Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

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gaugeinvariance
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Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2020 6:33 am

Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by gaugeinvariance » Sat Feb 13, 2021 5:31 am

Dear All

Since I would be probably rejected by over 20 schools (Yes, 20), I will consider applying again for the next cycle. However, I am getting old, reaching like 25 next year. Would this be a big disadvantage to get into top schools in astrophysics? I.e. do they select only those students who are young and fresh-graduate?

geekusprimus
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Re: Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by geekusprimus » Sat Feb 13, 2021 11:47 am

I was 25 when I got accepted, and I have a friend who started when he was 28. Occasionally you'll see a student who's in their 30s or older. I don't think age is a big consideration as long as the rest of your application isn't terribly outdated.

gaugeinvariance
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Re: Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by gaugeinvariance » Sun Feb 14, 2021 4:49 am

geekusprimus wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 11:47 am
I was 25 when I got accepted, and I have a friend who started when he was 28. Occasionally you'll see a student who's in their 30s or older. I don't think age is a big consideration as long as the rest of your application isn't terribly outdated.
Thank you for the information, especially you pointed out your own experience. But there is a point, surely students who are not fresh-grad could obtain more research experience and more opportunity to publish papers. So if we are to compare profiles between fresh-grad and those who are not, wouldn't it seems to be a cheating if someone spend a gap year to conduct research to make their profiles look stronger? I definitely think that the admission committee will know that and I am not sure whether they will take this into account and deduct some points from those who are older and not being a fresh-grad :(

geekusprimus
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Re: Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by geekusprimus » Sun Feb 14, 2021 2:14 pm

gaugeinvariance wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 4:49 am
geekusprimus wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 11:47 am
I was 25 when I got accepted, and I have a friend who started when he was 28. Occasionally you'll see a student who's in their 30s or older. I don't think age is a big consideration as long as the rest of your application isn't terribly outdated.
Thank you for the information, especially you pointed out your own experience. But there is a point, surely students who are not fresh-grad could obtain more research experience and more opportunity to publish papers. So if we are to compare profiles between fresh-grad and those who are not, wouldn't it seems to be a cheating if someone spend a gap year to conduct research to make their profiles look stronger? I definitely think that the admission committee will know that and I am not sure whether they will take this into account and deduct some points from those who are older and not being a fresh-grad :(
You don't get long-term research positions or opportunities to publish papers if you've only got an undergraduate degree. My friend who was accepted (with a prestigious fellowship in the specialty field of my school) spent five years in the financial industry before going back to grad school and literally had no clue how he was going to get a chance to go back until his company started downsizing his department. As far as I understand, he was basically out of the research game and didn't really do much physics-related stuff until he decided it was time to go back.

You are correct that a good gap year can be tremendously beneficial to your application. I have a friend from undergrad who took a gap year after he really bombed the physics GRE and is now doing a PhD at UT Austin, far and above anywhere he would have gotten into the year before. I've got an acquaintance from an internship who took a gap year after a really lousy admissions cycle and is now an NSF GRFP recipient in his third year at UIUC, another outstanding physics program. There's a guy in my research group who took a gap year because he had pretty mediocre grades and test scores, and it helped a lot -- we're at a top-ten institution in my particular field.

That being said, gap years are really only helpful if you're doing stuff related to physics. One year spent on a post-bacc at a national lab or in an adjunct research position with a prospective PI will do a lot for your application, but those are more rare than common. Five years working as a quantitative analyst, a systems engineer, or a web developer isn't a bad thing, per se, but it's not going to boost your physics research profile or produce the best letters of recommendation.

physico_guy
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Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:27 am

Re: Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by physico_guy » Mon Feb 15, 2021 3:37 am

Age is never an issue I think. Education system of each country is different. For example, in my country it is expected to study English for one year at the beginning of the college (even two years in some cases). Also since our yearly entrance exams are competitive, you might get into a good university in your second year after graduating from high school. I had a Liberian friend who started his PhD at the age of 29 because of the civil war they could not continue to the school for 5 years :(.

To summarize, don't bother your age. Things can happen around the world. 25 is even not an old age. If you look at the statistics you will see that 25 is like the mean age for starting a PhD in this century.

By the way, if you compare today's education with the previous century, you will find that people were starting PhD at the age of 21 and finishing at a age 23-24 which is crazy! Today, life expentancy of the humans are increasing so it might be expected education age shifts and prolongs as well.

Synchrotron
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Re: Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by Synchrotron » Sun Mar 28, 2021 5:42 am

Age of 25 will not be an issue but your concern of gap is real. I know a guy 2x the age of yours and is now in a top PhD program with admission rate of less than 5%.

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MathiasWilde
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Re: Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by MathiasWilde » Fri May 07, 2021 4:14 am

I agree that age doesn't matter. Are you joking saying getting old in your 25? Each person has his own path, and each comes in his own time to certain things. If you feel that you have some problems with knowledge and want to raise your level, try to make semicolons worksheets and succeed. This site helped me when I decided to enter an educational institution, but I understood that fame in English. You need to believe in yourself, and you are guaranteed success. If you initially have such a negative attitude, then, of course, nothing will work.
Last edited by MathiasWilde on Tue May 18, 2021 5:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

Synchrotron
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Re: Do age affect students' chances to get into good schools?

Post by Synchrotron » Sat May 08, 2021 4:46 pm

I would not go so far to claim that age does not matter at all but 25 years old is still young and should not have any effect. The issue usually is what you have done since your undergrad degree. If you have been out of the school for 3 years and is not engaging in any research in astrophysics, it will be problematic for top schools.

It is unclear to me if age matters or not. I have attended a panel discussion about grad school admissions where a professor explicitly said without any explanation that a student over 40 may be a potential issues. In some sense, ageism is illegal but school can reject you for many reasons so that it is hard to see the real reason of rejection. With two equally capable students, one is 22 and another is 35, one of the reason (see https://chrisblattman.com/2013/06/12/wh ... for-a-phd/) to pick the younger student is that they have longer expected academic life to make contribution to the field but isn't it exactly what we called ageism (selecting a PhD students based on the age of the student)?.



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