Lesson Number One: All College Degrees are not Equal

Contrary to what my mother told me, I’m not special. I’m just a face in a sea of people, one of a million. My entire life I’ve had a hatred for the word ‘just.’ Who wants to be ‘just’ something? Just another page in a book,  just another fish in the sea. The thing about the word ‘just’ is that it carries a sense of average. There has to be other bricks in order to be “just another brick in the wall.” You can’t say that Steve Jobs, rest in peace, was just another CEO. Jobs wasn’t ‘just’ anything, he was an innovator.

Jobs once said,“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.

Every time I hear this quote I become inspired. The other night, I realized that I’m stuck in-between my past and my future. It was a strange feeling, like anxiously waiting on the starting block for the referee to blow his whistle. For a moment, I felt like I was spending my life waiting for my future to begin. The quick minute of panic was pushed aside by a truly enlightening idea, one that changed the way I view my college experience.

This middle ground is what separates the linchpins  from the disposables.

You come into college with four years to prepare yourself for the rest of your life. It’s the time when you either rise above the rest or become one in a million. Just under a years from now, I will walk across the stage and receive my college diploma with thousands of other students. While we may all receive the same diploma, we won’t graduate as equals. The girl who dedicated her Thursday nights to Jell-O shots at the bar isn’t equal to the girl who took the unpaid internship and spent her thursday nights knee-deep in notecards. The frat boy graduating with a BS in Accounting isn’t equal to the president of the Marketing Club graduating with the same degree. It’s in these differences that you find the leaders and innovators.

If there is one thing I could tell my self  three years ago, it would be this:“Newsflash: No one is going to make you go above and beyond. No one is going to tell you that you’re not doing enough or that your priorities are wrong.  You can choose to graduate with the crowd, or graduate above the crowd.”

I think every incoming Freshman should have that drilled into their minds. A college degree has become as common as owning a cell phone. College plays a different role in our lives than it did for previous generations. Our college experience defines who we are and what we will achieve. The days of landing head-first into a job are long gone. Honestly, I’m terrified of the “real world.” After countless all-night study sessions, 2,000 word essay, and forking out thousands of dollars in tuition, we put our life achievements onto a cookie-cutter resume for a man in a business suit to glance over in-between meetings. With thousands of college-graduates fighting for a handful of jobs, you must be a linchpin to avoid becoming disposable.

Lesson Number One: This was the hardest, but most important lesson to learn. College isn’t high school. I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before. But seriously, it’s really not. In high school, it’s easy to coast by on an hour or so of homework per week and maybe getting involved in an on campus organization. Not anymore. When you graduate form college, you enter the real world. What you do during your four years matters, it’s what defines the rest of your life.

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3 thoughts on “Lesson Number One: All College Degrees are not Equal

  1. Great post, Stephanie! I agree with you in that a college degree is becoming the “norm.” It’s important to build your brand, join student organizations, and attend professional development activities.

    It’s strange to think about how big of an impact these four years can make on your entire life.

  2. Stephanie,
    Now that we’re seniors, this post is so relevant, and so scary! I think a lot of college students don’t realize how important it really is to put your studies first. Sure it’s great to make friends and have fun, but is that going to matter when you’re sitting in an interview getting drilled with questions about things you learned and class and blew off? This is a great topic!

  3. Throughout your blog you give great advice! I think you make some very good points in your first lesson. Both my parents always give me the advice to pick a career and not necessarily a major. There are many people when they first get to college who do not realize this, and some who will never understand it. Making yourself stand out, is a great way to get yourself out in the real world, and is good for self-motivation. I would also like to know how many of those people who don’t take college serious, fell short of what they wanted or what there expectations were. You are also very right by saying that you are just one in a million and replaceable.

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