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Correlation between School Reputation and Age

  1. Jun 9, 2010 #1
    I've been looking at some of the more prestigious graduate programs in physics and I've noticed in photographs that all of the grad students look very young. On the Princeton website, I couldn't spot one that looked over 25.

    Is it fair to say that more prestigious institutions tend to avoid older students in their grad programs?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2010 #2
    There aren't a lot of graduate schools *anywhere* that are filled with students in their 40's, or even 30's. The vast majority of graduate students are in their early 20's.

    EDIT: Well, they *start* in their early 20's... :-)
  4. Jun 10, 2010 #3
    But we're not talking about "filled"... we're talking about the presence of a few.
  5. Jun 10, 2010 #4
    Well normally, a person completes his Bachelor in like 4 years in America/Canada? Then grad school is like another 4 years?

    Assuming the person enters first-year undergrad at 18, he would have graduated at like 26 par say?
  6. Jun 10, 2010 #5
    Sure, a lot of students follow that path. But that's not related to my topic.
  7. Jun 10, 2010 #6
    You said couldn't spot one over 26, and given that, most people that follow that path graduate at around 25. So didn't it answered part of your question? As for your other question about age rejection, I think that is totally false.

    That's almost like saying "because you are a woman, you cannot get into grad school".
  8. Jun 10, 2010 #7
    I said I couldn't spot one over 25 at Princeton. I can spot a few in their 30's and later at other less reputable schools. My question was simply, "Do more selective schools tend to avoid older individuals more so than less selective schools?"
  9. Jun 10, 2010 #8
    The 'good' schools that I have experience with certainly wouldn't avoid older individuals. It's about the best candidate for the research project. Post-graduate work is of finite time, so I don't see why universities would necessarily benefit from choosing younger students. In some areas that I have a bit of experience with, being older and having a bit of work experience is actually an advantage.

    That all said, it might be something that just depends on the type of research you're looking at. It's possible that certain things 'appeal' less to older individuals. People that might have completed their undergraduate years ago might not feel comfortable enough with particular research projects from lack of practice or what-have-you. Fields that cross-over with engineering I feel lend themselves to recruiting more experienced individuals.
  10. Jun 10, 2010 #9


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    How can you tell from a photograph if someone is over or under twenty five?

    Or could it be that older graduate students have more important things to do than posing for photographs (like finishing a thesis for example)?

    I don't think there's much point in debating this unless someone has some solid data.
  11. Jun 10, 2010 #10
    If and when I start graduate school, I'll be in my late twenties.
  12. Jun 10, 2010 #11
    My hypothesis would be that older students applying to graduate programs will tend to have weaker letters of recommendation, since their professors will not remember them as well. Or, letters will come from their boss, or something like that. In either case, this will put them at a disadvantage in the application process. Since letters of recommendation are extremely important in the application process, this would probably make it very difficult for older students to be accepted to 'top' schools.
  13. Jun 10, 2010 #12
    Or, it could be that older students are less brainwashed into thinking "highly ranked" schools are much better...?

    I agree that we are speculating on a question with no real data.
  14. Jun 10, 2010 #13
    Nothing wrong with that as long as you're honest about your lack of data.
  15. Jun 10, 2010 #14
    And there's nothing wrong with speculation. Data corroborates inductive reasoning and intuition or it doesn't.
  16. Jun 10, 2010 #15
    Yeah, that's what I said..."there's nothing wrong with speculation"
  17. Jun 10, 2010 #16
    In my rapid reading, I thought you were saying it's okay to have a lack of data.
  18. Jun 11, 2010 #17
    Just to throw more ideas out there, these older students could be making more practical decisions, have family responsibilities, or less geographical flexibility. Or maybe older students prefer to attend places where they will find a higher proportion of older students.
  19. Jun 11, 2010 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    Except that here we are speculating about the data, and speculating about an explanation for this "data". This seems to me overly speculative.

    What data do we have? - one set of pictures at one universities, and one person's opinion of student's ages based on this. Does it make sense to come up with elaborate theories complete with suggestions and innuendo about discrimination based on this?
  20. Jun 11, 2010 #19
  21. Jun 11, 2010 #20
    A very good point.
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