SarahBethSortino

Any Older (30+) applicants out there

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Hi there! I'm turning 30 this May. I'm married and have a 2-year-old son, and I've been out of graduate school since 2013 working as a museum educator and adjunct instructor of history. So while this isn't my first grad app go-'round, it's my first as a wife, parent, and full-time worker. I'm thankful for reading all of your stories. I'm pretty young-hearted (read: am a consummate hipster) but intend to move to Ireland with my son alone, so I'll be juggling motherhood and study. 

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On 1/24/2017 at 5:31 AM, gonzosports said:

30+ isn't older.

I'm 43, had a (mixed) 20-year career as a development/communications professional/gadfly. Came back to study lit. In MA program now, with 9 PhD applications out there. 

One of my coworkers just recently told me that she went for her PhD in her mid-50s. So I guess you could say "43 isn't older." But I wouldn't say that because each of us experiences ageism differently and pursuing different degrees at different ages is obviously very subjective. Some people told me they were glad they waited until they were 30 to do a Masters or PhD. I was one of the oldest people in my MA program, and although nobody in my program treated me differently or discriminated against me in any way, it was outside the program that I experienced negativity being 'old' and doing my MA. Especially where I'm from, people assumed I would be ashamed that I'm a 'student for life' and not making as much money as they are, not as "far along in life" as they are, blah blah. 

Anyway, it seems that being a 'nontraditional student' is a highly subjective experience...

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I'm an older than usual applicant, I will be 32 by the time I start grad school if I apply this year, which means I may be 36 or 37 by the time I finish my PhD. I'm on the fence about whether or not I should even go for it or just keep working, but I feel like I'm at the point where it's "now or never" and if I wait much longer than this it will be too late, and that I may regret later in life having never gone for a PhD. Not meaning to sound negative but I've heard - I don't know how true this rumour is - but that universities often practice age discrimination when hiring new tenure track professors with an age limit of no older than 35-38. So I feel like I have to make a decision about this soon, even if I don't feel completely confident about it.  

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When I was in law school, it was my experience that us older-types in general had an advantage against people who went to graduate school straight out of undergrad. We had more real world experiences, and with that a stronger sense of the advantages of having an advanced degree then those who hadn't worked for 5-10 years.  We had less of an interest in partying four nights a week and consequently more time to study.

There were disadvantages too.  I really couldn't stay up all night studying the night before a big exam.  Consequently, I had to plan my time better leading up to exams and assignments.

I'm not sure that getting a PhD at my age, 36, is worthwhile, but I figured I'd give it a shot and see if I could get in.  It's really up to everyone to make that choice for themselves, but if someone told me they thought it would be a good idea for them, I'd say go for it no matter what their age is!  Nobody knows how long we have to live.  I've known professors who worked into their 80s and 90s, so being 42 and starting an academic career doesn't seem that bizarre if I have another 40 working years after it.

Edited by JurisPrudence

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I'm very grateful for this thread!

I had some concerns about transitioning into a doctoral program after working for a few years, but now I see that I am far from alone. I pursued a MFA in Writing immediately after undergrad, and think that it would have been better to wait a couple of years to get some work experience and develop my writing practice first. Although I hesitate pursuing my PhD because of the student loan debt from my MFA, I also recognize that "punishing" myself for a decision I made hastily when I was younger would not be entirely fair either.

I am not currently working in my field (I work in a non-technical role at a tech company), which has presented some challenges in the application process (I experienced some interview anxiety due to the "code-switching" I would have to do from the language I currently use everyday to academic language)  - then again, people change careers all the time. ;-) I come from an interdisciplinary background, so I applied to both PhD programs in Theatre/Performance Studies and Literature/Creative Writing. I'd like to teach, but I realize it's a difficult job market and so I am open to an Alt-Ac career path as well. However, I'm struggling a bit to explain the PhD part to family members who don't understand why I can't just apply to teaching or Alt-Ac jobs now. (I haven't tried to apply for adjunct positions in writing composition, but I think it might be tricky since I didn't do it right after getting my MFA.)

In short, I would appreciate the opportunity to do research, and I would like to be able to "think like a scholar" (to acquire the solid, theoretical foundation and process of inquiry that it entails). I am interested in cross-genre work that has theory mixed in, and it would be useful for that (in addition to writing academic papers, of course). There are also some questions I wish to pursue, that I don't think can be answered via my day job or in my "spare time." However, I worry that this sounds too idealistic so I haven't been too open about sharing it.

In hindsight, I am glad that I acquired some non-academic skills along the way. I may need to do some freelance work on the side to cover living expenses. I also have ADHD, so having the structure of the 9-to-5 was helpful, although I recognize that I will now need to go beyond that.

Thank you all for sharing!

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When I came to this forum, I had 7 applications out there. All 7 are settled up and I have made a firm acceptance. When I started the process, one of my mentors suggested that I put other applications out there for backups, because my 1st choice was so competitive. I am so glad that I did this because it was a smart move and good practice for me. However, none of my 'backups' worked out and I have my 1st choice. It's a really good school. I will be an international student (yay yay yay!) with full funding (yay yay yay!) in a 4-year program (yay yay yay!). So I am about to get the "full experience" in terms of being older, living abroad, AND doing my PhD! What's even better - and I think this is where age really comes in - I will be working with exactly the advisor that I want and doing exactly the research that I want. Having worked, I know this is where I need to be in order to advance my career and do what I love. 

I'm 32, female, and I have over 16 years of professional experience (started as a young engineer), as well as a terminal masters from a great school - and 6 first author publications in my specialization. I work in high tech (artificial intelligence). I know that there are many really awesome and competitive people coming up these days who are 10 years younger than me. And not very many of them bring to the table what I bring. I know I am academic material because I've proved it to myself over and over again. I don't have to doubt myself and I am also not cocky. I know what it takes to make a team effort work when no one on the team gets along. I know the value of mentorship and the value of my education. I know how to teach myself what I want to learn. I have vision for research that might work, what it takes to get working, and what is worth re-working from the past. 

I am always a little nervous when a new person comes into the company who is fresh out of PhD and 30 or under. They get a lot of responsibility without (in my eyes) any experience to back it up. I also work with someone who is 39 and just finished a PhD - that person brings wisdom, patience, team skills, a fresh perspective, and mostly just patience! It goes a long way. It's like someone wiped the ego right off, and I for one appreciate it!

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Hello everyone. I am 33 and will be starting graduate school this fall. I actually just graduated with my bachelor's degree a couple of months ago. Life got in the way a bit, but I feel now is the time to achieve my academic goals, or I might never get it done. 

This is actually going to be a rather big step for me, because I am relocating to New York from Pittsburgh. When I went up there for the graduate open house, I met with a student in my program and asked him how old most of the students are. He said most were in their early 20's, with one girl that is 28. It kind of concerns me a little bit, but I'm not going to let it bother me too much. 

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T    5

I found this thread super encouraging. I am 47. When I did my first degree in the early 90s, I hated school! In my late 30s, i went back to school and earned an MFA. Now for two years, I have been applying to PhD programs and rejected by a lot. This year, I was accepted by one MA in a place far from where  I now live. I went to a school visit this week. I am not sure whether I will actually accept the offer yet. I feel very old among younger students, I will be separated from my partner etc.... Still, I am proud of my challenge. I really worked hard preparing my writing samples, taking GRE three times..... I have never worked this hard even for a paid job ha ha. I really appreciate everyone's comments here. Good luck to us all. 

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I am 52 and more or less in the same boat, although I finished a part-time master's last year.  Partially because of my age and the specific degree I took, I'm applying in the UK only.  The duration of the program is a real consideration, and I don't want to butt heads with ratings-conscious US departments who only want young warriors bound for a tenure-track job.  Also, if you've seen Spinal Tap, you'll know that Boston isn't much of a college town.  :)  And having recently earned my stripes at Cambridge (and Oxford, where my supervisor was) was an unexpected plus.

We'll see.  If all works out well, I will create the germ of an interesting book-- and postpone dementia for at least a little while.  I certainly wasn't ready to do this kind of thing after my undergrad, when I was completely burned out from family crises and saddled with an unremarkable transcript.   

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Replying to the 43 yo about GRE scores: I'm 50+ and decided to change careers six years ago, from being a paralegal for over 20 years to aiming for a Ph.D. in English. I obtained a BA in English and now finishing up an MA in English--graduating in May. I took the GRE general test in 2014, scoring 163 on Verbals. Math not so great--50 percentile rank, but then I am an English major and most English Departments only look at verbals--combined score was still over 300. I used an online prep program that was relatively inexpensive because I live in a small town in central Louisiana and no "live" classes anywhere near. Older students can do well on the GRE.

To Gonzosports: I agree that 30+ isn't older. I'm older!

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