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Question about whether I'm in the right direction


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edit: reposted from math/stats forum, I thought this place might be a better section for answers and responses


Hello everyone, I hope that you're all well right now. I noticed this forum whilst performing some research on what a graduate program looks like. Right now I am a community college student with plans to transfer soon to UC Santa Barbara with hope to double major in mathematics and statistics. My GPA is sort of low, at 3.4, but with the transfer admission guarantee or (TAG), I should be able to make it in next fall. I'm actually already 24 years old, (turning 25 in two months), and am nervous about going forward with my plan of action. When I grew up people would tell me that I was a smart person, although I didn't always act that way, and my grades in school failed to demonstrate the comments from people I've known growing up. After high school I made some mistakes in community college and wound up in jail along with drug rehab. After some poorly informed decisions about the meaning of spirituality, I learn to calm my mind so that I could stop fooling around, and pay attention in the classroom instead. I started getting A's and B's for the first time in 2013, and my confidence in my ability as a student increased dramatically. I was born with disabilities that make my competitiveness as a student deteriorate, and being awoken to my brain power in a healthy way has transformed my desire to learn brightly as a student. I've had friends growing up who people ordinarily may think are genius, considering their acceptance into quite prestigious universities in California. I've wanted to follow in their foot steps for quite some time, but it's only been until recently where I've been able to witness myself shining as a student rather than struggling as a kid barely present in class.

Despite my improvements as a student, which aren't quite up to the level that I secretly wish I could achieve (3.6+), I still feel that my chance in the university system in California is giving me a chance to excel academically, rather than wander around not really knowing anything in great depth. My problem as of now is that as an older student who's returning to college from being a drop out, what issues do I face trying to work towards a M.S. or even a Ph.D.? I'm planning to do my double major first at U.C.S.B., which I may finish in two years ideally after next fall. Then my plan is to apply for graduate school in statistics. I learned about statistics from an old classmate who's in a similar boat, and after taking a course in it a chat with the professor inspired me to continue along this path as well. Statistics seems to be an inspiring way for me to contribute to others, as doing work for people such as the government could help me in doing work that I enjoy. Are there any issues with trying to approach graduate school at such a late age? I know that there are many older people that do go into graduate school with work experience, but I'm wondering about people such as myself who might've dropped out of school and are trying to get their degree for the first time. Is it unrealistic to think this way? I live at home with my parents, and my father's a dentist so he's made enough income to send two children to university. My eldest sister has received her master's degree already, and after talking to my dad he said he was willing to keep working until I finished my schooling. One step at a time he says, however, and I'm seeking out advice for whether or not this "late stage" plan to become accepted into graduate school makes anyone else nervous. I feel a constant need to prove my worth as an intellectual person, rather than someone who's just simple. If a post-grad degree and a profession that can truly contribute to society would do it, then I'd probably give an arm and a leg so that it could happen.

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I think you are heading in the right direction and I agree with your dad---take it one step at a time. To address some of your concerns:

You are not so old that you would be negatively affected in your grad school applications. If you are going to turn 25 soon and you're going to transfer to UCSB (2 more years? 3 years?) So you will still be well under 30 by the time you start a grad program. Don't worry about your age.

In the same vein, being older will actually help your grades. People grow and change over time and admissions committees will know this. This will mean that your later grades (in the past year, plus whatever you will earn at UCSB) will matter a lot more than what you have completed so far. I wouldn't worry about your current GPA either. With hard work at UCSB, you can attain a very competitive profile for grad schools.

Finally, my advice would be to re-iterate that you should take it one step at a time. It's great that you have goals for graduate school and indeed, your plan outlined here is a great one and I think it will put you on track to achieve these goals. But the first step is transferring to UCSB and doing really well in those classes there. Once you get there and start focus on becoming the best student you can be, it would be a good idea to start looking into research opportunities and other things that will help you get into grad school. Then, after you get to try some research and get a sense of what kind of careers a PhD can lead to (through talking with professors, grad students, other undergrads, going to career fairs type things etc.) then you can decide if graduate school is the right path for you. :)

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Your response has taken a tremendous amount of stress off my apparently quite aging back. I also had similar thoughts about what to do in UCSB, although my grades now aren't quite shining in any way, at UCSB I can continue striving to achieve higher grades such as A's in important classes. I suppose that it would be truly key for me to work hard then so that my grad school application is more competitive, giving me a chance to study in difficult to enter into universities. Preparation at the right time I suppose will be highly important to help me understand whether or not I'm actually ready for graduate school. Right now my nervousness is on whether I can ever obtain a Ph.D., an M.S. in my field doesn't seem difficult to find, but a Ph.D. seems harder to be accepted into a program for. I think that it might take a private university for my major which is statistics. It all just takes time for me right now it seems. I appreciate deeply your response. Your advice is quite welcoming.

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