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I am 29. I've had informative, goal-driven, well written SOP, I'm guessing good recommendations. I have a masters in the related field (Computer Vision) with tier 2 publications. I'm in a research engineer job which can not add publications to my profile. I have been rejected by 13 US universities (all not Stanford, Berkeley). I had contacted the professors. Many did not respond though.

  1. How do I ask for recommendations again if I try next year?
  2. What can I add to my profile in this scenario?
  3. Are younger students preferred?
  4. Will there be sufficient opportunity if I complete my PhD after 35?
  • Yes! Age is just a number. – The Guy May 28 '18 at 12:51
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Age is not a discrimination in your age range, there will be opportunities when you complete your PhD but you should ask yourself what kind of opportunities are you seeking by completing a PhD.

If you stay at the same job your LOR will likely be the same in one year, so you have to change something else. I would suggest you reach out to 1-2 professors whose work is closely related to your job and see if you can be involved in one of their projects, and see if this can also benefit your company. I am afraid if you don't build a more direct connection with academia/research your chances will stay low. Otherwise you have to aim lower, less prestigious schools, but then we go back at WHY you want to do a PhD.

  • After so many rejection it seems to be more important to do the PhD. But I need to go to a highly prestigious school for that. I collaborated with some Profs last year, but I needed better school. How do I reach good professors for collaboration? Is there a standard proposal method? – user84876 May 28 '18 at 10:23
  • @sud_ is this US based question? – SSimon May 28 '18 at 12:39
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    @sud_ There are literally hundreds of universities that offer PhDs in CS, not all of which are “highly prestigious.” – aeismail May 28 '18 at 13:31
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    +1 for the final question: Why do you want a PhD? – JeffE May 28 '18 at 15:42
  • @SSimon, Yes and no. I had applied to all the US universities. But now I am checking for positions in Europe as well, but the main problem is asking for LORs again. – user84876 May 29 '18 at 18:46
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Don't do it. If 13 institutions have rejected you, there is likely a consensus that you are not suited/fit for getting a PhD. And even if you make it in, it may be difficult/impossible to finish the PhD. The GRE is an awkwardly good predictor of grad school success. If your GRE is bad, nothing else matters.

Can't speak for computer stuff, but my program has (previously) admitted people over 60. Different fields vary on ages, as they vary by both admissions age and time to completion. (Average for a history PhD is now 10 years...).

  • how good or bad is a GRE score of 315? – user84876 May 29 '18 at 18:48
  • The GRE publishes percentiles. Max is out of 340 (170+170). Assuming a 157 for each score, you are 67-75th percentile. But many programs select based on on sub-scores--I had a 165 on verbal (95th) and a 155 on analytical (59th). – Mox May 31 '18 at 20:29
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Einstein once said that it was stupid to repeat the same thing and expected different outcomes. Try to think clearly what was possible problem in your applications before applying again.

  • Age is definitely not a problem.
  • Tier 2 publications: overqualified for many universities. You did not submit to the top 5, but maybe you still aimed too high? The strategy is: some schools in top 10, some in top 20, some in top 30, .... Submit all your applications to, e.g., top 20 universities might not be a good idea.
  • Well-written SOP? Did you use the same SOP for all universities, and only change the names?

In order to have a better chance to get response from professors, you need to do some homework. Consider:

  • "Dear prof X, I'm very interested in your awesome research", and

  • "Dear prof X, I'm very interested in your paper on learning kernel for support vector machines"

You can guess which one has higher chance to be replied.

Finally, all places I know, e.g. NASA, SRI etc, research engineers are included in research papers. Maybe you need to challenge your boss about this.

Good luck!

  • I know, I applied to professors mostly I am familiar with by reading their papers. NASA, SRI are rich. – user84876 Jun 5 '18 at 13:09
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How do I ask for recommendations again if I try next year?

By asking. This may be awkward, but it's perfectly straightforward: "Dear Professor, Sadly, I was not accepted last year. Would you be willing to resubmit your letter to some additional schools this year?"

What can I add to my profile in this scenario?

How would we know? All you've told us is that SoP and LoRs were likely good.

What do you think the weak point was, and how will you fix it? Clearly 0/13 is not a fluke, so you need to either improve your application or apply to worse schools. Showing your application materials to a trusted professor may help.

Are younger students preferred?

No. In the US, this would be illegal. Beyond that, plenty of older students are admitted each year.

Will there be sufficient opportunity if I complete my PhD after 35?

Sufficient opportunity for what? In any case, most new PhD holders are 27-30, so 35 is only a few years older.

  • In some countries there are age limit for govt. funded entry-level positions, such as assistant prof. – user84876 Jun 5 '18 at 13:16
  • Which is why it is a good idea to specify the country you are interested in :-) From your list of schools, I had to assume you were interested in the US. – cag51 Jun 5 '18 at 14:56

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