Accepting Older Grad. Student

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Would you guys be hesitant in accepting as your graduate student someone who is ten to fifteen years older than you?  Do you foresee any problems working with such a student?  For me right now, I'm just wondering if I would be doing this student any injustice in accepting them given the bad job market for PhDs.  The student will be in his/her mid fiftees by the time they complete the degree.  I'm thinking of all the loans and the time and aggravation and I'm wondering if the student wouldn't be better off just remaining in their current career.

HD:  how much do you really know about this student?  Do you know what his/her motivation is for the graduate degree?  Do you know for sure that he/she would be required to take out loans?  It has been my experience that older adults are taking advantage of the second career or for personal satisfaction.  Perhaps the opportunity to pursue the PhD. was not available to him/her while he/she was younger.  The only thing that you can do is to make him/her fully aware of the expense and job market situation.  It is not like you are dealing with someone who is in their twenties and is naive about the future.

For what it's worth, I know two older graduate students.  My husband is 43 and is a Masters Student in a field straddling science and humanities.  He is on track to finish his masters in the next year and proceed onto the PhD level.  He is flexible in what he plans to do with it as a career when he finishes (teaching or government work or private sector, which are all possible for his field).

For him, he had a long Bachelors degree path due to a combination of a traumatic event and a snafu with his financial aid, which caused him to stop doing school and work full time in IT.  The money was there, and life was busy, and so he stayed in that field for 15 years, until we met, and he realized IT had stopped being fun around year 10.  His going back to school has made him happier than just about anything outside our marriage.  He does realize his age might be a factor, but its something he is willing to risk.  He also gets along famously with his advisor, who is only slightly older than he is.

The other person also put her graduate plans on hold for life reasons (in her case a marriage).  When that marriage ended suddenly and surprisingly, she also found that going back for her graduate degrees gave her a lot of the fulfillment she found she was missing when she looked back on her time in her marriage.

Both of them are hardworking, exceptionally talented students, often with interesting life skills to bring to the table.  I would not discount someone who otherwise has the skill and the credentials, on age alone.

You can't make decisions for other people.

Refusing to work with someone because you believe it's in their best interest seems like the greater injustice to me.  It's also really condescending.

Thank heavens that my advisor did not feel this way -- or that he kept it to himself and supported me all the way.


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