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I've just finished my bachelor degree in Psychology as a second under-graduate degree. My first degree was in mathematics.

I am 37 years old and I would like to know if it's possible to pursue a master's degree program in Psychology. My under-graduate degree in psychology was unique for the following reasons:

  1. I started it in 2003 and since then I did it very slowly (sometimes stopping for a few years) because I was doing my under-graduate degree and then a masters degree as well as working as a TA in another area (pure mathematics) for several years. Another reason for the extended time is because even if I hadn't stopped this undergraduate degree in Psychology several times and had done it full-time, it would have taken 6 years to finish (very long under-graduate degree).

  2. My course was more focus oriented in humanities/arts.

  3. Despite studying psychology as a second degree, I've always taken it seriously. My average grade for the entire course was 9 (10 is the maximum) and I always had a higher performance than the other students, maybe because of my mathematics background. I'm used to studying a lot with a high level of concentration.

So my question is: do you think it's possible for me to be accepted into a master's degree program in psychology? I'm afraid I wouldn't be considered a good student because of taking such a long time to finish the undergraduate course (maybe they would even laugh at me).

An additional problem is that I want to study in a more science-focused research in psychology. What are my options?

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    What do you have to lose by trying to apply? I don't think anyone will laugh at you. Your main issue is that you need to convince them that you would finish your graduate studies much faster than your undergrad degree. Unfortunately, nothing you write in your question indicates this. – Roland Jan 16 at 7:01
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    Psychometrics seems as if it would be a natural fit for you and, at least in the U.S., the job opportunities (availability of employment, pay, etc.) are excellent. – Dave L Renfro Jan 16 at 14:56
  • @Roland thank you. I took a long time because I was split in two different areas. Of course focusing only in psychology would be a different story. The problem is how I can convince them. Maybe studying as an independent researcher for a while? My grades were very good as I've mentioned. – user26832 Jan 16 at 16:12
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    You may have started 16 years ago, but it seems like you successfully finished a math degree, paused, and then did a psychology degree. Right? Also -- do you have any work experience? I assume you had income. Being a "second career" student is different from being an extremely tardy undergraduate. – cag51 Jan 17 at 4:54
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    @cag51 exactly, I finished math degree and I got a master in mathematics (In this time I was working in schools and universities and I still do), paused and I did a psychology degree, the only difference is because I've already done some classes before doing mathematics that's the reason why 16 years in under-graduation in psychology is a little misleading, in fact we should count only the years when I came back (4 years ago). – user26832 Jan 17 at 5:09
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Extended periods on your CV are fine as long as you can explain why they are there.

From my understanding, you took as long as you did because you did a full-time undergraduate degree in Mathematics followed by your Masters degree, while still doing TA duties on the side, and then also attempted to do the Psychology degree at the same time. This is a huge amount of work. You also stated that you had to pause the Psychology degree for a few years. Given that your full-time Mathematics path would have taken around 6 years (correct me if I am wrong) and the full-time Psychology undergrad would have taken 6 years, your situation makes sense.

All you need to do is be able to explain the timeline - and you can! I would not worry too much about applying. You have demonstrated that you are completely capable of higher-level study by getting your Masters in Mathematics (which isn't at all easy)!

Good luck! I really hope this works out for you!

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There are currently several questions, I will try to answer:

Do you think it's possible for me to be accepted into a master's degree program in psychology?

Yes. Very likely, if you look at different universities, you can find a master's degree program in psychology that accepts all applicants who have bachelor's degrees.

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It's very hard to say from the information you have given. All you have told us is:

  • You took four times as long as usual to finish a bachelors degree.
  • You are 37.
  • You lack focus.
  • You are currently confused.
  • You managed to get a fairly good mark in one class.

Working as a TA in other areas isn't a good reason to stop an undergrad degree. I am wondering why a university would accept such a protracted process. It makes me wonder if there are not some extenuating circumstances. Maybe some personal stuff happening that the university would take into account. The typical university would not just let you drag out an undergrad degree this way.

But consider. Your lack of focus and energy has made a 4 year degree take 16. If you start a PhD, and if your past performance is an accurate guide, your PhD will take 12 to 20 years to complete. With the 20 year range being more likely.

By then you would be 57. Most people at 57 are starting to shop for retirement options, not starting out a research career. Finishing a PhD at 57 reminds me of the biblical story of Jacob. He worked seven years for Rachel's father to earn her hand in marriage. Then he found out he had not earned Rachel's hand, but her older sister Leah. And he had to work another seven years to get the woman he loved.

Maybe there are other options that would suit you better. Maybe there are more rewarding things to do than helping undergrad math students with their homework.

Unless that is, you can find some way to put some passion and focus and energy into your work. Maybe that personal stuff I mentioned can be tidied up? Maybe you can find the exact right kind of research that will get you excited so that you work at it without needing to be pushed? If you don't find yourself working extra hours on something, without needing to or being told to, then it's probably a bad choice to try to do a PhD on it.

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    Thank you very much for your answer. Some clarifications: 1. This grade 9/10 was the average of the entire undergraduation not only one class 2. I studied in one university mathematics and psychology in another, they were completely independent 3. My lack of focus was because I was split in two branches, of course studying for a Phd (I would let mathematics aside) it would be a completely different story – user26832 Jan 16 at 16:01
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    I think this is a very unfair assessment/interpretation of what was asked and provided. The person in question was busy with an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and then did a Masters degree. I'm not sure where @user26832 is studying but where I am from, that process would take 6 years. It was also stated explicitly that she/he was attempting to do the Psychology degree at the same time as the full-time second degree with extra TA responsibilities. It was also stated that she paused the Psychology degree (not the Mathematics) for a few years in between. – LnZ Jan 17 at 9:40
  • The average of the whole course was a 9/10 and not just one class. That is remarkable considering that she/he would have been completing the course in the spare time she/he had available. So, considering the Mathematics track is 6 years and the Psychology full-time track is 6 years and the poster said he/she had to pause for a few years, it isn't as bad as you have made it out to be in the response. – LnZ Jan 17 at 9:41

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