When you’re transitioning from high school to college, your head will no doubt be filled with a bunch of advice and information from parents, teachers, guidance counselors, recruiters and your friends. Some of the advice you get will be great, but you’ll also come across a lot of popular myths that will give you a false idea of what college is all about.

I’m not trying to dissuade you from going to college (because it’s very beneficial), but you deserve to get a full picture of what college is and how it will actually impact your life.

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Myth #1: It Only Takes Four Years

One of the most popular myths told to students is that it only takes four years to get a bachelor’s degree. That may have been true at some point in time, but it’s definitely not the case anymore. In fact, less than 40% of first time college students graduate within four years and 58 percent graduate after six years. The statistics for two-year associate’s degrees at community colleges aren’t much different. Then there’s also a large group of students who flat out never end up finishing college at all.

So what does that mean? Your college career might be a lot longer than what you probably expected.

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Myth #2: Choose Your Major Wisely

When you’re in high school, you start to feel the pressure to decide what you want to be in life. The first deciding factor in what your career will be is your college major — or so you’re told. The reality is that only 27% of college graduates end up with a job related to their major. I remember speaking to an employee that works in the marketing division of a popular university. She told me she got a degree in finance and ended up working in marketing.

In certain industries, your major does matter. For instance, most engineers didn’t get a degree in philosophy. But for the majority of graduates, there’s a discrepancy in what their college major was and the industry they work in.

Moral of the story: Your college major doesn’t determine the outcome of your career.

Myth #3: You’ll Be Able to Get a Great Job Out of College

Well, this myth is partially true. You can get a job out of college, but it will probably be a position you could have gotten without a degree anyways. I don’t want to cast a dark shadow over the worth of a college degree, so I will note that the unemployment rate for college graduates is half of that of high school graduates. But the point is that many college graduates are underemployed.

Underemployment is usually the result of being unable to find a job within your field and then settling for whatever you can get. For instance, you might have graduated with a degree in Accounting, but the only jobs you’re able to find are entry-level administrative assistant and bank teller positions. Both are decent jobs, but neither one requires a college degree.

There are a few things you can do while in college to help increase your chances of getting a high-paying job after graduation, such as networking and getting internships to gain experience.

But don’t be surprised if you don’t become an executive right after college.

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Myth# 4: Grades Matter

Obviously grades matter in order to pass your classes and graduate, but in the grand scheme of things, employers won’t really care if you had a 4.0 GPA. I mean, George W. Bush had a 2.35 GPA at Yale and ended up becoming the President of the United States — twice.

Outside of personal gratification and bragging rights, the grades you get in college won’t affect your future as much as people tell you they will. Very few (if any) employers will ask to see your transcript or even care what your GPA was. So contrary to what you might think, your world will not end if you get a C in Calculus.

If W. become the President with C’s and D’s, I don’t think you need to obsess over getting straight A’s.

Myth #5: You Can’t Put a Price on Your Education

Oh, you don’t say? Then what do you call tuition? When schools try to explain the ridiculously high costs of tuition, they’ll typically tell you one of two things:

  • You can’t put a price on your future/education
  • Your degree will pay for itself

There are plenty of people in debt up to their neck to Sallie Mae that would beg to differ. If your college career was financed by student loans, you can expect to be paying for years to come. When counselors and recruiters try to push you into college, the goal is to go to college now and worry about how you’ll pay for it later.

Like I touched on in myth #3, you might not get the high-paying job you expected to get after college. It’s hard to pay back tens of thousands of dollars (or even hundreds of thousands in some cases) when you’re only making $25,000 a year.

How bad is the college debt situation right now? The average amount of student loan debt per student is currently around $27,000 — a 58 percent increase from seven years ago. And the total amount of college loan debt is over $1.1 trillion right now and increasing every second. To give you something to compare it to, that is 37 percent more than the total amount of U.S credit card debt of $798 billion.

Like I said in the beginning, don’t let this discourage you from going to college. There are obvious benefits of having a degree, such as higher lifetime earnings and lower unemployment rates. But don’t be fooled by the 100 percent positive picture that some people paint.

Related: 5 Ways to Save Money on Tuition


Image: Jesse Garrison