Is College Harder Than Real Life? – The Pros And Cons!

Many people long for their days in university. But that doesn’t mean that they’d leave their life right now to go back to college. That raises the question, is college harder than real life? And can we even answer that? Well, read on to find out the truth below!

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Is college harder than real life?

The below table highlights the factors that make college and real life challenging.

Real life is harder if youCollege is harder if you
Work long hours or overtimePut in long hours
Have limited vacationSpend time off working
Dislike work or find it challengingDislike college or studying
Are struggling to pay off debtStruggle to pay college fees
Have dependents relying on youStruggle with self-discipline or deadlines
Can be lonelierHave long commutes or live far away from home

From the outset, there seems to be many similar challenges between reality and college. But when we dig a bit deeper below, you’ll discover that there are some subtleties which can either make or break your tolerance for college and real life. What are those subtleties? Well, read on to find out and learn how each of these could impact on you!

Research has shown that the more education you have, the happier and healthier you are likely to be. Source

Is College Harder Than Real Life? - Book with motivational life quote beside coffee

Real life is harder if you:

Work long hours or overtime

Most work will fall in between part-time and full-time employment. This could equate to a 9 – 5 job, fixed or flexible hours. Hours of work may be unsociable or shift work which can impact on your social and personal life, as well as your sleep and wellbeing.

You may be required to work overtime or put in long hours during busy periods as well.

In addition to that, if you don’t turn up on time, you may get docked pay or receive a warning.

With college, it’s routine, sociable hours. If you don’t turn up on time or at all, the repercussions may be less than in a job. For instance, you may be deducted marks towards your attendance.

Ask yourself: Are you willing to work overtime, nights or shift work?

Have limited vacation

In college, you get time off over the summer and multiple weeks off over the course of the semester. With employment, the number of vacation days you receive are much less. This means less time to go on holidays and spend extra time with friends and family.

Plus, you have fewer opportunities to rest which means you have to rely on weekends or days off to recoup from the working week.

If this is a concept that leaves you dreading the thoughts of employment, you could try to source a role with an unlimited vacation policy.

Tip: Compressed work weeks, such as a 4 day work week, allow full time staff to perform their work in a shorter week.

Dislike work or find it challenging

Work can be challenging from multiple standpoints, whether it’s physical, mental, emotional etc. If you have limited education, you may be in a menial role or one which may require a lot of monotonous or manual labor.

A study of workers revealed that 85% of them are unhappy in their job.

If you don’t have further education, you will struggle to secure a nice role unless you have experience or training for the job.

If you work with difficult colleagues, they may make life difficult for you.

If you rely on work purely to make ends meet, there will be less motivation and a love for your work.

On top of that, every job has risk and implications. Generally, the higher you are paid, the higher the risks or implications of the job can be.

If something goes wrong, you could be fired or jailed. If your job puts your health and safety at risk and you get injured, it can have a profound impact on your life.

At least with college, the worst outcome will typically be that you could fail your exams

Ask yourself: What aspects do you like and dislike about your job? Can you change them or move job?

Are struggling to pay debt

Whether it’s bills, a mortgage or feeding a family, debt can be stressful ball and chain around everyone’s neck at some stage. College fees are undoubtedly expensive, but you may be fortunate enough to have the financial assistance from parents or a scholarship.

If you have to pay a mortgage back, it’s generally something you’ll pay for 30 years plus. And that’s on top of the cost of living!

 A considerable difference between work v study is income. At least with work, you get reimbursed.

Ask yourself: Could you request a pay rise or would switching job be worth it for an increase in pay?

Have dependents relying on you

In college, you’re unlikely to have kids or elderly parents who rely on you to feed and support them. That is, unless you’re a mature student or have different circumstances. With college, you may be fortunate enough to only have to fend for yourself.

If you do end up having children or your family begin to rely on your care, this can be a burden from multiple perspectives, including financial, emotional and time.

You may have to sacrifice lie ins, evenings and weekends or even vacation to care for these people.

Ask yourself: Can you change your attitude or how you interact with these people?

Can be lonelier

If you’re used to and enjoyed the highly social aspect that school and university life brought, then you may find real life to be somewhat isolating if you frequently crave the company of people.

Yes, work, school runs and catching up with friends and family all offer socializing opportunities. But they often won’t be to the same level as in school and university.

One of the major benefits of the workplace is the social aspect. But if you work remotely or with a small team, this opportunity diminishes.

Plus, as friends get older and start making a family or moving away, you’ll see them less often.

Ask yourself: Can you join clubs or attend local events to meet people?

Related: Is Work Or College Harder? A First Hand Look & Helpful Qs!

College is harder if you

Put in long hours

With college, there will be classes that you’ll need to attend, and time spent working on projects and studying. The course you opt for will dictate how many hours you need to commit.

With some college courses, you may have a light scheduled with 16 – 20 hours a week.  

More demanding courses, such as medicine, may have you working up to 40 hours in class. That’s not including study and assignments!

Fitting study in around exam season typically means other activities need to be surrendered; this includes your social life, family time, lie ins etc.

Not knowing how much time you need to commit is another issue. I used to feel guilty if I wasn’t spending my spare time studying.

At least with a job, you can walk out at the end of the day and be done with it.

Studying will be made more enjoyable if you have a good desk setup, a nice comfy chair and proper storage. If you’re looking for top quality items, my recommendation is check out Office Furniture 2 Go affordable furniture with a lifetime guarantee

Ask yourself: Are you studying in the most effective way?How can you optimize your time?

Spend time off working

The college semester breaks for Christmas and the summer. That in addition to the other weeks off throughout the year helps shortens the year down to about 180 days.

This is a much larger volume of vacation days that you receive when working.

In case you’re wondering, workers receive about 10 vacation days a year in the US.

However, if you end up working all the holidays and summer breaks, you may not end up taking much time off at all to rest and have a break!

Related: Is Full Time Work Hard? – 10 Factors To Consider!

Dislike college or studying

Studying isn’t for everyone. Sure, it may be a means to an end, but you still have to put the head down or endure those classes and labs whether you like them or not. On top of that, the transition to university is a completely new lifestyle adjustment.

It’s even more of an adjustment if you’re also moving out of home for the first time or you don’t know anyone going to the college.

It could also be that you struggle with the content or learning method practiced at college.

I personally felt I learned more in 3 months of placement than I did in a few years of uni!

When you finally graduate and get to work in the real world, you may love getting stuck in as opposed to being stuck studying books.

In comparison to work, you’ll be attending college or university for anywhere between 3 – 10 years. In the employment world, if you don’t enjoy the work, you can move on and try to find one you prefer.

Ask yourself: What classes do you dislike? Can you change it or seek help on those?

Recommended reading: How to Learn Faster and Be More Productive: Improve your Memory, Focus your Mind and Achieve Powerful Goals (Accelerated Learning: Think Fast & Remember More) (link on Amazon)

Struggle to pay college fees

The cost of further education is an expense which many people either can’t afford or struggle to pay. Many students take on a part-time job to try and ease the burden, but this isn’t always enough to cover everything.

A masters courses are even more expensive again than an undergraduate course.

Most students will have a monstrous amount of debt to pay back after the course is completed.

Unless you have the financial support from parents, you may end up sacrificing food and heating just to make ends meet.

At least in the real world, you’ll probably be able to work more hours and earn a better income.

Some people even try to work full-time and study part-time as they have bills or dependents counting on their income.

Ask yourself: Are there any grants or student aid you can apply for?

Struggle with self-discipline or deadlines

Studying and finishing assignments will require self-discipline to ensure you complete them on time, and you have enough knowledge to pass exams.

To that end, it’s usually your own motivation that’s being relied on.

If you react better to a stronger level of accountability, which is often present in work, then you may struggle to get study done.

In comparison, with work, you’re usually being tracked for your performance by a manager.

Ask yourself: Can you get an accountability partner or work on your self-discipline skills?

Have long commutes or live far away from home

College commutes can be rather long, especially if you’re waiting around for buses and have to get up early to get to lectures on time. This can consume a considerable portion of you time in your day.

You may not be able to afford a car. Plus, if you use public transport, you may have a longer ride home

If you live far away from home or it’s your first time moving out, you will need to adjust to this as well as sharing a house or dorm room with strangers.

Plus, you might not get home too often if the college is very far away.

Ask yourself: How far of a commute would it be and how can I make it more enjoyable?

Recommended reading: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (link on Amazon)


Generally, most people prefer college over work. But how much you enjoy the real world in comparison to college is so dependent on your personal preferences and circumstances, that there’s no clear cut yes or no answer.

By reflecting on the above scenarios, you’ll be able to better consider what factors in the real world and college you would enjoy and dislike!

If you would like to further enhance your knowledge on the world of work and study, I have written some articles that are without a doubt worth a look.

Here are some other useful articles I wrote that you should go check out:

  1. Is Work Or Study Harder? 14 Scary Factors To Make You Think!
  2. Is Work Or College Harder? A First Hand Look & Helpful Qs!
  3. 7 Hidden Things To Know About Work V Study
  4. Weekday V Weekend Work – Quick Guide & Which Pay Best?
  5. How Unlimited Holidays Work – An Insider Guide + FAQs!

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