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FoodDoc

Starting PhD...in 30s?

5 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Hi, been lurking in this forum for a few months now and am wondering if anybody can share their experiences starting a PhD in their mid-30s, specifically the social aspects, dating? I am unattached without kids, which is really the only reason I can embark on this four-year academic journey and switch careers. I'm aware that my age is not a unique case although I am likely the oldest in my cohort. On recruitment weekend I noted that I had at least a decade-plus on most of the people. Since I will be moving to a college town, my social options will be pretty much restricted to the school. 

When I got my Master's from a university in a large city, I obviously had more social options. But I was 25 at the time, so not too far in age from people who went into the program straight out of undergrad. I still drank. So it wasn't as much of an issue.

Thoughts? Thanks.

Edited by FoodDoc

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Posted (edited)

One of the best options in that case is attending as many mixers and events as you can. I live in a place with several colleges and universities so I cannot completely relate. Yet, I was in my early 30s when I started grad school and I met my bf in a grad school event (he was a postdoc in another department, nothing to do with my discipline so it was the only way our paths could have crossed). Also, getting a campus job that has high interaction with people may also help! :)

Edit: I realized you were not looking for suggestions, but these are the thoughts I've got right now... 

Edited by AP

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If students are too young for you, you might try to find events that target postdocs and junior faculty, who are more likely to be in the right age-range for you. Not all events will be open to grad students, but some social events might be. 

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If you are looking for ways to meet people, there are also online apps/websites. There are some that are for just making new friends or connections and many for dating of course. The majority of academics I know who went into grad school without a partner and now have a partner had met their partner through online dating. In a college town, there are still many people of all ages, but I find that college towns can sometimes have quite a large separation between the student population and the "real town population". So the events that run might not allow the two groups to meet each other very often. Online dating could help people in these two groups meet.

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I did exactly this, started my PhD in my mid-30s as a single childless woman in a cohort where most other students are about a decade younger.  What helped me the most was going in knowing that my cohort or even my department wouldn't meet all of my social needs.  I do sometimes socialize with my cohort because they are nice people and can actually be fun, but after spending so many hours with them each week I really don't desire to hang with them all the time outside of that.  I figured being at a large public university I'd be able to connect with grad students in other departments that might be older, so I gave that a whirl.  Unfortunately most of the people I came across were still either much younger or just living a completely different life being married with kids.  

I then chose to take my social life completely off campus and am happy I did.  I signed up for every things to do in this city list I could find, picked up all the free local papers, volunteered, and joined meetup groups to force myself to attend a few things each week whether I felt like it or not.  I did things I knew I like, tried things I'd never heard of, and gave things I previously felt hohum about another shot.  I wouldn't say I have close friends yet and that's ok.  But I do have people that when I see them out I can hang with them and it isn't weird or we can and do text each other to exchange invites.  The best part is most of the people I've met are not in school so I'm not constantly sucked into school stuff.  After having been in the working world I definitely appreciate the variety in my social life and don't want to feel like I can't ever get a break from school.  I also head out of town during school breaks to visit family and friends I haven't seen awhile because there is nothing like being surrounded by people who know you well.

As for dating, this too I've taken completely off campus because I just don't want that kind of drama in what I consider my workplace.  Depending on the type of person (LGBT, other race/ethnicity, specific religion, etc) you wish to date there may be limited choices based on the region of the world your program is in.  Also if you wish to date someone your age or older they may have assumptions about grad students that make dating harder such as you must have bad finances, you'll struggle to get a job when you graduate, your degree will take 10 years, you lack direction or something is wrong with you if you're this old and doing this, you don't have time to date, etc.  I personally just mention the general industry I'm in until it seems like I may want to get to know a guy better, then he can have more specific details.  Otherwise its just like dating when you work full time.  Sometimes its fun and other times it really sucks lol.   

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