Apr 1, 2010
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Hello. I am a 40 year old undergrad planning to apply to grad school soon. How much of a factor in the admissions deliberation will my age be? In other words, if all things were equal (GRE, GPA, etc.) between myself and a much younger applicant, in all honesty, who has the edge?

Thanks for any thoughts and opinions on this.
 

Therapist4Chnge

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It all depends how you package your experience. I was a few years older than most of the other applicants, but I made my "real world" experience an asset to my application. Some programs skew older, so it is far from rare to be non-trad. and applying.
 
Oct 14, 2009
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I'm 44 and starting a PhD program this fall! And I have never had a job in the mental health field! (The acceptance rate at my new school was less than 3% this year.) In applying for schools, I realized that each professor has his or her preference in selecting doctoral candidates and I couldn't do much to change his or her mind. As such, I decided to neither hide nor flaunt my age or any other of my characteristics. (I neither dyed my hair nor got collagen treatments in anticipation of my interviews.) This approach worked well for me. My "predecessor," a graduate student who works for a professor with whom I interviewed, also started in her forties from another field (retail). She is currently the graduate student body president and seems highly regarded at our university.

For personal reasons, including ability to earn enough money to financially make a PhD worthwhile, I wouldn't wait much longer to start this degree. I decided against accepting offers from schools that would not fully or nearly fully fund me. Spending over $100k, for instance, didn't seem justifiable to me, especially as I have kids whose postsecondary educations I want to help fund. I've heard of people applying to doctoral programs while in their late fifties. That means that, if accepted, they won't graduate until their early sixties--not much time to earn money to financially justify getting the degree. Additionally, some employers don't want to hire someone that they think will retire by choice or necessity in a few years. (They don't want to invest limited resources in someone who may soon leave.) As such, getting a job may be more challenging for a more senior job applicant. I anticipate a tougher time getting a job than my classmates who are twenty years my junior, assuming all other parts of our job applications are equal. However, if one is in the fortunate position of feeling that money is no object and he or she wants to pursue a PhD primarily for personal fulfillment, then it seems as though age would not factor into the decision on whether to apply for a doctoral program.

Good luck!
 

Markp

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Hello. I am a 40 year old undergrad planning to apply to grad school soon. How much of a factor in the admissions deliberation will my age be? In other words, if all things were equal (GRE, GPA, etc.) between myself and a much younger applicant, in all honesty, who has the edge?

Thanks for any thoughts and opinions on this.
Usually the younger applicant will have the advantage (if all was equal), but that doesn't mean it's an impossible task. Quite a few of us are 40+. Why? Because all is not equal, wisdom takes time to learn.

Mark
 
Feb 11, 2010
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I think it depends on the program. The Chicago School's clinical PsyD program has a scholarship for people over 30 who are changing careers, and they definitely seem to appreciate the benefit of life experience. I would assume there are other programs with a similar philosophy. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I should say I'm 23, so there's a good chance I don't know what I'm talking about.
 

psychmama

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Usually the younger applicant will have the advantage (if all was equal), but that doesn't mean it's an impossible task. Quite a few of us are 40+. Why? Because all is not equal, wisdom takes time to learn.

Mark
So true. By the way, I was 43 when I got accepted to my program, and I'll be nearly 50 by the time I've made it through postdoc and hopefully get licensed. Oh well...people tell me I look young, so I try to go with that -- and my age-acquired wisdom of course.;)

I have encountered more difficulty at times getting my foot in the door at practica and internship due to erroneous assumptions related to my age. Without exception, though, I've found that once I'm given the opportunity I pick things up more easily than some of the younger psychology trainees. In any case, I wouldn't change my decision to enter this career for one second, despite (or perhaps because of) embarking on it later in my life.

Good luck.:luck:
 
Jan 22, 2010
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I have encountered more difficulty at times getting my foot in the door at practica and internship due to erroneous assumptions related to my age.
Good luck.:luck:
I'll be starting my program in the fall. I'm just a few years younger than you. What kinds of difficulties have you encountered? What assumptions are being made?
 

Markp

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I'll be starting my program in the fall. I'm just a few years younger than you. What kinds of difficulties have you encountered? What assumptions are being made?
One of the challenges that older students face is balancing their additional life experience with the lack of clinical experience. It can be frustrating to both the supervisor and the trainee because older students are a bit of a different duck. Oftentimes we have experience that younger clinicians simply just don't have, this can be a powerful asset or it can get in the way of training, usually it's both.

Some of the assumptions that can be made are the typical ones that one would expect. Older students might be considered less maliable, sometimes they are considered more responsible or more insightful than perhaps they might be, and often they are more independent and perhaps less likely to consult as frequently as their younger colleagues. It's good that they are capable of making independent decisions, but bad when they don't consult often enough (I am guilty of having done this.)

It's not that older students are better or worse, just different, and in someways a different challenge.

Mark
 

psychmama

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I'll be starting my program in the fall. I'm just a few years younger than you. What kinds of difficulties have you encountered? What assumptions are being made?
By and large, I haven't had to deal with too much overt ageism. The questions I tend to get are subtle, such as "I see you have a prior career and life experience -- how will you feel about being supervised and dealing with the experience of being a trainee?" or "Oh, I see you live in __ town. That's a long commute every day for internship. How do you think you'll handle that?" I had one supervisor at a practicum site tell me flat out -- "I wasn't in favor of hiring you. In my experience it's harder for older students to adapt to learning the clinical work." That last comment was a shocker! But I think she must have been an outlier, because no one else has ever been this blatant.

In my program I've felt great acceptance of older students. In fact, I've always felt they value students who bring something different, whether culturally or in some other respect. Once or twice I felt I was expected to attend events on the weekend, which is harder for me to do because I have three school-age children. Overall though, people have been great -- both students and faculty. I think some supervisors are slightly uncomfortable advising older students. We can be intimidating, I guess;). On the other hand, far more of my supervisors seem to enjoy the challenge of working with someone more "seasoned". I've been told that I pick things up quickly, and I believe it's in part due to the wealth of experiences working with people and organizations which I bring to my work.

Anyway -- I think when you interview around you'll get a sense of programs that are more welcoming to older students. I felt comfortable at my PsyD program from the first time I arrived there on interview day. I could feel in my gut that they valued me. For the most part, I've been proven right.

edit: I just realized you've already been accepted somewhere, so ignore this last point! Sorry I missed this. Hopefully you've gotten the vibes of acceptance from the program already. Good luck with that. Also, in reading Mark's last post, I think he makes some good points. One challenge for me has been more of a personal one: before I began grad school I thought I knew myself and had little desire to open all of that up and "reassemble it." There was a time in my doctoral program when I felt like I was sort of falling apart -- the old me was no longer the same but the new me was a work in progress. Everything I thought I knew I was forced to approach differently, from the lens of a psychologist. Anyway -- this was a temporary "crisis" and I'm better for having gone through the process. In fact, I'm grateful for it. I say this not to scare you, but just as a way of communicating that I've had to be open to changing some of my personal style and values along the way. It was harder than I thought it would be, but very rewarding. I wouldn't change a thing!
 
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Markp

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Also, in reading Mark's last post, I think he makes some good points.
I'm like a stopped clock... I'm somewhat accurate twice a day. ;)