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Is age a hindrance of getting acceptance in a PhD program?

For instance, what if a student applies at the age of 45 for an admission?

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  • Might be somewhat, but not a major one. Sep 13, 2018 at 1:57
  • I started my doctorate in the computing field at 58. (I also took the whole ten years, plus an extra six weeks, to finish. Don't do that.)
    – Bob Brown
    Sep 13, 2018 at 3:03

2 Answers 2

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I think you can rest easy (and work hard). There are a lot of people who decide to work toward a doctorate later in life. Depending on what your background is, you can bring a lot of experience to the process.

While most programs depend on a certain amount of knowledge in the field that undergraduates normally come with, mostly breadth and a bit of depth, a person who has worked in a field and kept up with the changes required of a professional probably won't be handicapped.

However, as with anyone else, you need to make a case that you are both prepared and have the drive to plunge deeply into research. Everyone is a bit different, but age, itself, is no barrier.

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In general, universities in the UK, USA and Australia (the countries I've spent the longest amounts of time) have policies that specifically prevent discrimination on the basis of age (and other so-called "protected attributes") in admissions decisions. These policies are in line with broader legal frameworks against discrimination in that particular country.

In the Graduate School I manage, a quick scan of our records shows that the oldest student we accepted for a Masters degree was 73, while a 68-year-old student was accepted into a Psychology PhD.

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  • Yes, exactly. In the U.S., chronological age itself cannot be any sort of criterion for admission. The only real question can be of sufficient qualification for the program, and indicators that the candidate can complete it. Yes, the question of how they've "performed" so far in life is relevant, and the longer one has lived, the more one has been "tested"... so that is inevitably, and equitably, fair. Sep 13, 2018 at 1:44