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Ph.D. in your 30s?


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Old 19th August 2011, 12:45 AM   #16
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I personally like starting things in my 40s
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Old 19th August 2011, 1:17 AM   #17
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Thank you for all the encouragement!

One of my big fears is the fact that at nearly 35, I'm still not married, and have no prospects on the horizon. I don't expect to have any prospects turn up in this tiny mountain town where I live, and even if any did, I know it doesn't suit me to stay here longer than it takes me to get ready for grad school (so, 2 more years, unfortunately).

So what will it be like to be single, age 37, starting a Ph.D. program? Am I dooming myself to remain single until my early 40s when I finish my program? Am I having to face the very real prospect that I might NEVER marry and have a child???

That's where my mind goes. Am I being ridiculous?
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Old 19th August 2011, 4:31 AM   #18
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Thank you for all the encouragement!

One of my big fears is the fact that at nearly 35, I'm still not married, and have no prospects on the horizon. I don't expect to have any prospects turn up in this tiny mountain town where I live, and even if any did, I know it doesn't suit me to stay here longer than it takes me to get ready for grad school (so, 2 more years, unfortunately).

So what will it be like to be single, age 37, starting a Ph.D. program? Am I dooming myself to remain single until my early 40s when I finish my program? Am I having to face the very real prospect that I might NEVER marry and have a child???

That's where my mind goes. Am I being ridiculous?
I work in academia/ do a PhD and people here get together ALL the time, so I'm not entirely sure where this sorry stems from. Why can you not marry while you're doing a PhD? People do that all the time.
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Old 19th August 2011, 5:37 AM   #19
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I work in academia/ do a PhD and people here get together ALL the time, so I'm not entirely sure where this sorry stems from. Why can you not marry while you're doing a PhD? People do that all the time.
You're right. I don't know why that concerns me so much. I guess because no one in my web of contemporaries is applying to grad school now--many of them already have their doctorates or MDs or JDs. And now they're free to focus on building their families, or on taking more career risks, etc. I guess I just feel a little out of sync. Like, the men most suitable for me will be freed from the constraints of school because they're done with it all, and so I'll be off the radar somehow.

As I type it, it sounds silly, I know. But that fear keeps cropping up.
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Old 19th August 2011, 8:56 AM   #20
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Ditto

Almost 50 and in my PhD, am about average to slight above so I don't see your 30s as late at all. If you want to teach then it might be tough if you've not got a source of income but if it's for work or personal development then no problem.
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Old 19th August 2011, 11:41 AM   #21
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You're right. I don't know why that concerns me so much. I guess because no one in my web of contemporaries is applying to grad school now--many of them already have their doctorates or MDs or JDs. And now they're free to focus on building their families, or on taking more career risks, etc. I guess I just feel a little out of sync. Like, the men most suitable for me will be freed from the constraints of school because they're done with it all, and so I'll be off the radar somehow.

As I type it, it sounds silly, I know. But that fear keeps cropping up.
Well, in a sense it's good that the men are free from school, because it allows a certain division of labour. I put my H through grad school (financially) for two years. We couldn't have both done it at the same time. Later I left a high paying job for a less paid job in academia with the option for doing a PhD, which I can now continue because he's working. I couldn't sustain us both on my current salary.
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Old 19th August 2011, 12:14 PM   #22
 
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Scholastically, yes. But when I was in law school, I didn't have a full time job. I'm worried about balancing work and another Masters program, but a handful of my friends have done it while employed, so hopefully I won't die!
Well you won't die but don't expect a life! During graduation, our university president said to thank (and keep) the significant others or marry the one who stucked by you during graduate school.

This thread is making me want to pursue an MS.
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Old 19th August 2011, 1:46 PM   #23
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You're right. I don't know why that concerns me so much. I guess because no one in my web of contemporaries is applying to grad school now--many of them already have their doctorates or MDs or JDs. And now they're free to focus on building their families, or on taking more career risks, etc. I guess I just feel a little out of sync. Like, the men most suitable for me will be freed from the constraints of school because they're done with it all, and so I'll be off the radar somehow.

As I type it, it sounds silly, I know. But that fear keeps cropping up.
I don't think it's a silly fear - but I DO think that all kinds of things happen that you can't really plan for, so while it's worth thinking about, I wouldn't let it alter the course of your life.

I finished my PhD in my early 30s (in the physical sciences, so I had a full fellowship). My classmates were pretty evenly distributed around me in terms of age - there were people there in their early 20s who were right out of a bachelors/masters program, and then there were people who had worked in the field for years before deciding to go back to school at 40+. My sense was that the older students were more focused, in general - they often finished more quickly. That might be because they had a clearer idea of what they wanted to do going in, so spent less time trying to figure that out and just got down to it.

Regarding a personal life...the thing is, grad school can be VERY hard on an EXISTING relationship. My marriage failed while I was in grad school - not because of grad school, but the long hours certainly placed a strain, and the intensity of the experience even more so. Pre-existing relationships get sorely tested - but the really strong relationships (which mine clearly wasn't) will come through swimmingly. I had friends who met in grad school and got married, friends who had babies while in school (some left for good, some stayed), friends who got divorced. I guess what I'm saying is, life doesn't really, in practice, get put on hold. It's challenging, but it's not like you'll suddenly be cut off from relationships or society. Your society, however, may become that grad school world for a little while, and those relationships will become paramount.

I don't know if that's helpful - sorry for the rambling. My gut, however, would be to tell you to go for it. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I'm so glad I did it.

Edited to add: I do have another datapoint. My sister decided to go back to school to get her PhD at about your age. Her degree, however, is in a field that did not offer her much financial support beyond scrabbling together teaching RAs to pay for room and board. She has worked very hard to stay on top of the debt as much as possible by holding down other jobs at the same time - but now she's about to graduate, and is facing a very dire hiring situation. Although she loved her program and I think is very glad she did it, emotionally, right now, she's a wreck, from the combination of having student loans to pay off, not having a job or personal relationship, and feeling old (she's in her early 40s) to be in all three situations.

So I don't want to sugarcoat this. Your situation would be somewhat different, however, in that you wouldn't go into debt to pay for school. (And my sister has NEVER been proactive about seeking relationships, so to a very large extent, that's a hole of her own making.)
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Last edited by serial muse; 19th August 2011 at 1:55 PM..
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Old 11th October 2011, 12:25 PM   #24
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I've no idea where you're from or what field you're in, but here in my field it's very unusual for students to commence a PhD without substantial working experience behind them. Most of our PhD students are in their 40s and 50s. We prefer the more mature students, as those are more likely to complete - and complete on time - while younger students are typically not as serious about their studies and are more likely to drop out, delay completion or change topic so many times that they exhaust their supervisor's patience.

Good luck!
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Old 11th October 2011, 12:30 PM   #25
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Just curious, why would be young be an advantage to employers? I can understand them wanting a 27 year old over an equally-qualified 50 year old, because they would have retirement requirements in some countries. But why choose a 27 y/o over a 37 y/o, all other things being equal?
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Old 11th October 2011, 12:43 PM   #26
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Just curious, why would be young be an advantage to employers? I can understand them wanting a 27 year old over an equally-qualified 50 year old, because they would have retirement requirements in some countries. But why choose a 27 y/o over a 37 y/o, all other things being equal?
discrimination on the grounds of age is illegal in many / most countries. And, given the choice, experience over no experience would be an advantage.
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Old 11th October 2011, 2:13 PM   #27
 
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Hey, if the girl called Blossom can become a physicist, and Brian May (of Queen) can become a scientist, you can get a Ph. D in your 30s!

You're never too old. My mom just recently got a nursing degree, and she's in her 60's.
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Old 11th October 2011, 2:47 PM   #28
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I'm very seriously considering returning to grad school for a clinical psychology Ph.D. I'm going to turn 35 in a couple of months and I'll admit I'm pretty daunted by the idea of spending 5+ years in graduate school at this stage of my life versus, say, my mid-twenties.

I'd love to hear from anyone who began a doctoral program in their 30s--about your experience, any hardships you faced or benefits you enjoyed being an "older" student, what it has been like to leave the workforce, and whether on the whole the experience has been positive. It would be helpful also if you mentioned the discipline you pursued / are pursuing.
I'm middle aged and recently started grad school to get my Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology. It's been a good experience so far, and I feel that I'm more able to lend a lot of insight and contribute more to the class now than when I was in my 20s because of all the life experiences that I have had. There are people of all ages that go back to college. I've read about a man who was 90 that started law school at that age. You are never too old to further your education. Half of my classmates are over 35 in the classes I've been taking so far. Some are Master's Degree students. Some are doctoral students. Of course, I've been taking night classes, so all of these students work during the day. That may be one reason why they are older than your typical college class, but next year I'm transferring to a college where there will be mostly 20 somethings. I feel I have an advantage over them because of my life experience and seriousness about the field. My kids, who are college students elsewhere, think it's kind of neat how I'm working on my Master's Degree.
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Old 27th October 2011, 11:43 AM   #29
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At some universites PhD tuition is free - you just need to be able to pay for your living costs.
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Old 2nd November 2011, 9:19 AM   #30
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I am 39 and just started in March on my Bachelor's degree in Human Services (focusing on gerontology). When I'm done in a couple of years I will start my Masters. This is my first time being able to attend university, and in several of my classes I've actually been the youngest! You're never too old for an education.
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