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Any Older (30+) applicants out there


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Yeah...but it feels oddly inbetween. I'm turning 30 (eek, in three weeks) and feel like that's just about fine (I'm in urban planning, and most phD programs either require or strongly recommend applicants have an MA and a few years work experience) but still expect to be on the higher end of the cohort if I get in, and then the thought of reapplying next year, a year older, starts to make me nervous. Not so much the intrinsic difference between 30 and 31 in and of itself, but the sense of opportunity cost and uncertainty at this moment in life feeling like a burden in a way - I imagine, I may be wrong - it wouldn't have felt when I was 26 or something. My plan B is to look for interesting work, do some internships, maybe a volunteering stint, etc, that will strengthen next years applications. But that also sounds too wishy-washy for this career stage (and personal life stage) for me. I've already done all that, I should be looking for a real, long-term job...except that the PhD is the direction I want to take (among other things, because I don't find myself terribly excited about any of the career possibilities available to me at the moment without one) and if it requires another year, so be it...but there's a certain sense of frustration at facing a gap-year like situation at this point that I think is a little age-related.

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Hi all - thought I'd chime in. I'm 36 and applying to PhD programs. Did my masters in my late 20s and worked during that time, now live and work abroad in my field and but found that I really missed research and academia. So, I'm going for it! I have a really supportive husband who has traveled with me this far, and will join me where the next steps take us. That being said, the thought of giving up the nice salary I have now to live on a grad student's stipend is not at all appealing. I wonder how others are dealing with the financial aspect of it all. I don't have children so that factor is not there, but I will have to support my husband and I both until he gets a job wherever we end up. It's been an interesting year to say the least, and now it's just the wait for any word from schools. Torture!

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6 hours ago, phdthoughts said:

Hi all - thought I'd chime in. I'm 36 and applying to PhD programs. Did my masters in my late 20s and worked during that time, now live and work abroad in my field and but found that I really missed research and academia. So, I'm going for it! I have a really supportive husband who has traveled with me this far, and will join me where the next steps take us. That being said, the thought of giving up the nice salary I have now to live on a grad student's stipend is not at all appealing. I wonder how others are dealing with the financial aspect of it all. I don't have children so that factor is not there, but I will have to support my husband and I both until he gets a job wherever we end up. It's been an interesting year to say the least, and now it's just the wait for any word from schools. Torture!

It seems we really do have a lot in common! "I'm 36 and applying to PhD programs. Did my masters in my late 20s and worked during that time, now live and work abroad in my field and but found that I really missed research and academia." This is me, though I'm not married:) 

After I decided to pursue a PhD, I got another MA and that was my soft-landing into poverty. I worked freelance all through my second MA to make ends meet + get used to having VERY limited resources. For me, I tried to remember my first MA, going from complete financial independence and a cushy salary in finance to having to ration my food, my first MA wasn't all that easy either, but got through it - so I told myself that I could do it again. Obviously, being a poor 29 year old feels different being a poor 36 year old, but still, at least l know being back in school and out of an office job isn't the end of the world, though I'm not really looking forward to poverty... It's also scary to think of re-entering the job market at 40+. 

Good luck! Other than Purdue, I've applied to the same schools as you! 

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@DBear What a small world! One of the things that's truly comforting about GC is finding so many like-minded people. :) For me, being a bit older I think offers some advantages like having a clearer vision of what I want to study, and I think I'll have the self-discipline to push on and finish due to years of being in the workforce. That being said, yes 40 is scary number to start over at, even though I think it's the right decision for me. The people closest to me are supportive, but it's sometimes lonely to be the only one without kids and a mortgage (owned a house, but sold it when we moved out of the US), and soon-to-be practically unemployed.

What I'd love to do is talk to some other older faculty who made it to get a sense of their experience with the hiring process as older PhDs on the job market.  

Good luck to you too! We can root for eachother during this process as we have the same schools. 

 

 

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@phdthoughtsI so know what you mean. I have a couple of friends I consider my best friend and one recently bought her third home and another has two homes and a kid and a second on the way.. Though most of my friends are super envious and supportive and I couldn't be more determined and content with my new path/ goal, it really is a bit strange living such an unconventional life relative to that of all my friends.

Two people who really helped were professors in my more recent MA - My thesis adviser started her career a lot later and started her career around 40+. She reminds me of the fact that we're all going to have a longer life expectancy. She was honest though, she said she felt like she was playing catch up until recently (she's in her 50's now). She said she felt a lot of pressure to achieve more than her peers to make up for lost time and to prove she was as good as the young, bright minds in the faculty. As a result though, she is one of the most accomplished professors on our faculty. She is super diligent,has the best work ethic I have EVER seen, so I think it'll be up to us, but yes, we'll definitely be more driven!

Another one of my female professors started her career a bit later, but because of her career she had her first child at 40. In my culture, that would've been really unheard of when she was younger, so probably had to overcome a lot of nagging and judgments from her family and those around her. Her daughter is 18 already and my professor is well-respected (she's my favorite lecturer) and when I talk about being older and worrying about family etc, she always told me not to worry -I thought she'd tell me to hurry up, life sucks being that behind, but apparently it really isn't that big of a deal! So there's that :) 

 

BTW, which tracks did you apply to? I mostly applied to rhetoric tracks though each school seems to call it something different. See you on the Communication board, too!

 

 

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@DBear How funny, my mentor in my MA program is also older, got her PhD at around 40 - but this was many years ago, so she was living a most unconventional life at that time. Things have changed since then, and for the better for older and female academics. She has a similar story as well, and recently told me it was not easy but she does not regret it. It's nice to be reminded that others have forged this path before us and not only survived, but thrived!

I applied to the culture/interpersonal tracks. :) 

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Hello all!! I'm 32, finishing my second master's degree in two months (!). This one is in education, but my first one was in early American history in 2011. At the time, I had applied to 8 separate Ph.D. programs and was rejected from all of them (I wasn't a very good candidate). 

Now, though, I have a 4.0, I've been adjuncting for a year and a half, and I'm more mature. My husband has a daughter from his first marriage, so I'm sort of a mom, but since she's 12, she mostly takes care of herself. She's really excited that I've applied this cycle. 

I worry that my age makes me less than an ideal candidate, but there are so many of us, so I'm a bit more hopeful now!

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Hi ya’ll!  I’m 31 and this is my first cycle of applying to graduate school.  I graduated in 2009 with my BFA which was a case of wrong degree at the wrong time.  I spent 18 months unemployed after graduation because I either had too much experience or was beat out by seasoned veterans for entry level jobs.  I have struggled in my career path and started thinking about grad school a few years ago.  I knew I didn’t want to get my MFA.  I knew that while I was working towards my BFA.  I’ve talked to a lot of people in my previous field and determined that it was pretty useless for what I wanted to do.  My focus has shifted away from the creative world and more into academia.  The last year has been intense to say the least.  Studying for the GRE and all of the practice tests (Specifically the math) were awful.  I managed pretty average scores which I was proud of considering my difficulties with math, my verbal and essay scores are slightly higher than the average. 

 

The only catch for me is that I only applied to 1 school, Purdue University. (I know, I know I did the 1 thing you’re NOT supposed to do when applying for grad school!)  I’m a townie and after living in a few different states for school and work, coming home has been bittersweet.  I love being close to family and friends and watching my godson grow up.  Did I think I would want to spend a significant amount of time in Indiana as an adult (Heck No!) but it has been a great experience.  It’s also in my blood, three generations of my family went to Purdue and I’d love to be the first in my family to obtain a graduate degree from there.  That’s not my only reasoning for wanting to attend Purdue for my PhD studies however.  It wasn’t the right fit for my undergrad degree, but this time around I think it is the perfect fit.  I have been in contact with a few POIs and they weren’t at all deterred by my unique background and I’m hoping for the best.  It also looks like their current grad students are more in my age demographic and older, which is comforting.  I know I’d be the old maid if I were going into a MFA program!

 

Waiting it out is killing me!!! 

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Hmm...So I am 33 in a month I turn 34. I have two elementary aged kids, and a full time job. I returned to school in 2011 and got a second BA, the first was in architecture and the second in history. I then applied to two PhD programs for the Fall 2014 semester as well as one MA. I got rejected for one PhD, waitlisted for the other, and accepted into the MA. I will complete my MA theses this semester. I have applied to 15 PhD programs this cycle. This is the one chance if I am going to uproot my family. My wife is a teacher and is ready to change districts or states. So far I have heard back from 2 schools, one rejection, one acceptance fully funded. The waiting is easy as I honestly expected zero acceptance letters. Between work, school, family and everything else I am always behind. If I narrow it down to just school and family I will be all set. 

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I am 37 (wait... what?! when did that happen?) and am a single parent of a preschooler.

At 30 I completed a one-year Master's degree in the UK, so this isn't my first experience at being a "mature student" as they say. It was pretty easy to overlook the 5-8 year difference between myself and many of my classmates back then. I do look a bit younger than I am, and I don't take myself very seriously,  so I suppose that helps with blending into a younger crowd. 

This time will be different, for sure, but what I think remains the same is that students within a cohort will bond over a shared interest in the work, which in my mind is a stronger point of connection than age or experience anyway.

As far as admission is concerned, I like to think that being "older" is an asset. Maybe that characteristic has helped us stand out in the pool of applicants? With chances of acceptance so slim any little extra point of interest on an application has got to be helpful!

 

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The stories in this thread are very inspiring!

I just turned 32 y.o. exactly 2 weeks ago. I completed my MA when I was 28. Returned to my home country (I am an Int'l student) and started teaching at a top public university in my home country, and waited 2 years before applying to a PhD program. I failed my first attempt of applying to a PhD program (only applied to one program... I know, a mistake), so I waited another year. This is my second attempt; I have been offered to 2 programs, one of which with super generous 5-year funding. 

I am in my early 30s, married with no children, but I never feel old :) Always young at heart... and there's a proverb from my culture that says "you are never too old to get an education" 

Good luck to everyone here!

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On 1/22/2017 at 9:03 PM, Mike_Novick said:

Hello, I'm 31, currently applying to PolSci programs (international student). I've completed my MA 5 years ago, and I've been working at government for 6+ years. What is particularly challenging in my case is that my wife is also applying to PhD programs (Education, Public Policy). If both of us get admitted, we'll have to figure it out how to handle distance (we are applying to programs in CA, NY, PA, MA, MD, RI, NJ, CT and even in UK ...)

Older applicant here too! Completed my masters 8 years ago and policy advising experience and lecturing at the college level. 

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I'm 30, and haven't been really maintaining word in academia or research, although I have been involved. I'm especially nervous because I'm really clueless as to how competitive I am, but one of my recommenders (who is very strong and notable in the field) said it wasn't uncommon to be applying for my PhD at this age and knew my application and still encouraged it. 

I'm lucky because my partner and I are both willing and able to move depending on if/where I get in, although I couldn't really imagine making such a transition if our circumstances were much different, it's both a good time for us. That being said, it's been frustrating to not be able to plan our future since we're waiting to see how this pans out and what it will mean for us. And then of course the sheer anxiety I might not get in anywhere... you know how it is.

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Well, I'm turning 50 this year. I've applied for an MFA in creative writing at a few places, more for the network and access to other professionals. Not heard back from anyone yet... I'll let you know. 

Www.sarahleamy.com

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I'm 31, finished my English MA at 29, now waiting on admissions decisions from PhD programs. I'm currently an adjunct at a local university and I run the writing center, so I've fortunately been busy enough to not obsess too much over hearing. At this point, there isn't much I can do about acceptance or rejection. Oddly enough, I'm feeling strangely ambivalent and disconnected from the whole thing. It consumes your life for almost a year, getting all the stuff together and writing the SOPs, et cetera, and then suddenly everything's submitted. So it almost seems like a dream that the last year happened at all. 

As far as balancing: I don't have children, although I'm married. I was already married when I did my MA, and I was working full-time; I remember many nights of saying maybe 10 words to my husband because I was writing papers. Luckily, he's very understanding and supportive, and is himself working toward his MBA. I'm used to having a ton on my plate all the time.

Best of luck to everyone in our age bracket and older applying; it's never too late, right? 

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11 minutes ago, gatsby2016 said:

To those aged 30 or older and applying for PhDs, what are you doing to do after you get your PhD and you are pushing 40? Isn't it too late to start a career in many fields?

I think that like me, a lot of people are looking to stay in academia. PhDs aren't the only way (nor the best way) to improve a corporate career anyhow. I was very nervous about the fact I'd be 40 (at least) once I'm done with my PhD and will be looking for a faculty position at that age. Luckily, academia does seem to be much more open to older applicants than other fields. Also, I realized that your career doesn't really start after your PhD. It's not like you're fresh out of college with a clean slate of a resume. For most programs, the PhD in itself is the equivalent of an entry level position (or maybe internship) as you are performing many duties (teaching, research, etc) that you will as faculty. So while you are working towards your PhD, you are already building the foundation of your career, thus won't be entering the workforce with a clean slate at that point. At least this is how I see it and what I've been told by my professors. In fact, my MA advisor started her academic career around 40 as well and I've found that my story isn't as uniquely random as I thought it was. This thread is further evidence of that. Nevertheless, it really is a bit scary to take the plunge, but personally, I think that I can be more focused now that I have tried out all the things that my youthful idealism wanted to pursue. 

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I'm 35, got my MA in religion in 2011, and am applying to PhD programs this year. My husband was at the same grad school I was, but he did a dual masters that took 4 years (mine took 2.) Then he got into a really good PhD program in an area of the country where I couldn't find programs in my field. I wasn't thrilled, but it was a great opportunity for him, and I needed a little time to think about what I wanted to do (career-wise and research-wise.) 

Now he's in his fourth year and has one to go, but I'm applying to PhD programs now. Wherever I get into (if I get into...), I'll go there this fall, and he'll follow me next year. So there has been a give and take. He was also willing to limit his internship search (he's in clinical psych and has to do a one year internship) to the area of the country I'll be in, which is a sacrifice for him, but that way we'll only have 9 months to a year apart instead of 2 years apart.

I think we both made our decisions out of love and caring for each other, and not out of obligation or pressure from one another. We've both had to sacrifice, but the happiest couples I've known had their own separate lives in addition to their marriage. You have to find that balance between yourself and your relationship, and you have to let your partner be free to find that for themselves as well. 

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On 1/20/2017 at 10:33 AM, Skyride Season said:

How many folks have had to move away from spouses/partners for their program? How did they feel about you having to move? What about those of you with kids in the mix? Have any of you decided to have kids during grad school (masters or PhD)? I don't suppose anyone has had the experience of going through the adoption process while also being in school?

My husband and I have been talking about this very thing. I'm nearing my expiration date, but we wouldn't want to get pregnant in my first year (which will hopefully be next year,) in which case we'd have to wait till I'm 37 to get pregnant. I'm not opposed to being an older mom, though, as my mom was, and I've known people who had kids during their PhDs, and it is hard but do-able. We've also talked about adoption, but I don't know how much income affects your ability to adopt, and we all know how much grad students make.

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On 1/21/2017 at 8:44 AM, ashny said:

Turning 43 years old this year  - never expected to be in this situation.My biggest gripe is the GRE as I did not have to take this test when I studied in other countries. Going back and studying high school maths, much of which I never learnt in the first place in the country where I grew up is in my opinion unfair and discriminatory. There are studies out there that show that the GRE is not a suitable test for older applicants who tend to score worse than younger applicants (except for a study by the ETS which claims they are same.....of course what else would they say when they are making so much money out of it).

I think scoring lower as an older student might be more applicable to the skills that aren't actually that necessary for your degree.  On the other hand, in your specialty area, I think age is actually an advantage, though I only have anecdotal evidence.  My brother and I are both in our late 30's and both recently took the GRE.  Both of us are applying to humanities programs but had a strong background in math/science, so we were both able to study GRE math enough to score in the 70%.  On my part, at least, that took a lot of time commitment, since it had been more than a decade since my last math class.  I think that score ended up being pretty irrelevant.  I know from my POI that my verbal score was going to be crucial for proving that I was still able to handle the work this long out of school but he didn't even pay attention to me when I told him my math.

On the other hand, we both managed high 90 percentile scores when it came to the Verbal section -- my brother scoring a perfect 170 and he was never a genius at standardized tests.  That was the one that mattered for me, at least, and what got my POI really excited about my application because he knew he could sell it to the department.  I am pretty sure that I could not have scored that well straight out of school despite being good at tests.  I learned a few vocab words via some apps on my kids' iPad and did a few sample tests, but mostly it was just because I simply read better now than I did then and my brother probably does too, and we are both got at least as far as the interview stage in part because of that.  So, while I think age was a disadvantage in the area that didn't really matter, it felt almost like an unfair advantage in the area that actually counted.  But again, this is just my experience.  It was just something I have been wondering about, too.

But if you are working from a background in the UK, I can see why this would be a bigger problem.  I rode the fence between the sciences and the humanities throughout college and the US system allowed me to do that.  My husband is British, and he stopped taking maths a lot earlier in his schooling than I did.

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