The Real World

by Brian Nick | 11/19/01 6:00am

I forget exactly where I was when it first dawned on me that college was not real. Most likely it was at some room party (remember those?) during freshman orientation in the fall of 1999 when S&S raided a two-room triple that had 70 people in it. It was clear that although there were no parents around to scold us, the College had felt it necessary to provide some form of law enforcement/monitoring to corral our newly found independence. Of course, over the years more instances have arisen that have clued me in to the fact that college is not real, but it was not until this fall, my third here at Dartmouth, that the concept truly hit me.

Remember what it was like being juniors in high school and seeing all of the seniors scrambling to get their college applications in, jumping from interview to interview with alumni and taking three-day weekends to try to tour as many campuses as they could? It was pretty scary for us juniors because we were still just getting used to the fact that there we were actually older than most of the other kids in the school. For us, college still seemed a lifetime away, yet only a year later there we were: reading the admissions guides, U.S. News & World Report and whatever else we could get our hands on. Naturally, once we arrived at college and survived the first few weeks of adjustment, we reentered the comfort zone, as if Dartmouth was where we were going to live for the rest of our lives. I guess it wouldn't be so bad, but unless you have a true thirst for knowledge and are exceedingly wealthy, four or five years might be your limit.

All of a sudden junior fall arrives. Fresh off the lazy days of sophomore summer, we expect to arrive at campus once again in September with the same carefree attitude that has carried us this far, but now things have changed. Many of our friends, only one year our senior, are actually donning business suits and going for interviews with big time financial firms for gasp real jobs! And not just jobs! Careers! Yes, the C-word rears its ugly head and things suddenly become very real. Many of my fellow '03s and I suddenly imagine ourselves, clean cut and freshly shaven, walking to a corporate interview with a fancy (perhaps monogrammed) leather folder containing multiple copies of our precious resumes printed, in all likelihood, on watermarked paper.

Now things begin spinning around us. Econ 1 has given way to Econ 36, Govy 5 has gone by the wayside and we are now confronted with Govy 85. What the hell happened? How many terms do I have left? Four!!?? Yes, things are getting very real. Those abstract majors we've been toiling in for the past two years have to start developing into some sort of real-life profession or else we'll have to burn that Dartmouth diploma to keep us warm come December of 2003. I actually have the luxury of choosing between a career in "Economics" and a career in "Government," whatever that means.

So what are the differences between the real world and Dartmouth? Many of them are subtle. For example, the popular practice of pulling an all-nighter on a paper, handing it in at 9 a.m. and going back to sleep until the late afternoon is not really an option in the real world. Salary and performance evaluation, I'm told, rest heavily not only on the quality of one's work but also on one's attendance at the office. In addition, whereas at Dartmouth one might have class three days a week for roughly three hours, in the real world one might have to show up for work five or even six days a week for upwards of eight, nine, or even 10 or more hours!

Perhaps the most glaring difference has to do with the nature of the social scene in the real world as compared to Dartmouth. I am told by many on the other side that fraternities are nowhere to be found in the real world. Instead there are "bars," which appear from the outside to be restaurant-type establishments, but which on the inside distribute alcohol as their main means of business.

Even more strangely, many if not all of these "bars" require some sort of monetary compensation for their goods and services! Am I the only one who, upon returning home, is mocked by my friends for showing up at these places without my wallet or any money? How was I to know?

So what are we juniors to do? Panic is only one option. Another is to determine what, if any, real-world jobs correspond to your selected major. It might also be a good idea to consult some of your wise, all-knowing senior friends for advice on corporate recruiting or job searches. Remember, things are not so bad. We still have a solid 18 months of Dartmouth ahead of us, so party hard, study hard, and try not to think about putting on that three-piece suit next year.