I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

tomtom
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I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby tomtom » Thu Jul 09, 2009 12:18 am

Hello everyone.

I got BA in physics when I was 22, and MS in systems engineering @ 25
from a small liberal arts school and from a top-20 university respectively.

Well, time sure flies, and I've turned 38 a few months ago. :-(
I'm well established financially, been working as an IT consultant. I'm also a weekend
pastor for a small local church (got my M.Div. degree from a theological school).

But recently, I've been wanting to finish up what I've always dreamed of;
becoming a real physicist. Do you think it's too late? Would they accept me
even though I am at least a decade older than avg physics grad students?

Would my previous academic works count, if I apply?

Also, I've kinda browsed through Jackson's EM book and Goldstein's CM book.
They were rather intimidating... would all of the graduate works be that intimidating?

I'd really appreciate feedback and insights....

Thank you and have a great day!

pkirby2
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Joined: Sun May 17, 2009 1:18 pm

Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby pkirby2 » Thu Jul 09, 2009 12:28 am

I do not think it is too late. I think the biggest issue you need to worry about now is doing well on your physics GRE. If anything, I think you would have a better chance due to your because graduate schools look for some diversity within their student body. Write about your life and how it is your dream to be a physicist on your personal statement, do well on your PGRE and I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to get in somewhere.

surjective
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby surjective » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:38 am

It's never too late... but it'll be pretty tough.

Jackson is intimidating, but a lot easier than the QFT you'll end up taking in grad school. Goldstein's mech. book is an undergrad text, so a lot less advanced than most grad. stuff.

HOWEVER, everything looks intimidating and hard when you are out of practice. It's totally possible that once you get back into it, and remind yourself of the basics, that this stuff will appear hard but manageable to you, as it does to most other physics grad students.

So, it'll be tough, but you can probably do it if you're willing to work hard.

Best of luck!

betelgeuse1
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby betelgeuse1 » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:22 am

OH! Thank you soo much for asking this question. I turned 27 in june this year. I'll be 28 next year in august and I also thought I was to old for starting the PhD. So, if 38 is ok then I'm happy again, 28 won't be bad.

cooper
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby cooper » Thu Jul 09, 2009 5:15 am

It's worse for me, I am 43. My original degree was in Psychology. A few years ago I attended school part time (distance learning while I worked full time) and worked towards a Physics Bachelors. About a year ago I finally accumulated enough credits and started working as an engineer (since then I took more courses and now have about 55 credits in Physics, approximately enough for a Bachelors), but the recession ended that. I decided to go for a Masters or PhD in Physics since there is a recession and I can't get a Physics related job. Among other things I am worried that they wont accept me due to my age.

Maybe someone can answer this question for me. I decided to go for a Masters degree in Physics since it only takes about two years. I imagine a PhD would take about six years and I don't want to start a career when I am fifty. Someone recently told me, however, that after the first two years in a PhD program a person can get a Physics job making $40,000 or so a year while they finish their PhD. Is that true? Thanks.

tomtom
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby tomtom » Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:19 pm

pkirby2 wrote:I do not think it is too late. I think the biggest issue you need to worry about now is doing well on your physics GRE. If anything, I think you would have a better chance due to your because graduate schools look for some diversity within their student body. Write about your life and how it is your dream to be a physicist on your personal statement, do well on your PGRE and I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to get in somewhere.


Thanks, pkirby2. I needed that emotional support.
I am studying for PGRE right now.
I did OK back then 16 years ago, I remember I got 660.

Luckily(?) me and my wife don't have any kids yet... maybe makes it easier for me. :-)

Thanks once again.

tomtom
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Joined: Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:58 pm

Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby tomtom » Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:29 pm

surjective wrote:It's never too late... but it'll be pretty tough.
Jackson is intimidating, but a lot easier than the QFT you'll end up taking in grad school. Goldstein's mech. book is an undergrad text, so a lot less advanced than most grad. stuff.
HOWEVER, everything looks intimidating and hard when you are out of practice. It's totally possible that once you get back into it, and remind yourself of the basics, that this stuff will appear hard but manageable to you, as it does to most other physics grad students.
So, it'll be tough, but you can probably do it if you're willing to work hard.
Best of luck!


I hope so. After all, God called Moses when he was 80.
And 40 is the new 30 thes days. :-D

When I was doing undergrad, we didn't use Goldtein's.
But it seems that's pretty standard these days.
I've heard that it is the textbook for undergrad level CM for Caltech students.

Luckily, I don't have any kids, so maybe I can handle the stress.
I am going for it anyway. I believe after a long tunnel of "walking in the shadow of death" of Jackson and QFT
maybe I'll see the light. :-) After all, I am still following my dream even at the age of 38. I've learn that from
my recent trip to Florida Disneyworld: "when you wish upon a star~"

tomtom
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby tomtom » Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:35 pm

betelgeuse1 wrote:OH! Thank you soo much for asking this question. I turned 27 in june this year. I'll be 28 next year in august and I also thought I was to old for starting the PhD. So, if 38 is ok then I'm happy again, 28 won't be bad.


Well, gald to hear that I made you feel better.

As for me, I didn't waste my life. I just had other priorities, things like doing Master of Divinity for 4 years.
It was very important for me.

Anyway, now @ 38, I find time for studying Physics... that's all.
As long as you know what you are doing, things will be OK, I think.

Anyway, good luck~! :-)

tomtom
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:58 pm

Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby tomtom » Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:54 pm

cooper wrote:It's worse for me, I am 43. My original degree was in Psychology. A few years ago I attended school part time (distance learning while I worked full time) and worked towards a Physics Bachelors. About a year ago I finally accumulated enough credits and started working as an engineer (since then I took more courses and now have about 55 credits in Physics, approximately enough for a Bachelors), but the recession ended that. I decided to go for a Masters or PhD in Physics since there is a recession and I can't get a Physics related job. Among other things I am worried that they wont accept me due to my age.

Maybe someone can answer this question for me. I decided to go for a Masters degree in Physics since it only takes about two years. I imagine a PhD would take about six years and I don't want to start a career when I am fifty. Someone recently told me, however, that after the first two years in a PhD program a person can get a Physics job making $40,000 or so a year while they finish their PhD. Is that true? Thanks.


I have this belief that there's certain advantage to studying Physics at 30s or 40s.
I remember when I was like 18~25, too many things clogged up my mind... I needed to sort my priorities.
I think it takes certain maturity to study physics. I even saw the TIME magazine article on that.
If I apply this year, I will start finish my studies when I'm like 43~44... that gives me at least 20 years
of career in this field.

And who knows? Maybe in the next decades or so, the retirement age will be elevated to 75 years old.

However, I am not doing this for money. My IT consulting job pays alot better.
I am doing this because of my dream...

Anyway, keep things posted... I will do the same.

God speed!

prajor
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:58 pm

Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby prajor » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:02 am

Folks,

What are you planning for the transcripts, research papers and recommendation letters ?

Asking because, it's been some time for me too away from school. I have very little idea, what needs to be done.

Thanks,

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zxcv
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby zxcv » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:41 pm

There are graduate students are Berkeley who are your age, so it is definitely possible to get accepted by top programs and complete a PhD.

prajor
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby prajor » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:57 am

Thanks Zxcv !!

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quizivex
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby quizivex » Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:11 am

It's never too late to be admitted. In fact, an (undergrad) physics major at my undergrad school was 38 and went on to grad school at Rochester. Departments have no reason not to admit you due to age since your age itself won't affect what you can contribute their research. In fact, older people are often more focused and mature than 22 year old kids.

However, just because it's possible doesn't mean it's encouraged. As the great twistor once wrote to someone with a similar story:
twistor on 7/22/08 wrote:I think that you should not give up your stable life and income for fanciful dreams of science. Changing careers now would be an incredibly difficult transition and you be forced to make significant lifestyle changes as you re-enter school.

If you add up all the time it takes to get a PhD and all the postdocs and how long you'll have to wait to become a "real physicist"... i.e. a professor working on your own research (if that ever happens at all), and considering the pittance of a paycheck you'll get compared to what you get now, it just doesn't make much sense to me. Heck it doesn't even make much sense to 23 year-olds.

Of course people still do it perhaps because they like the subject or they want to make a difference in something. But there's no guarantee you'll love grad school physics anyway, or be successful at it or enjoy the research. For someone with an established career(s), a home (and a family?) I think it's sacrificing too much. And switching careers 15 years after college to another career that takes ~15 years to reach, how much meaningful work do you really expect to produce? I say all of this respectfully, and the decision is obviously all yours, but these are all things you should think about before making a final decision. Getting admitted is the easy part.

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noojens
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby noojens » Wed Nov 25, 2009 2:52 pm

Bah, *** that -- follow your dreams! It's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do. :)

Prologue
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby Prologue » Sun Jan 17, 2010 2:31 am

I didn't read all of the replies but wanted to add something. There are definitely schools that will take you, it all depends on how prestigious you want the school to be though. If you want the top ten schools you need to work your ass off, do research and nail the physics gre, then really convince some people. But if you want to just go to a not well known state school, or regional state school and do applied research to get a phd, you'll be fine. Apply now and they'll just let you in if you are paying for the classes. Actually don't even apply, just call. There are schools with money that want people, they just don't have big names.

adityaphysicsbhu
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby adityaphysicsbhu » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:44 pm

best of luck...... :D ......I got lot of inspiration from that .......

meichenl
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby meichenl » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:28 pm

When I was doing undergrad, we didn't use Goldtein's.
But it seems that's pretty standard these days.
I've heard that it is the textbook for undergrad level CM for Caltech students.



I can dispel that myth for you, at least. I did my undergrad at Caltech and we used Hand and Finch. The professor explicitly stated that Goldstein was too advanced for the undergraduate level when some smartass grad student asked about the book on the first day of class. (First-year grad students frequently enrolled in the advanced undergrad classes for review.)

The class there is called "Ph106a". On the 2010 page, which I found just now, (http://www.pma.caltech.edu/~mcc/Ph106a/#mozTocId421895) Goldstein is listed alongside Hand and Finch and John Taylor's book as "suggested", but the class wasn't taught from any book in particular that I can tell.

Actually a lot of professors were like that. They taught the class however they saw fit, maybe posted illegible hand-scrawled lecture notes online, and left it to you to find written presentations in a textbook if you needed it.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:46 pm

meichenl wrote:Hand and Finch


I had a bonfire to burn this book.

-Riley

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sphy
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Re: I am 38... too late to apply for Ph.D?

Postby sphy » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:50 am

WhoaNonstop wrote:
meichenl wrote:Hand and Finch


I had a bonfire to burn this book.

-Riley

Hallo

Image

I have crush on both of the books. I love them.




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