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Dear Athena: Should I go to graduate school?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Dear Athena is Her Campus Oswego’s Advice Column. Click here to submit (it’s completely anonymous)!

Dear Athena,

“Athena, I am a Senior who will graduate in the Spring. My friends all keep talking about going to graduate school and how if I don’t go to grad school, I won’t get a job. No one told me this when I went off to college! I don’t want to go to grad school but now I feel like if I don’t, I’ll be a failure. I thought a bachelors would be enough, but now when I say that, I feel like everyone is judging me. Should I go?”

— To Go or Not To Go (To Grad School)

Dear To Go or Not To Go (To Grad School),

I am of the opinion that graduate school is not (and should not) be necessary to get a job in your field. However, I do think for some specific jobs it is necessary — your professor obviously needs at least a Masters degree in order to teach you the material, and someone performing nuclear fission should have a PhD. 

I think you need to ask yourself a lot of questions, along with doing a lot of research, to determine if you should go to graduate school. While your friends probably mean well, some of them likely don’t need to go to graduate school in order to get a job and would prefer to not have the do the harder thing and *gulp* leave school and get a job. This phenomenon is so common and so old CollegeHumor made a skit about it 10 years ago. Ask yourself if there is a specific career, like Social Worker or Veterinarian, you need a Masters or PhD for. Research the jobs that are being offered right now in your field and look at the ones that intrigue you the most — do they ask that you have a Masters degree or are most okay with a Bachelors? 

Further, research the field itself. I have met many students (myself included) who wanted to become a professor. Talking to many professors who have their PhD today and they will tell you, like Dr. Fiona Coll once advised me, that the number of tenure-track professor jobs is extremely scarce and that the long road of a PhD is not worth it unless your graduate studies are fully funded and you are very secure in life already. Why, you ask, would having the highest degree possible not be worth it even if you don’t become a professor? Because then you will very likely end up being turned away by every other job you’re interested in for being “overqualified.” I only just mentioned funding, but seriously consider if it’s worth it to get into tens of thousands (sometimes more) dollars of debt for a degree that may not be necessary for you to work in a well paying, fulfilling career. Historically, financial aid for graduate programs is much scarcer than undergraduate. There’s only so much room in funded programs, and you have to consider if the job you’re aiming to get after graduate school will enable you to pay off those loans you’d have to take out. 

These are all real considerations to graduate school that your friends may or may not have made. Either way, it is still not great to be pressuring you into going to graduate school. My best advice is to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. At the end of the day, you genuinely don’t have to go to graduate school if that’s what’s best for you! If your friends keep trying to convince you that you have to go, you can feel free to say Athena told you that you don’t have to and are still exploring your post-grad options. Good luck!

Dear Athena,

“My girlfriend wants to open our relationship to spice things up. I’m not so sure. I love her a lot and so I want to make her happy but I don’t think I can handle it. Any advice?”

— Poly-not so-amory

Dear Poly-not so-amory,

DO NOT ENTER INTO AN OPEN RELATIONSHIP, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200. I don’t mean to alarm you with all caps, but I can already tell from your letter this is a bad idea! I have been part of polyamorous/open relationships before and I can tell you that if both parts of the couple are not 100% comfortable with the idea and know how to stick to healthy and transparent boundaries, it will absolutely end in your relationship ending with your significant other and/or seriously hurting those you bring into it. 

A lot of couples believe that an open relationship is some kind of “cheat code” to bring the passion back into a relationship, especially a long-term one. While it certainly can be something exciting to bond couples, sex and intimacy can be complex things for human beings to sort and it can get messy very quickly. I understand wanting to make your girlfriend happy, but if it doesn’t make you happy too, and you already know you can’t handle the emotional/jealousy aspects of sharing your partner with someone else, then you are going to end up resentful and hurt. 

Honestly, ask yourself what ‘spice’ she believes is missing from the relationship? Can you come up with an answer? Even if you can, it may be worth asking what she believes is lost from your relationship that would make it exciting for her (and yourself, from what it sounds like). In my experience, most couples that begin to contemplate open relationships need to communicate to each other about what they truly need from the relationship, even if they’re both on board with opening it up. Some people (and this may or may not be your girlfriend), also just really do like to have multiple partners at any given time. If you are more of a monogamy-only guy, it may be worth it to see where you should go from here so you can both have a fulfilling relationship. 

At the end of the day, I do not believe that your relationship could withstand all the complexities that come with an open relationship. Have an honest conversation with your girlfriend first about the state of your relationship.

Shannon Sutorius was an award winning 23-year-old English major, over 40-time-published author, editor, and former Teaching Assistant who graduated from SUNY Oswego in December of 2021. Shannon was one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus Oswego, previously Senior Editor, and wrote the Advice Column, "Dear Athena." Shannon worked with and had been published in Great Lake Review, Medium, and Subnivean. Shannon's awards included the Edward Austin Sheldon Award, Pride Alliance's Defender of LGBT+ Rights in Journalism Award, and the Dr. Richard Wheeler Memorial Scholarship. As well, Shannon was an active member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.