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Does anyone remember the days when college was more of a sacred place that only the brightest and most promising students managed to get in? It was a bit exclusive and not exactly geared to be as pleasant for everyone, but the main point of it is that it meant something. Nowadays it still means something, but instead of being a ticket to a better life it’s become a ticket to massive debt, uncertainty, and the art of having to survive until you find that perfect job that will suit your needs and wants. The only trouble with this is that too many people still rely upon college as a golden goose that will provide once they’ve passed all their exams and written their final paper. With resumes in hand a great number of college grads seem to think that being armed with a diploma and four or more years of college experience that they’ll waltz right into the job of their dreams.

Reality is a harsh kick in the teeth, metaphorically-speaking, when a lot of them come to realize that they might be stuck working in an hourly paying job until that perfect moment comes along. There are many ways that a person can guard against this and prepare for a life outside of college, but the unfortunate truth is that many people simply don’t think about working their way into a job while they’re in college. Honestly college is stressful enough, and the fact that some people have to work during their school year and even raise their children if they have any is enough to drive a lot of people over the deep end. But the saddest part of all? Those that have the brightest futures are sometimes those that think they can get by simply by having that degree in hand.

Your degree isn’t even worth the paper it was printed on if you aren’t prepared to apply what you’ve learned.

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So you’ve got your degree and you’re ready to take on the world, right? Well guess what, the world will chew you up and spit you out before the day is out if you can’t apply what you’ve learned to a real world setting. Businesses don’t want anything to do with you unless you know what you’re talking about and have learned how to apply yourself. You went to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech? Wooha, they won’t care unless you can prove that you can do something for them.

That’s why it’s so important during your school years to network, to build up a rapport with those that can help you when your college days are over, and to seek out an internship that will help you step into that job you so desperately want when you graduate. Those jobs you so desperately want won’t look at you twice unless they get the idea that you’re worth their time. An internship can go a long way towards giving you the experience you require and the consideration you desire from any business. Otherwise you’ve got a pretty piece of paper with your name on it, and it cost you more than most people will pay for their car.

Getting the degree isn’t the hard part.

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Just about anyone can pass a test or write a paper if they’re properly motivated. Learning isn’t a hard thing so long as there’s a reason to do it. The value of a diploma isn’t in the actual diploma, it’s in the application that comes after it. By taking that diploma and framing it you might have a nice keepsake and something to remind you of what you went through in college. But to have a future you’ll be better served by moving forward and applying that knowledge in a way that will make the diploma more of a symbol rather than a sign that you did something but never followed through. If anything, a diploma is a road sign on your way to bigger and better things.

Remember how everyone says the sky’s the limit? Don’t believe it.

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You’ve graduated, you’ve survived, and yet there’s still so much to do. You have a long road full of possibilities ahead of you, and that horizon you see is not the limit. It’s the beginning. Take what you’ve learned and don’t bother trying to limit yourself to the view when so much more lies beyond.

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