Dorris ’15: An MRS degree from Brown

Opinions Columnist

The clock is ticking, ladies.

Susan Patton recently penned a letter to the Daily Princetonian suggesting that female students find a husband before graduation. She claimed couples that share the same socioeconomic status and interests are generally happier.

The letter received severe backlash and was deemed anti-feminist.

But we cannot deny the letter’s relevance. Brown is also an Ivy League school and a few of us — mostly from Perkins Hall — do marry right out of college. In the midst of the Supreme Court’s debate over the constitutional status of same-sex marriage, we have to wonder: Is Brown the best chance we will ever have?

Bestselling books like Lori Gottlieb’s, “Marry Him! Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” emphasize the fact that the dating pool of suitable partners shrinks exponentially as women grow older. The satirical rap video, “The Ivy League Hustle,” claims that men do not want to date women from Ivy League schools.

After all, there is some truth to Patton’s article. Over six thousand intellectual people surround us. Many of them share the same beliefs and values. There will never be another time in our lives like this.

After we are ejected from the Brown bubble, we will realize that not everyone appreciates SexPowerGod and almond milk lattes or recognizes gluten sensitivity as a real disability. Shockingly, some people may even be socially conservative, very religious or less privileged.

Though we fight for marriage equality, many of us feign apathy toward the ultimate commitment. Like most universities, Brown values experimentation and hookup culture. Some would concede that feminists have come a long way. This is the age of sex positivity, bi-curiosity and naked performances, not wedding bells and white dresses.

We forget that part of the reason we change our Facebook profile photos to red and pink equal signs is that there are so many benefits to marriage. In addition to social security and employer benefits, married couples have access to cheaper car insurance, higher credit scores and better loan offers, as well as joint income tax returns.

But despite the benefits, people who marry their college sweethearts often struggle.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of marriage has risen from 23 for men and 20 for women in 1950 to 28 for men and 26 for women in 2009. Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, claims that the reason the “supposedly liberal East” has a lower divorce rate than the more socially conservative South and West is because couples in the latter areas “have less education and marry earlier, both of which lead to a higher risk of divorce.” In other words, the divorce rates may have hit an all-time low in 2009 because couples are marrying later in life.

College graduates are not financially ready for marriage.  Some may argue that once someone is established in a career, it is difficult to find a partner. But it is even more difficult to marry someone straight out of college and then be tied down, unable to pursue even entry-level job opportunities because of a spouse’s location. The glass ceiling is real. Women especially need time to develop their careers, not wallow in collective debt.

More importantly, we are not emotionally ready. Life is hard after college and marriage will not make it any easier. Most of us will change dramatically during our turbulent twenties. There are a million things to experience in the world, and if you have the privilege to explore, you should. Fully committing oneself to another person requires a self-awareness and lack of selfishness that most of us do not possess.

Whether you are a guy or a girl, the best thing you can do is get a career, figure out what you want and pursue good friendships. No, we should not discount potential life partners for small reasons — and if you find someone, then great. But as long as you make deep connections, whether platonic or romantic, you will always have a Brown network to return to. The people we meet now could become spouses much later in life. No, we do not have all the time in the world. But we still have time. An MRS degree is a lot of extra work, especially if you are already double concentrating.


Cara Dorris ’15 can be reached at


  1. You could always go back to grad school.


  3. Something I took for granted at Brown: that people I would meet after Brown would be just as awesome.”Over six thousand intellectual people… many share the same beliefs and values.” It’s not only that; people at Brown are by and large really cool people. I think they choose us that way. People you meet after Brown–even smart people–aren’t generally as cool. I think if I’d known that, it would have influenced my dating behavior in college.

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