Recent Graduate Speaks Out on the “Real World”

By Ben Mason
Elm Alumni Writer

If you want to know the truth, I sometimes regret graduating from Washington College early. I don’t miss homework, waking up at noon for class, the food, school dances or any of you kids, but I do have regrets. Now that I’m out of college, I hope that my failures and triumphs can somehow guide you, my undergrad readers, on your paths to marginal success.
First of all, please listen to your parents when they say to “try new things.” Seriously. There are so many dead-end avenues in academia that you need to explore before you find the one or two that you think you might actually be able to use later on in life. This brings me to another point: while your bachelor’s degree is almost worthless, please pick a decent one. There are only a few that will enable you to accomplish anything, and almost all of them require further education before allowing you to begin a career. In today’s poor job market, you’re going to need a Master’s degree to apply for jobs that your predecessors applied for with undergraduate degrees. I’ve heard stories of people with PhDs applying for research assistant positions here in DC: so buckle up.
Rather than stepping on anyone’s toes by telling him that his major is useless, let me tell you which ones are worth taking a look at.
First of all, an undergraduate degree in mathematics will set anyone up for work, and higher education. Things like chemistry and biology, so I’ve been told, get you access to a super secret club filled with research assistants pining after a leading researcher director with a PhD, so that’s cool. Essentially, stay away from degrees which, when obtained, make you say something akin to, “Okay, now what?” While general studies into the arts and philosophies will give you a great basis for further education, they also require it, and don’t prep you for any jobs you’d want to hold while going back to school.
However, it is important to remember that book smarts aren’t everything. A visionary once said, “All I do is win win win, no matter what what what.” If you want people to throw their hands in the air when you enter a building (and then stay there), you’re going to have to develop your social skills. Don’t be afraid to talk to girls. Or guys. Or men, or women, or authority figures, or old people, or children. Remember, regardless of what uniform the person you’re speaking to is wearing, he/she is still human and should react in human ways to your behavior. Learning how to deal with people will not only get you out of parking/speeding tickets, but it could get you a job, a valuable connection, or your next love.
So remember to stay in school, and only drink as much as you have to. WC is a nice enough place if you know how to handle it, much like a cold, overbearing father figure. If you can afford it, both financially and mentally, stay enrolled as long as you like. Knowledge is power, but not in the way that an automatic weapon is power: education is a clumsy, expensive and ultimately over-hyped nuclear weapons program. Do it right, and you can be the next Einstein of digging up fossils. Do it wrong, and your English studies could turn you into the Dan Rather of North Korean missile tests.

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