Jump to content

Am I too old for graduate school?


figuringitout80
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi -- I'm new to this forum and I suppose my question is of a more personal nature than many of the subjects in this forum. I'm 28 now and planning to apply to graduate school. I had applied to a number of IR ma programs when I was 25, but I was in the midst of being unfairly fired by a very emotionally abusive and manipulative boss and I couldn't handle the applications (low gre scores, no focus to my personal statement etc.). I was basically being pushed to apply by my parents and friends when I had such low confidence from my really terrible work experience (quasi-academic/public policy work) and I didn't believe I was ready. I was very disillusioned, leading to a bit of an existentional crisis. I stayed in my current place, but am I working with someone else in a field that I know will not become my field. My question is, how to explain in my application why I stayed somewhere for so long in a field that wasn't quite what I wanted to do? How do I explain my age? I have my confidence back, but am afraid that I won't be able to pursue academia because I am now a late bloomer and I could be juggling family and school responsibilities. I have stronger GRE scores now (790 math, 670 verbal). I'm looking at public policy/econ programs now, although I don't have much of an econ background (but I have the genes for it :). I'm now taking classes at one of the universities I want to apply to.

I realize this is a bit of a more personal post (and maybe even a bit more vague than others in terms of what I am asking here) as opposed to the usual queries listed here, but any thoughts/comments are most appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're not too old. I'm older than you and I'm applying to graduate school, and there will be people older than me who will also be applying. Most people have multiple careers over their lifetime. I don't really think (or at least I hope) we'll be asked to 'explain our ages.' For me, based on family/live circumstances, this is the first chance I've had to pursue my PhD. Can you explain why you want to go back to school now -- what goals you're hoping to acheive? Your work experience (terrible work experience as you describe it), even if it's not directly related, gave you experiences others may not have. Make that a positive for you. Good luck!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're 28. That's not too old! Make your work experience a positive one - talk about the skills it taught you - and don't mention how it ended. Have a good explanation for wanting to enter your desired field, and craft your SOP to show you've given this some thought. Your SOP should be future-oriented anyway, btw, so no one will be expecting you to go into too much detail about an old job. I think you should do just fine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Uh, no. I'm starting my PhD in August and I'll turn 40 in September. When I did my MA a couple of years ago, there was a woman in one of my classes who was around 50. My thesis director, (a hot shot in her field), started her PhD when she was "older" as well. She was the one who encouraged me to go back to graduate school.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You are not too old - I'm 33 with a wife and 2 kids and I'm just now starting my PhD.

As to the other issues, you really need to decide how much of them you need to address and how to do so in a positive way. You need to answer the questions of why you want to go to grad school, at least for yourself, as well as why you would make a good researcher and scholar. Without knowing the first, it is hard to answer the second, and impossible to integrate your story.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can relate to you FiguringItOut80. I'm 27 and starting in a month. Most of my classmates will be younger by 1-3 years younger. I thought about doing the part-time evening program for my course of study (with more students my age), but the full-time day program offers SO much more IMO. Age is a number and I'm learning that it's really irrelevant.

I just want to add that you are at a nice advantage as far as writing a SOP also. Depending on the average age of matriculants for your program, you can leverage your age and work experience quite nicely, even if it's not directly related to the field you plan to be studying. As an "older" student you probably have a lot more experience with times of failure or humility. In these instances you probably grew as an individual and have a better sense of how the real world works as opposed to a 22 year, straitght out of undergrad who has only worked a couple internships. You know real deadlines and you know how to deliver real results (assumingly) from your work experience. To address a career shift where your graduate study is the catalyst or jump off point to this new career, just explain that after graduation and a few years of working in the trenches, you sensed a lack of fulfillment and felt your talents are better suited elsewhere. Be sure to include specific work experiences (a major project, a manager who pushes you to the edge to be better, etc.) and how you grew and achieved a better understanding of yourself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm in my late 20's and i can easily say i'm more focused, more motivated, and more prepared for grad school than i was at 22. In fact, if i did go to grad school right out of undergrad, it would have been for the absolute wrong reason: to avoid getting a job, since at the time i really didn't understand what i wanted out of life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm in my late 20's and i can easily say i'm more focused, more motivated, and more prepared for grad school than i was at 22. In fact, if i did go to grad school right out of undergrad, it would have been for the absolute wrong reason: to avoid getting a job, since at the time i really didn't understand what i wanted out of life.

spot on!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

You're not too old! For many Intl ralations programs the average is 25-27, which means you're just on the higher end of things. They prefer people who've got some work experience and a more focused perspective. You bring more to the table. I'm in my early 30's and plan to start a year from now. Part of me wishes I'd applied last fall but...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm 35 and applying now, so I'll be 36 when I start. Like others have said, I'm in a much better position to pursue a Ph.D. now than I would've been 10 years ago. It's nice to see there are plenty of other older students/applicants.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Next spring I'm starting in a thesis-based master's program with the intent to beef up my research skills so I can apply to Ph.D programs. I'm 44. Meanwhile, the 57-year old owner of the small recruiting company for which I work is ABD (she's in heavy research mode, so we don't see much of her these days).

So no, 28 is not too old.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sure you weren't trying to make me suicidal but too old at 28?!!!! Just shoot me now. I am 32 and I'm a woman. Theoretically I am now barreling head-first towards irrelevancy. Sooooo, yeah. :/

But I figured with good medicine and the history of all the octogenarians in my bloodline I stand to live at least two and a half lifetimes from here. So the question became what do I want those lives to look like? I have had a million jobs and they all had one thing in common: once they hired me because I could think they started paying me to not. I want at least one lifetime where I am paid to think. It really is as simple as that for me.

If you can come up with a fairly straightforward motivation then I would say you are just OLD ENOUGH for this journey. LOL

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm applying to my alma mater, and have been thinking that I am too old (24) and not where I should be. Even though I'll probably always think that because of where I thought I'd be at this age, I agree with whomever said age is a number. You're as old as you think you are.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well I'm 35 and this will be my THIRD attempt at Grad School. The first one didnt go to well. I was 23, did a year with Americorp for the tuition assistance and all. But my undergrad gpa somewhat sucked and my GREs were mediocre so I barely made it in and aside from the Americorp award, I was on my own financially. I wasnt working in the field I wanted to be in and didnt have much direction in what I wanted to do. After 20 units, which I took half time with a full time job, my money ran out and I was loathe to take out loans. At the same time, I got married, had to move and wound up starting a family. So much for that attempt. Never the less, my GPA was real good this time, all As and one B.

Attempt two failed horribly. Two years later I was working in an unrelated field and had an opportunity to get an MBA. Not my first choice but my employer was good with that. Got in and well it was doomed from the get go. Had a newborn that prevented studying at home...If home I was helping my wife. Motivation for this field was not there nor were hoped for employer funds. Work presented fewer study opportunities than originally anticipated. Then the kicker: got a lay-off notice and academic probation warning the same day. Buh-bye!

Flash forward 8 more years. Despite not finishing my Grad school I did get into my field (planning) and now have 8 full years of progressively more responsible assignments. I'm on management track at work. My work before plannning was also relevant too. Now I've come full circle on this and will be applying to grad schools for fall 2010. I know what Im looking for this time, have a plan of action and am doing everything possible to get my schooling funded w/out significant amount of loan debt. We've been saving money to pay for a move (transcontinental) and living expenses. The kids are in public schools, not preschool and are easier to handle. My wife is on board this go-round. I'm far more experienced in what I am going to study and know what I want to get out of it. Hopefully third time is the charm here.

So bottom line is you are not too old.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm applying to my alma mater, and have been thinking that I am too old (24) and not where I should be. Even though I'll probably always think that because of where I thought I'd be at this age, I agree with whomever said age is a number. You're as old as you think you are.

Jenninthebox, I am 24 too. We definitely are not too old! If anything, I feel that these two years out of school is going to make me a much stronger student, because I know how much I want to be in school and I am going to be incredibly focused. Honestly, I'm already much more focused on my applications than I would have been if I applied straight from school.

I have heard this is true for most students who return to school after being away for a few years, and this time off might even strengthen our applications.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No one is ever too old for graduate school. I know of a lady who is spending her retirement getting graduate degrees. (I've also met a fortysomething man who got disillusioned with big business, quit his job, and returned to school to do political science. Undergrad political science.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I vaguely recall the pressures of being 20-something and thinking I *had* to do x,y, and z by certain ages... Let me tell ya, real life don't work that way. I just turned 41, and I'm a month into my grad studies. And there are plenty older than I around.

Thanks for the chuckle, and the nostalgia. And always remember the 90-something woman who graduated from law school in California a couple years ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.