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Age Limit for Admission to Top Programs?


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Hello,

I am considering pursuing a PhD in Sociology or in an interdisciplinary program strong in theory and cultural studies and am primarily interested in the top (R1), fully-funded programs. Given my undergraduate and master's institutions, academic record, academic awards, and plans to publish a text in a previously unresearched area related to my interests prior to entering, I believe that I would be reasonably competitive for these programs if I were to apply in the next year. However, I am considering postponing application three to five years to establish a strong foothold in a non-academic field to which I can remain peripherally connected and return full-time in the future, if necessary.

I am currently working toward the credentials necessary to practice as a psychotherapist and am finding this work both rewarding and illuminating from an intellectual standpoint. Though I thoroughly enjoy helping people to explore their inner worlds, the questions that are ultimately most compelling to me are fundamentally social. I have a desire to publish scholarly writing which seems to weigh on me, occupying my thoughts almost constantly. I am aware that having a professional master's degree will inevitably prove limiting if I wish to share my ideas more widely but I am reticent to leap back into academia without having established a decent foothold in a non-academic profession given the realities of today's academic job market. Furthermore, it is my hope that in three to five years, I will have developed the licensure and experience necessary to practice psychotherapy independently and that I could continue to practice on a very limited basis and/or attend occasional professional seminars during the PhD coursework in order to keep one toe in the field and leave the door open for a full-time return to the profession post-PhD, not knowing what lies ahead.

Though I am not yet 25, I am concerned that waiting 4 years to apply to top (e.g. Ivies, etc) programs could go poorly. Knowing that faculty at top programs are primarily interested in reproducing and ultimately replacing themselves, there seems to be a strong preference for younger applicants with long careers ahead of them. While some programs seem to value applicants who took time off after undergrad to be sure about PhD study, is there a general age at which applicants become significantly less attractive to top admissions committees?

Thanks!

Edited by incognegra
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Hello,

I am considering pursuing a PhD in Sociology or in an interdisciplinary program strong in theory and cultural studies and am primarily interested in the top (R1), fully-funded programs. Given my undergraduate and master's institutions, academic record, academic awards, and plans to publish a text in a previously unresearched area related to my interests prior to entering, I believe that I would be reasonably competitive for these programs if I were to apply in the next year. However, I am considering postponing application three to five years to establish a strong foothold in a non-academic field to which I can remain peripherally connected and return full-time in the future, if necessary.

I am currently working toward the credentials necessary to practice as a psychotherapist and am finding this work both rewarding and illuminating from an intellectual standpoint. Though I thoroughly enjoy helping people to explore their inner worlds, the questions that are ultimately most compelling to me are fundamentally social. I have a desire to publish scholarly writing which seems to weigh on me, occupying my thoughts almost constantly. I am aware that having a professional master's degree will inevitably prove limiting if I wish to share my ideas more widely but I am reticent to leap back into academia without having established a decent foothold in a non-academic profession given the realities of today's academic job market. Furthermore, it is my hope that in three to five years, I will have developed the licensure and experience necessary to practice psychotherapy independently and that I could continue to practice on a very limited basis and/or attend occasional professional seminars during the PhD coursework in order to keep one toe in the field and leave the door open for a full-time return to the profession post-PhD, not knowing what lies ahead.

Though I am not yet 25, I am concerned that waiting 4 years to apply to top (e.g. Ivies, etc) programs could go poorly. Knowing that faculty at top programs are primarily interested in reproducing and ultimately replacing themselves, there seems to be a strong preference for younger applicants with long careers ahead of them. While some programs seem to value applicants who took time off after undergrad to be sure about PhD study, is there a general age at which applicants become significantly less attractive to top admissions committees?

Thanks!

I don't know the answer to your question but I sure hope 30 or just under 30 is not "unattractive" to top tier schools. That's rather ridiculous.

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Yeah that's crazy, I'm 28 and applying now... will be 29 when I start, or maybe 30 if I get rejected this time around!

Although I thought about applying years ago during my senior year of college, I feel much, much more prepared now and am so glad I waited.

I would think, if anything, being in your upper 20s or lower 30s would help your application.

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I've been told that it can hurt to wait that long(especially for top tier programs), unless you're doing relevant research up to that point. This is especially true for sociology where tenure-track professorships are incredibly difficult to find because professors are sticking around longer and there isn't a private sector you are specifically being trained for.

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I'm thirty and don't think it's a problem at all. One thing you might want to consider though- and I don't know how sociology works so this might not actually be relevant- is that support from professors (recommendations, help with writing samples, etc.) is a huge part of the application process and your connections are likely to weaken after so many years. Age probably doesn't matter, but time away from academia might.

Edited by Ablukhov
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