Now, that I have your attention, here is something to consider. Going to graduate school raises many, many issues about your social life. The most important thing to you might be having a career, and that is fine; having a family might be the most important thing, and that is good too; or you might want something in between, and that will work as well. I cannot give you any definitive advice on these matters. It all involves how you want to live your life and only you can make that decision, but going to grad school will affect your social life and your social life will affect your graduate school and professional careers. I will say this, though, having a social life in grad school is a good thing, but it will be more difficult to have than when you were an undergraduate.
The most common issue that comes up when people discuss social life ramifications is dating. The scenario that everyone thinks about is dating between teachers and students. The stereotype is of older male professors dating younger, female students. There are reasons for this stereotype. It is socially acceptable for men to date younger women than it is for women to date younger men, and there are far more male professors out there than female ones. Regardless of the image that comes to mind, this type of situation is unacceptable under any conditions be you the student, the teacher, your gender, or sexual orientation. As long as there is an imbalance in the power relationship, as long as one person has some degree of control over another person’s education and/or career, a romance is not only unwise, it involves some degree of coercion. If not to the people involved, then to others who can complain that they never got the same opportunities as the junior partner in the romantic relationship. Now, once the instructor no longer has any control over the student, anything is possible and no one else’s business. Professors or teaching assistants dating a student is unacceptable; a former student…well what is the big deal?
Another common source of possible romantic candidates are other grad students. This alternative makes a lot of sense. Other grad students are sharing the same experiences as you and graduate school is a small community, which means you will already know these people and have shared interests and friends. On the other hand, what if one of you is a significantly stronger and better student—a real issue if both of you are in the same discipline (history) rather than if you are into different ones (history and chemistry).
Dating other grad students can and often does lead to marriage. That development is a good thing, but there are some ways that your career can affect your marriage and vice-versa. Those issues, though, are the subject of next week’s blog.