Does the bar scene really get better after graduation?

When I talk to college students getting ready to graduate in May, I like to ask them what they are going to miss the least about college life. For many of the women I talk to, the college bar scene is at the top of their list.

When I asked Verily interns what they thought of the college bar scene, they had some strong opinions, too. “I am not a fan of the college bars at all,” Katie says. “They are loud, overly crowded, sweaty, and therefore smelly. Also, the floors at college bars are constantly sticky.” Mary wholeheartedly agreed with Katie on this matter. “College bars are basically a mosh pit. I can honestly say as a graduating senior that I’m pretty much over them and ready to move on to ‘real-world bars.’”

For those of us who have been in said “real world” for a couple (or more) years, we might be saying the opposite; we’re longing for cheap drinks and low-pressure hangouts. The truth is, for better or worse, the college bar scene is a distinct experience (except maybe for the sticky floor thing—every bar tends to have those). So for nostalgia’s sake, and to better prepare any hopeful college grads out there, here are five of the biggest differences between your college bar and the real-world bar scene.

01. Chilling with friends versus looking for a date.

If there is one thing post-grads miss the most about college bars, it’s how much more chill the vibe is. In college you hit the bars to chill with your friends; in the real world getting a drink at a bar can often feel more like auditioning for a mate. When you don’t end up meeting someone interesting, sometimes it can feel like the whole night was a waste. This gets old fast, and it can make you wax nostalgic about the days when you had very little hopes or expectations other than a good time with your friends.

02. The real world is rarely like Cheers.

Outside the comfort of the college town bubble, it’s rare to walk into a bar and recognize a friend—unless of course you had planned to meet someone. In the real world, going to the bar requires a wingwoman—not only because of the aforementioned auditioning for a mate thing but also because unless it’s the bar your other friends frequent, you likely won’t know any other patrons. At the college bar, on the other hand, you could safely hit up your local watering hole and find friends or, at the very least, friends of friends. In the real world, you come with friends and stick with them for the evening, but in your college bar you were most likely to flit from group to group the way you would at a house party.

03. Prepare yourself for sticker shock.

Any college grad will tell you that leaving the college bar scene and entering real-world bars is likely to cause sticker shock. You will soon find out (hopefully not the hard way) that the reason for the hike in drink prices has a lot to do with the fact that in your college bar, the drinks were way more watered down. So yeah, in the real world, everything from what’s on tap to mixed drinks are exponentially more expensive but also a lot more dangerous. On the bright side, it’s that much more generous when someone covers your tab.

04. There are way fewer bros who think they own the place. 

Stepping out into the real world won’t (unfortunately) rid you from bro run-ins, but at least these kinds of guys have to reign it in a bit more because they are no longer big fish in a little pond. That’s right, less loud, in-your-face male territorial stuff going on in the real-world bar scene. But don’t get too excited; you will find other things to eye roll about after a year or two of real-world bars.

05. You won’t have to navigate around awkward PDA.

There’s PDA, and then there’s: “Are you aware that you are in public?” There’s nothing like trying to make conversation while some couple is getting way too physical pretty much right in the middle of the bar. Gross. Well, luckily, if you pick the right bars in the real world, you are way less likely to need to navigate around couples who forgot that they’re in public.

Photo Credit: Belathee Photography