Help for people who HAVE graduated college

by genspecial

Statistical Success

There’s been lots of discussion of late about the value of completing college.  A Times article last week on the gap between richer and poorer students cited college completion as “the single most important predictor of success in the work force.”   According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, students with a Bachelor’s Degree are currently expected to earn about a million dollars more over their lifetime than those with just high school degrees.  As a result, there is an enormous amount of energy being put into figuring out how to get more people through college.  There’s even an entire website,, run by the impressive-sounding Education Commission of the States, devoted to helping people graduate.  And this is all important work that’s being done.  But it’s also overlooking a crucial segment of the population: people who have graduated college.

Yes, I’m once again talking about Special People.  (They are after all the focus of this blog.)  These are folks who have often graduated college with flying colors, but now find those colors to be just kind of drifting, or maybe even grounded somewhere near Dubuque.  They may even have graduate degrees, bless their hearts, but have still not graduated from Specialness.  “How,” they may ask, “can I have followed this societally-encouraged, statistically proven, Arne Duncan-blessed track, and still not find myself on the other side of the rainbow?  What did I need to have done differently?”

And of course this is a false construction, because Specialness cannot be averted or cured by higher education.  It can’t be fixed at Oxford, Cambridge, Cal Tech or DeVry University (though this last one would be the best place to start).  Specialness, in fact, has no known cure.  It can only be contained.  So while education experts are understandably focused on helping those who are struggling to complete college, we wanted to take a moment to focus on those who have.

Here are some productive living tips for people with college diplomas:

1) Exercise daily (including walking).  Moving your body is one of the best ways for Special People to stop thinking about not being special.  You probably ran around more in college, and that helped.

2) Focus on completing small, manageable and definable tasks.  Do NOT set out to write “Hamlet.”
(side note: my brother interestingly told me once that through the quirky law of copyright, one could technically transcribe “Hamlet,” list oneself as the author, and publish it as one’s own play, since it’s in the public domain.  This means that you might be able to actually write Hamlet in one day, and even publish it.  And that’s just fine.  So to rethink this rule, Do not set out to complete an entire work or task of earth-shaking proportions. It is OK, though, to literally set out to “write” “Hamlet.”)  

3) Eat walnuts and figs (dried figs, but the kind you can pick out–not prepackaged).  These are soothing foods that make one feel good.

4) Don’t outthink yourself before starting a task.  In general, view each task as its own endeavor.  Don’t think of it as something A) you’re really good at, or B) you really suck at.  Think of it as something you’re C) at.

5) Play “Words with Friends.”  (Losing to an 8th grade student of mine was helpful in dealing with Specialness)

6) Know that there is only a tiny, .01% chance that you have a rare brain disease and that you’re literally dumber than you were at the time you graduated college.

7) Remember that there are millions like you suffering from Specialness.  You are not alone.  And just because you graduated college, and statistically that’s a good thing, and Arne Duncan’s not worried about you, there are still people who have your back.  It won’t come easy, but we’ll slog through it together.

We will not become just another statistic!