Tomorrow, August 3, 2000, is my final day of college at the University of Kentucky. I almost dread having to go home and be praised by my Mom and relatives. I've been told over and over again how great it is to have made it through such a tough challenge. Everyone seems to think that I've been working hard at my schoolwork, and even working a part-time job to boot. But school was never very difficult, and I worked 20+ hours a week in a computer lab as a consultant (ie, I sat around doing nothing). I'm getting my Computer Science degree. IMHO, I've taken the easy route. If I wasn't such a bum I would have skipped college, learned stuff on my own, and either started my own business or found a job. I haven't even bothered to co-op. Working hard is doing something construction work. A guy who starts off in a manual labor job and works his way to a management position has accomplished something difficult in my book. All I did was sit through classes (well, at least through some of them), write toy programs, and an occasional less than 10 page paper. Big Whoop.

My friends who have graduated seem to feel the same way. I'm taking a wild guess that most noders that have college degrees feel similar. I guess my girlfriend didn't have quite the same experience. Or maybe hers was worse. Her Mom and Dad both have Masters degrees and her only brother graduated the year before she did. So her parents weren't all crazy about her managing to graduate (they weren't even crazy about her 3.9 GPA). But, outside of her house most people would be overly impressed.

Anyway, my point is that so many people think I've accomplished something, but I don't think I've done much at all. It makes you feel like you're living a lie. I'm wondering if this feeling is going to change. It seems it will only get worse. I'll get a job that's not to difficult and get to live at a higher standard than people who actually work hard. Yay.

I tend to think of a college degree, at least a bachelors degree, as simply a token which says "This person probably has more intelligence than the average baboon." It tells people that you can indeed be trained to do something useful, as opposed to all those people who'll be working fast food for the rest of their lives and will do a piss-poor job of it to boot.

Anyway, don't feel as if you don't deserve it for some reason. It really does mean something, just nothing specific. If you're interested in more, go for a Masters or a Doctorate. Otherwise, flash your degree and get a freakin' job where you get paid a lot and don't have to sweat too much.

I can honestly say I encountered this same disillusionment when I graduated from UIUC. For both of us, the reason seems to be the same: the people around us and society in general treat a college diploma as a major accomplishment, while the actual graduate knows that it really wasn't all that difficult. (Note: This is a local truth, not a universal one. Moving on.)

Speaking personally, I coasted most of the way through university classes on my natural smarts. I say this humbly. In high school I was an introverted academic, took a wealth of AP and honors courses, did well in them, and then headed off to a state university. But by the last semester of my high school career, I was tired of it all -- the studies, the grades, the self-motivation. I'd been accepted into college; wasn't that what I was getting all these grades for?

In college, then, I stopped pushing myself, mainly because I didn't really know what I was pushing myself toward. I was going to get a mathematics degree, yes, but I wasn't really sure why. Eventually, I just finished off that degree as quickly as possible and headed into web development as a career instead (and I will be forever glad that I did so).

I think that a sense of accomplishment is a product of two things: how hard you motivate yourself, and the meaningfulness of the goal achieved. Today, a B.A. or B.S. isn't as distinguishing as it used to be; nevertheless, it's the result of a huge investment of time and money, and it is a big accomplishment. It's only not when you compare it to the work you'd have to do to educate and feed yourself without one.

If you're looking for a true sense of accomplishment, I suggest focusing on the next big goal of your life: getting a job. Spend some time deciding exactly what you want to do, and after that, where you'd like to work. Maybe you'd like to work for a big-name game developer? How about a startup in Silicon Valley somewhere? (Whatever you do, though, don't apply to Microsoft if you want to regain the feeling that you're doing something useful.)

Whatever it is, make sure it's someplace you'll be happy for several years. Then research the company. Then study and practice your interviewing skills. Then figure out what salary you're really worth. Then go out there and, goddammit, GET THAT JOB! And after you've been there awhile and proven yourself, you can figure out what you need to get your first promotion and start the whole cycle again.

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