I'm a math student in a Latin American country and I'm 31 years old. Next year I'll be starting my PhD, here, in my country. I have to say that the complete program, equivalent to a Bachelor plus Master, took me 7/8 years to complete. This was partly because I've taught a lot, working as a TA(paid positions won by contest).

My final dissertation included no original work, maybe the exposition of the topics, but no new results nor published work. Nevertheless , I'd call myself a pretty decent student. I usually recieve encouraging feedback from professors and I also have a very high GPA.

Recently, I've been considering the possibility of doing my PhD abroad, in a good school if possible, not necessarily top ranked. I wonder what my chances are of being able to do that. Are my expectations real or am I too weak for such things? Also, I think that it might be possible to get some short research/collaboration stays, say a semester or so, within the context of my PhD here. How possible is this for someone with my background?

One last possibility is switching schools in the middle of the PhD. Like, starting here, doing some progress and then moving elsewhere. I know two students who did that but they had great backgrounds. Is this possible for someone like me? I mean keeping it real, assuming decent PhD work but not assuming an extraordinary output.


It is not easy to answer your question, since it is not clear what is your goal (e.g. what you mean by a "good" school), and what is your current situation (e.g. research expertise and area).

If by a "good" school you mean a University in US or Western Europe, then you probably know that there is a really strong competition there. You should carefully evaluate your personal strengths and play on them if you want to be admitted. Your current age will not be seen as disadvantage (but perhaps will not be seen as advantage either). However, you slow progress through your degrees may raise questions. Your potential supervisors want to choose a candidate who is likely to complete the project in time. You had to spend a lot of time doing TA's in your country, which slowed your progress - how can you ensure this will not happen with your PhD program?

Another important factor is your research field and research expertise. You don't have published papers, which is usually a disadvantage for PhD admissions. You will have to provide a sample of your academic writing - do you already have it? What about your research area (educational background) - is it modern and currently developing with a huge demand for specialists, or is it classical, well-established, and producing a lot of unemployed PhD's every year?

Lastly, your consider jumping a ship in a middle of your PhD program. How do you think you current School will like it? They invested resources in someone, who took them and left them for a better place. If the only reason for doing this is your personal comfort, then the decision you consider is (in my opinion) very non-ethical. I would not personally consider hiring someone as a PhD candidate if I am not sure they are committed to work to completion. Please, realise that our resources (time and money) in academia are extremely tight - don't waste them for your own joy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.