Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Feels Pressure to Enroll in Grad School

DEAR HARRIETTE: Many of my friends are going to graduate school post-graduation, but I have not made this decision for myself yet. My career values experience more than a master’s degree, but I feel like all of my peers are continuing school and I would, quite frankly, feel stupid if I were the only one without a graduate degree. Should social pressure lead me to obtain more education, or should I try to find my way in the professional world? -- Needing More, New York City

DEAR NEEDING MORE: While peer pressure is real and can cause a tremendous amount of concern, you cannot succumb to it as you plan your life’s steps. You must look at your career path and learn everything you can about how people excel. If it is true that work experience is king in your industry, then get to work. There will always be time to go back for a graduate degree should you need to have one.

If you find yourself having to defend your decision, consider this fantastic. You should be comfortable explaining why you have made the choices that you have. You should be as at ease telling your family as sharing the news with your friends or colleagues. So practice. You will become better at it, and better at your work the more you claim it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I graduated from high school years ago, and sadly, I did not keep in touch with any of the teachers who had a big impact on my future. I have also moved out of the town I went to high school in, so I haven’t stepped foot in the school in years. Is it still appropriate to reach out to them and try to meet up with them? I will be going home for the summer, and I thought it might be nice to do. -- Years Later, Pittsburgh

DEAR YEARS LATER: I vote for reaching out to these former teachers. Chances are, they will be thrilled to hear from you and to learn what you are doing with your life these days. Typically, only a few students return to their high schools to stay in touch with their teachers. The ones who do are greatly appreciated. As you know, the job of a teacher is to prepare a student with key tools to live an effective and inspired life. If you feel that you benefited from the interactions and lessons you received from your high school teachers, by all means go back and look for them. Depending on when you left, some teachers may still be there. Others could already be retired. Go to the principal’s office to do some research. You may receive help locating retired teachers.

Even more, write a letter to the principal outlining the value of each of your cherished teachers, adding how the high school in general helped to form the adult you have become. This type of sincere endorsement is extremely helpful for schools. It is proof that the work the school is doing is effective. Go for it!

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)