you'll really blow on Friday night beers? Just call mom and dad. They'll keep you sitting comfortably so you won't ever miss Wing Night.

In the real world, you'll learn how to budget. Sure, for the first two weeks of freedom you'll buy IPAs and 10 new dresses from Urban Outfitters, but once you're back out on your own, you'll really learn how to scour the sale racks at Forever21 and the importance of canned vegetables. (It gets easier, we promise.)


3. Where you live

In college, living off-campus makes you cool. Throwing a Freaks 'N Geeks party on a Tuesday night at your downtown apartment is the epitome of Making It. You'll wake up with randos in your bedroom and a guy sleeping in your tub, but hey, it's worth it.

In the real world, living at home with mom and dad makes you economical. Post-grad life means moving back in with mom, dad and the family cat.

It's not your dream come true, but once those student loan payments come rolling in, you'll appreciate three free meals and freshly washed (and folded!) sheets. Trust us.


4. Making friends

In college, peeing together makes you biffles. Want to make friends with the girl you spotted at the bar who's also in your Sociology 101 class? Easy… find her in the bathroom.

There's an unspoken rule that the Girls Who Pee Together Stay Together. Those candid moments make the best memories – and lifetime friends.

In the real world, you'll have to meet people… sober. When you're in college, everyone is looking for new friends, but in the real world, people pretty much have their friend circles figured out – which makes making new ones hard.

You'll have to socialize with coworkers during office hours (and not at the bar) before you can actually call them your friends.


5. Responsibilities

In college, making it back to your dorm with your key card is an accomplishment. When you're in college, it's all about you. You don't have to worry about taking the garbage out or making sure rent is paid on time. You do you and that's really all there is to it.

In the real world, you're keeping track of everything. Rent's due on the 30th, cable on the 15th, if you miss your loan payment again the debt collectors will come calling and oh yeah, don't forget it's your mom's birthday on the 23rd.


6. Finding “The One”

In college, you'll meet The One every Tuesday at Drunk Trivia. And he'll be everything you want in a man… until you wake up the next morning and find out he's the weirdo in your Psychology class. There's always next week.

In the real world, dating is The Worst. You'll make up, break up, cry, throw things and discover that dating in the modern world is basically impossible. Do yourself a favor and get a Match.com account while you can.


7. Fitness ain't free.

In college, getting fit is fun – and cost-free. You can take unlimited classes at the fitness center seven days a week. Getting a beach bod has never been easier.

In the post-grad world, one SoulCycle class will set you back three months. Um… there goes food for the month, I guess?


8. Getting a job

Your side-job as a server makes you mature and responsible in college. But really it's like, hey, more money for tequila shots!

In the real world, you'll need work experience. You'll discover pretty quickly that your three years of pet-sitting experience aren't exactly qualities that make you prime for an entry-level role at Goldman Sachs.


9. Alcohol Tolerance

In college, the sky is the limit. Or at least last call and then it's time for the After, After Party back at your house. Puking all day on Sunday is the norm.

In the post-grad world, drinking all night will kill you at work. One of the most painful things you'll discover about yourself and your body post-college is that you do have a tolerance and you better listen to it. Puking all day in the handicap stall at work doesn't exactly scream “Employee of the Month” potential.


10. All-Nighters

In college, staying up all night makes you Dedicated to Your Future Profession. Who cares if you put off that Kafka essay until the last day because pulling an all-nighter is a piece of cake. After you drop it off in your professor's mailbox, you've got the rest of the day to nap.

In the real world, staying up all night makes you a super-cranky employee. You'll learn the hard way that staying up past 2 am makes you unreasonably cranky and miserable at work. Plus, no one wants their manager to discover them drooling on the inter-department office memo at 2 pm on a Friday afternoon.


11. Napping

In college, a nap is everything. Only fifteen minutes between your afternoon classes? Plenty of time for a quick snooze.

In the real world, naps don't happen enough. Real world discovery #54313: Fifteen minutes between board meetings is just enough time to refill your coffee while simultaneously sleeping with your eyes open.


12. Paying off your debts.

In college, you swipe a card that's billed to mom and dad. Dinner at the most expensive place on campus? Why not – the bill goes straight to your parents’ house anyway. Let them figure it out.

In the real world, the things you buy come back to haunt you. You'll know your finances like the back of your hand (even if they make you cringe!), and you'll discover the endless battle of What I Need vs. What I Want. Spoiler alert: What You Want will typically always lose out.


13. Getting a credit card

In college, having credit cards is fun! So let me just apply for all of them! I'll make the monthly payments and boom, be a grown up.

In the real world, having one great card is everything. Welcome to being a grownup, where knowledge is literally everything.

You'll discover that having tons of cards doesn't make you desirable, it just makes you dumb. So choose a card that supports your needs and has a flexible, accommodating pay schedule.


14. Family

In college, your parents and your grandparents were the people you called occasionally (like right around the time your bank funds were running dry) and your siblings got the drunk check-in every Wednesday.

Postgrad family life is a little different. You’re aging, which mean so are your parents and grandparents. The Fountain of Youth doesn’t flow forever, so it’s worth spending time with them. It matters.


 15. Shopping

In college, Friday afternoon is for outfit shopping. You need that sequined top so badly that you're basically willing to trade your phantom first-born for it. I mean, you can't be seen at the Frat Party wearing the same tank twice.

In the real world, rotation is everything. Let's call it the five-day cycle. You have one outfit designated for Mondays, one for Tuesdays and two set aside for Fridays.


16. Partying all weekend

In college, the weekend starts on Wednesday. And you've got plans every night from here on out so don't even bother trying to get your homework done. Being social is way more important than being responsible. Plus, friends!

In the real world, you've got to choose. Friday or Saturday night. I'm sorry, but no one goes out both.


17. Making a salary

In college, anything goes. You got a job babysitting for a local family and the pay is $8 an hour, which basically means you're going to be the go-to friend with cash this weekend at the bar. Holler!

In the real world, your salary is disappointing. Sure, $30k for an entry role sounds like a lot, but once you realize your rent is double what you make in a month, you will curse the day you ever graduated.


18. You've got it figured out

You're in college, you know everything! You'd consider yourself a well-rounded and educated individual because you're taking a sociology, religion, statistics and creative writing class – all in one semester.

In the real world, you know nothing. Surprise! You'll discover that after college you basically know nothing about anything – and everything you thought you knew was totally wrong. Is it frustrating? Yeah – but it makes the adventure of learning it all that much more exciting.


19. Free time

In college, there's always free time. The hardest part of your week ahead is figuring out how you're going to squeeze both Mojito Monday and the mixer at your sorority into one night.

In the real world, there's never enough free time. There's always something to do, someone to pay and somewhere you have to be. Growing up is hard.


20. Hygiene

In college, there are more important things. I washed my face and brushed my teeth this morning, so like, congratulations to me for having it all together!

In the real world, you shower five times a day. Because people have germs and germs mean sickness and you don't have time or health insurance for

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Kylie McConville

Subscriber

Kylie is the deputy editor and in charge of managing the women's lifestyle team. She's most likely tired, so be nice to her, okay?
Kylie is the deputy editor and in charge of managing the women's lifestyle team. She's most likely tired, so be nice to her, okay?

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