Is it too late to go to grad school?
Of course not! A good number of people well over the middle age have expressed their desire to pick up schooling from where they stopped. It’s also unsurprising to see 50-year olds enroll for bachelor’s degrees. Some others who may be even older opt for advanced degrees like master’s or Ph.D in a grad school.
The attitude and perception about non-traditional students have also evolved over the years. Such that those in the category, which has been stretched to also include much older adults. They now return to college and grad school even after they have retired.
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The reason the older folks decide to go back to school varies widely. For some, it gives them a sense of accomplishment to break the norm. Some others want to cross off a goal from their life list.
We can thank the dynamism of the economy and an increase in life span for being major contributors to why Grandpa Joe is pursuing an LL.M.
A good number of people think college is being wasted on the young ones. In their opinion, which we think is valid, the fact that one has had a lifetime of experience is enough setting and context to learn and be able to interpret class materials.
So, in the light of the greying that undergraduate and graduate programs have experienced over the years, we will say to the older folks “It is never too late to go to grad school”.
However, you shouldn’t throw caution to the wind just because. There are a few things to consider before you go ahead with your study plans and the applications that lead up to executing those plans.
Firstly, are the graduate programs willing to accept you in spite of your age? What’s the best approach to applying to grad school being an older adult? Should your age be addressed in your application? These are questions for which you need answers before you start sending in your applications.
Let’s Talk About “the Age”
Technically, it’s never too late to go to grad school. However, there something you should know. Some say that employers, like graduate programs, do not and should not reject applicants on the basis of age. We know that’s the ideal thing, right? But does this statement hold true in reality? To say most or all schools consider the applicant’s age before giving considerations will be rather sweeping and untrue. However, we can’t ignore the fact that some programs are big on age even if they don’t state it expressly. Then again, because there are different aspects of an application, it is almost impossible to tell why an applicant is rejected.
How About Being Qualified?
Now we’ve agreed it’s not too late to go to grad school, let’s talk about other important things.
How can you be qualified for grad school?
Fields like the science-related ones are usually very competitive and such programmes have relatively low acceptance rates. More so, the admissions committee would want to get as much information about applicants’ postgraduate plans as they can get before they offer such applicants an admission. The aim of this is to help the programs achieve their goal to mold the students into leaders and experts within their field.
Also, advisors want to work with students who would follow the trail they have blazed. They want people who can do more or improve on what they have done. In essence, they will be on the lookout for applicants who can follow in their footsteps well enough.
These may be difficult to achieve with older adults because their goals differ significantly from the goals of the admissions committee and the program advisors. In fact, most post-retirement applicants usually have no intentions of going into the workforce. So they pursue more education as an end to itself.
However, this is not to say that having a penchant for learning and growing in knowledge is not enough to secure a place in a graduate school. Generally, graduate programs are all out for the motivated and diligent student. Then again, the competitive ones will rather have students who have long-term career goals that suit their own idea of an ideal student.
What to do? Go after programs that suit your interests and desires.
PS: This holds true for all grad programs irrespective of the applicant’s age.
Basic Requirements for a Grad School
If you’ve put finality to your decision to go to grad school, your next step will be to examine the requirements for the graduate programs you have selected carefully. Check out the majors, the coursework you need, and anything about experiences that are clearly stated.
You also want to be sure you have what they are asking you for. This is why you need to evaluate your skillset and your background. If there’s something they are asking you for that you don’t have, can you get it in order to boost your application? It could be a course or a volunteer experience. So, you can ask a professor for a chance to volunteer. Many won’t turn down an extra pair of eyes and hands to get their work done easier and faster.
Here are two of the common requirements you should take note of:
Graduate programs may ask for scores on standardized tests. So you should look out for the tests they are particular about and see if you have valid scores that meet the minimum score requirements. For instance, if the school asked for GRE scores, you want to be sure your scores are not older than 5 years.
And if they are older than that or you haven’t if taken the test or the valid scores you have don’t meet up with the minimum score, then you need to register for and schedule a test bearing in mind the admission deadlines.
One reason you should take scores like the GRE scores seriously is that, if there’s a wide gap in your education especially if you are applying after several years, then your scores will be very important to secure a spot because the admissions committee want to be sure that you will thrive well in grad school.
Other tests for which scores are requested are GMAT, TOEFL, or IELTS; where TOEFL and IELTS are English language proficiency tests that you must take especially if you are a non-native speaker.
If you graduated several years ago you are likely to have a wide range of options with recommendation letters. However, you should try to get one from someone who can recommend you academically. It doesn’t matter how long since you left college. You can go back to your faculty and still be able to get a recommendation letter from someone.
Except you were stellar, whoever you meet may not recognise you or remember you but you can rest assured the University will have a record of your grades. Then again, if you just took a class, then you can request a recommendation from the professor.
Also, your recent employers will be good candidates from which you can request a recommendation because they are able to give a current perspective of what your skills and abilities are.
Meeting the Admissions Committee in a Grad School
Even though we have implicitly and expressly stated here that there’s really no age barrier to pursuing a graduate program, we advise you to consider what to say to the selection committee. This will hinge on what you should say in your essays and personal statements. In reality, what to say is not so different from what a traditional student will say.
So, how do you go about it?
First and foremost, be honest! We really didn’t need to mention this because we know you already know that your integrity matters before the selection panel. However, you shouldn’t focus too much on your age. No ramblings and don’t throw a pity party. Ensure you focus on what I required of you in your essays. Typically, you will need to discuss the reasons for which you are seeking admission and how your experiences have prepared and supported your dreams and aspirations.
A clear reason for pursuing a graduate program may include your passion for knowledge and research or a desire for knowledge in order to help others. There’s the story of a 57-year old man who decided to pursue an LL.B because he wanted a professional approach to helping people solve legal problems.
Of course, as you shell out your experiences in your essay, you will begin to reveal your age as it reflects in the decades of experience you have and would have mentioned.
What’s also important to note is the fact that graduate programs want to be able to tell that a certain applicant displays the right amount of motivation to finish the program because starting out in a graduate program, as with many life feats and endeavour, is easier than actually finishing. So you should be able to supply examples and illustrations that clearly show your ability to finish the program.
No Jokes! Let’s Be Real
We can’t overemphasize the need to consider this decision before you get into it. Grad school is not a glam place and it is certainly not fun and games. It is some work! Although it’s not too late to go to grad school, you have to be ready to do the work. You could get broke if you are not financially cushioned. And so if you have the opportunity to take on a teaching or a research assistantship, please do! It will be great if you can also get funding from scholarships.
The issue becomes a laughable one when you think you can support your family with stipends from assistantships or the like. If you are a family person, then you must consider how you intend to take care of your family while you are in school bearing in mind that grad school also demands your time.
Think properly through this decision now in order for you to be prepared later. Nonetheless, there are quite a number of students who have been able to successfully live a work-study life. So, you may want to consider taking a job for this reason.
Do we still need to say that there’s no age barrier to going to grad school? It’s not too late to go to grad school. So, go and grab that additional degree now!