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Applying for PhD as an older candidate


CeroKurn07
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Hey all! Looking for some advice on how my application might be seen. Any constructive feedback is very welcome!

I'm planning to apply during the 2018-19 cycle. I am currently 27, but will be 28 when I apply. I'm older because I screwed up undergrad the first time...GPA then was roughly 2.1. During that time, I took no chemistry courses. When I returned a couple of years ago to get my degree, I discovered a passion for chemistry and ended up getting my degree in Biochemistry from a top research institution. My GPA during my "return years" was a 3.5. I ended with a final GPA of 2.4 and a chem GPA of 3.5. During my return years, I did research in a lab but produced no publications. I will have a strong (but not raving) LOR from that PI, as well as another pretty strong LOR from a professor who I took graduate courses from as an undergrad.

I worked outside of chemistry over the last year because I had financial obligations I had to quickly meet. I couldn't immediately secure employment in chemistry so I went back to my old employer, where I knew I could earn the money I needed quickly. A year later, that's done, and I'm able to pursue my PhD. 

Between now and next year, I am working in a different lab at my former institution, and my goal is to really put the pedal to the metal over the next 12 months. Hopefully I can produce some work worth mentioning in the field I want to continue to investigate, and I will have a strong LOR from the PI. 

I destroyed the GRE (92nd verbal, 99th quant) but have yet to take the chem GRE. As a strong test taker, I feel confident I will get 70+ percentile but it remains to be seen how well I will do. 

How would you view me as an applicant? Obviously, I have weaknesses. Any rough idea what level of institution I would have a shot at getting into? Any idea how my age will be viewed by admissions committees?  

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On 10/26/2017 at 11:18 AM, CeroKurn07 said:

How would you view me as an applicant? Obviously, I have weaknesses. Any rough idea what level of institution I would have a shot at getting into? Any idea how my age will be viewed by admissions committees?  

It is difficult to comment on the academic aspect of your application, as I have no knowledge of the schools you are interested in. As a very rough guide, any research experience is helpful, so you should put emphasis on any skills/techniques you gain from it. Your age will unlikely be a concern of the admission committees. Many people in my lab started PhD in their late 20s. There are 2 colleagues in my lab whose started theirs in their early 30s and they just finished fine. However, one problem of doing a PhD at this age is balancing family commitments with your work, particularly if you are married and have kids. The workload of doing a PhD can be very intense, and it is the case for chemistry which involves a lot of continuous experiments and long hours in lab. At some stages, you may be working till late or on the weekends. So along with working on your application, I would suggest that you work out how you can strive a good balance between the two. 

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