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Am I too old to be starting from the bottom?

  1. Feb 15, 2009 #1
    Hello all, I've been a lurker on these forums for quite a while now. I appreciate all the info I've scavenged from many of you.
    Let me give you a bit of background on myself:

    My teen years were a disaster. I won't get into why, but I was not a good kid. I rarely went to school and wound up dropping out Junior year. I did get excellent grades when I went, though. I got my GED and got accepted into an electrician apprenticeship at 18, right around the time I met my current wife.
    My wife got accepted to University of Chicago and we moved near the campus. I supported her while she did her undergrad ( major was biology/ pre-med). The plan was for me to support her through school, and when she made enough money I would then go to school. Well I kinda messed that up, too, by getting her pregnant. (although it wound up being the best thing that ever happened to me. I love my son more than anything) Anyways, she decided having a kid and going to med school wasn't going to work, so after getting her undergrad she entered nursing with the plan of eventually becoming a CRNA ( nurse anesthetist).

    She's now a few years out from becoming a CRNA, and being able to support our current lifestyle. I'm pulling my hair out waiting for my chance to go to school. I do good financially as an electrician (80 - 90k a year depending on overtime) but I detest my job. It's really not a bad job, it's just that it's not interesting at all and I don't use my head at all. I want to feel like I'm really using my god-given abilities and contribute even a little something to the world. My son is old enough now that I have free time at nights so I've finally started taking classes part-time at night. (online classes at a community college).
    It's laughable, but I'm 29 and taking Comp I and Pre-Calc. I've got to start somewhere. I was a bit unsure how I would handle going back to school after so many years, but I'm easily getting A's in these classes and I'm really enjoying myself. I know that a few years from now, I'll be able to leave my current job and go to school full-time, but I still feel like I'm just treading water and getting too old. I'm already 10 years behind schedule.
    My passion has always been astronomy/astrophysics, but I'm also realistic. I may be overrating how smart I am, and I realize I might not have what it takes to go that far in my education. My aim, though, will be astrophysics, and I'll take it wherever it leads me, whether that be getting a BS in physics and landing a job in a related field or whatever. I also wonder if my 10 years of being an electrician would make me a natural fit for engineering, but again my true passion is astrophysics.
    Truth is, ten years ago there's no way I would have been able to buckle down and study hard in school. But I've developed an incredible work ethic, and I have clear goals now. I certainly know what I DON'T want to do for the rest of my life.

    So my questions are:

    Am I too old to be starting from scratch in this field? Even if in a few years I should have complete financial freedom? Are there any other success stories like this out there, where someone has started school this late? I'll have the added benefit of getting a job and education for what I enjoy, rather than worrying about the salary.

    Also, I've been told that If I do well in my junior college classes then 4 year universities won't even look at my high school grades. Is this true?

    And this might not be the best spot to ask this, but do you think it's unfair of me to ask my wife to downsize our current home and expenses so I can cut back on hours at work and pick up more classes right away? After all, I did support her financially for most of the past ten years.

    Thanks for your time. I know this is pretty long-winded and a bit personal, but I respect the opinions of many of you on this board.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 16, 2009 #2
    How much cash have you got saved up right now ? The reason I ask is maybe you should save up a bunch of money and quit your job while you bust your *** in school. You probably don't need to save up since your wife will probably help you out, but it would reduce the burden on her.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2009
  4. Feb 16, 2009 #3
    Well, in my mind, if it takes you to change your path to be happy, then you've got to change your path, no matter how old you are. I've definitely known some older guys (late twenties to mid thirties) in my aerospace engineering courses and they were pretty much the same as everybody else. At first it seemed a little weird they were a lot older, but after having 3-4 classes with those guys, they were just as cool (and capable) as anybody else. Go for it!
  5. Feb 16, 2009 #4


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    I don't believe you are too old...I see a few 40+ year olds floating around my campus. Also my dad is going to go to university after he is retired (he is an accomplished business man btw) Also did you know bill gates went back and got his degree a few years ago?
  6. Feb 16, 2009 #5


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    In the UK the rule is "If you are age 25 or over any academic achievemnts attained prior to age 21 can not be considered". They place alot of value in the experience mature students have; your 10 years as an Electrician should be of great worth in admissions.

    All relatively old bastards share your worries (me included) - you are definitely not too old.
  7. Feb 16, 2009 #6
    I reckon that you don't need to worry about being too old and that if you are confident enough, i say go ahead and do it. Its like they say, better late than never.
  8. Feb 16, 2009 #7
    Thanks guys. I guess I was just picturing myself being almost 40 when I get a degree and having trouble competing against people 10 years younger than me. But in reality, I'm not going to worry about how good of a job I can get. I think I'll just be happy if I can get a job in the field or a related field.
  9. Feb 16, 2009 #8
    Not a whole lot, unfortunately. We made a bad decision and bought a big house a few years back. That's why I want to admit my mistake, and downsize, but my wife loves our house.
  10. Feb 16, 2009 #9
    That's a good policy. I hope US is the same way. I've always felt that too many important things in your adult life hinge on those few years when you're a teenager. Many teenagers go through some rough times and are incredibly irresponsible, and then screw themselves later on in life.
  11. Feb 16, 2009 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    Well, you're going to be 40 one way or the other. Would you rather it be with a degree or without one?
  12. Feb 16, 2009 #11
    Just to clarify, a nurse anesthetist is a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist), and a CNA is a Certified Nursing Assistant.
  13. Feb 16, 2009 #12
    No way are you too old man. I am in sort of the same position but only 23, I trust even ten years on I would still pursue this dream. Some of us are just too curious about our universe to be happy living a "normal" life. We only get a glimpse at this wondrous universe for a short time, it's never to late to explore it.
  14. Feb 16, 2009 #13
    Yes, my mistake. She'll be a CRNA. Surprisingly very good salary, too.
  15. Feb 16, 2009 #14


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    No surprise. It's getting very tough to recruit and retain people with medical specialties, especially in rural regions. People with specialized medical certifications are among the highest-paid folks around here.
  16. Feb 16, 2009 #15
    You are never too old to pursue your passion! I prefer being in class with older people as they are generally much more mature than many younger students :)

    Is your lack of confidence in your ability the only thing that would prevent you from going to grad school? If it is, well to my understanding you don't have to be a genius just a hard worker, something you appear to be. Good luck!
  17. Feb 16, 2009 #16
    I have a related question. What jobs are available in astronomy/astrophysics besides teaching, and what kind of credentials do you need for these jobs?
  18. Feb 16, 2009 #17


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    I have a young friend who is attending the University of Arizona. Their astronomy department is associated with world-class observatories, and they have fabrication facilities on-site to make sensors, huge mirrors, etc. If you go to a school like that you can figure out where your interests lie, specialize, and get the experience needed to keep working in the field. As a freshman, my friend was allowed to intern as an operator of the on-campus observatory, and to work on building a specialized sensor.
  19. Feb 16, 2009 #18
    SETI Baby!!
  20. Feb 16, 2009 #19


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    Exactly what I was going to say! Go for it, Latecomer, and don't look back.
  21. Feb 16, 2009 #20
    I say keep pushing and go for it!

    I'm in a similar position myself. I'm currently 26 years old. I dropped out of community college 8 years ago to work full time. In that time, I've been able to buy a house, and get a fairly decent job as a salesman, but it's extremely unfulfilling.

    So, I'm re-taking Calculus 2 (already got a B in it, 8 years ago), taking the first semester of calc-based physics now as well as some other things. I should be transferring to a 4 year college in Fall of 2010, and if I can manage the finances, get my B.S. degree in 2012. I'll be about 30 when I start grad school, if I make it that far. By the age of 37 or so, I'll be Dr. Jack.

    On one hand, I look around at the people in my classes and feel old. In my intro to Chemistry class, for example, I had this kid talking to me about wanting to fall asleep in class, as if that made him cool. On the other hand, I get a smug sense of self-satisfaction that I'm not living in mommy's basement and have more life experience.

    I suspect 6 years of sales experience will come in handy when trying to get into grad schools, even if just for any interviews, and navigating any interpersonal roadblocks that may come in the way.

    Anyway, we old folks need to keep pushing, and lets show these kids today how it's done! Huzzah!
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