Going back to grad school after having finished all classes

In summary, you would need to contact the department admin at your old school to see if your classes have expired and whether you would need to take any additional steps.
  • #1
danbmurphy
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I was in graduate school for an Applied Physics PhD program for 3 years, where I got my Master's and took all the required classes for the PhD. I left because I wanted to try my hand at teaching, and I LOVED it. Now I am 34 years old, and I am wondering if there is any possibility of going back to finish up the PhD. I suppose I fall under the category of "ABD" ("All But Dissertation"), seeing as I did all of the coursework.

Does anyone have any insight as to what I would need to do to return to grad school to finish my PhD?
 
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  • #2
danbmurphy said:
I was in graduate school for an Applied Physics PhD program for 3 years, where I got my Master's and took all the required classes for the PhD. I left because I wanted to try my hand at teaching, and I LOVED it. Now I am 34 years old, and I am wondering if there is any possibility of going back to finish up the PhD. I suppose I fall under the category of "ABD" ("All But Dissertation"), seeing as I did all of the coursework.

Does anyone have any insight as to what I would need to do to return to grad school to finish my PhD?
The rules depend on each individual school. I would contact the department admin where you were studying immediately to find out if your classes have expired.
 
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  • #3
I went back to graduate school at 33, after 5 years working. I was also ABD. I had to take the GRE's over agan, and of course get letters of recommendation, and apply etc. I got accepted at fewer universities than I expected based on my record, but I did get into one. PS My GRE scores actually improved.
 
  • #4
PS I was ABD, and passed the department qualifying exams at the first school, but I still had to take all the courses and the qualifying exams over again, after being admitted to the second one
 
  • #5
mpresic3 said:
PS I was ABD, and passed the department qualifying exams at the first school, but I still had to take all the courses and the qualifying exams over again, after being admitted to the second one
Ayayay, doing all the coursework again is really bad trouble.
In my country, at the university I attended I took all the coursework for MSc, but didn't finish writing my thesis so I got out without the degree.
Now I am trying my at a university where at least I can get my masters without a thesis.
It's a bit different than US where here the MSc is a degree within its own right, and not given for coursework only.
 
  • #6
danbmurphy said:
I was in graduate school for an Applied Physics PhD program for 3 years, where I got my Master's and took all the required classes for the PhD. I left because I wanted to try my hand at teaching, and I LOVED it. Now I am 34 years old, and I am wondering if there is any possibility of going back to finish up the PhD. I suppose I fall under the category of "ABD" ("All But Dissertation"), seeing as I did all of the coursework.

Does anyone have any insight as to what I would need to do to return to grad school to finish my PhD?
Is it that you just did the PhD coursework?
or did you also begin research with an advisor and make progress towards the completion of a dissertation?
[For a while. I was ABD (with the dissertation write-up in progress) because I took some faculty positions (and because I felt I needed to do more for my dissertation).]

[Assuming you are moving to a new institution...]
I would think that you would need reference letters and transcripts.
If you get accepted somewhere and feel adequately prepared and
have a chance to taking a PhD-qualifying exam (possibly a "free shot" [no penalty if you mess up] when just starting), take the exam.

When I moved to a different institution after my MS to do a PhD (without interruption),
I took that exam before I did any classwork at the new school.
Many of my courses from my first institution satisfied the course requirements of my new institution.

Or are you trying to return to your PhD-institution?
 
  • #7
Usually, the courses expire after 5 years. In my case, I was able to to get waivers for 2-3 courses, the physics courses I took throughout my work career through my employer. This was a lucky break. Even with taking the courses more recently, it was still past the 5 year expiration, but my grad school allowed them. I think it was clear to them that I was intent on a lifetime of study because when I ran out of physics course to study, I got my employer to fund aerospace engineering courses in linear and optimal control.

My mathematics was not stale. I talked to professors at the graduate school to convince them I was a good risk. I had a genuine interest in their research and convinced them I could contribute to their research (Sometimes I am astounded by how much trouble can get myself into).

All the late night study sessions I was in for etc. In the long run as I said, I was able to waive 2 or 3 courses out of about 6 core courses, and 4 or so elective that were not waived

I still had to take qualifiers again, and get letters of recommendations and statements of intent. It was quite a. hassle. Sometimes, I do not know if it was worth it.
 
  • #8
mpresic3 said:
Usually, the courses expire after 5 years. In my case, I was able to to get waivers for 2-3 courses, the physics courses I took throughout my work career through my employer. This was a lucky break. Even with taking the courses more recently, it was still past the 5 year expiration, but my grad school allowed them. I think it was clear to them that I was intent on a lifetime of study because when I ran out of physics course to study, I got my employer to fund aerospace engineering courses in linear and optimal control.

My mathematics was not stale. I talked to professors at the graduate school to convince them I was a good risk. I had a genuine interest in their research and convinced them I could contribute to their research (Sometimes I am astounded by how much trouble can get myself into).

All the late night study sessions I was in for etc. In the long run as I said, I was able to waive 2 or 3 courses out of about 6 core courses, and 4 or so elective that were not waived

I still had to take qualifiers again, and get letters of recommendations and statements of intent. It was quite a. hassle. Sometimes, I do not know if it was worth it.
See that final part in bold? What would or could you have done, instead?

I find the part at the beginning which I put into italics, to be interesting, and in many ways, I believe that too. Institutions may often put a restriction on you. If you have course credit for some course, you may be prohibited from enrolling in it (again or there). I asked about this regarding some Mathematics courses, and I was plainly told, I would not be allowed to enroll, because I already have that course credit, even after 20 to 25 years since. ( I think grade C or better was "already passed the course so cannot enroll again").
 
  • #9
I think there is a huge difference between continuing with the same university you started versus a new one, and also, as previously mentioned, whether you had started a thesis. I can share an anecdote related to Tufts University (US). I have a friend who left there ABD, having started her thesis, to take a great job opportunity in Europe. She kept in touch with her department every several years, changed thesis topic several times, but 30 years later eventually got her Phd from the same department. She never repeated any coursework, but did have to visit the department a number of times, and finally do a long visit for thesis defense. (She never left her Europe job until retirement).
 
  • #10
Usually, the courses expire after 5 years. In my case, I was able to to get waivers for 2-3 courses, the physics courses I took throughout my work career through my employer. This was a lucky break. Even with taking the courses more recently, it was still past the 5 year expiration, but my grad school allowed them. I think it was clear to them that I was intent on a lifetime of study because when I ran out of physics course to study, I got my employer to fund aerospace engineering courses in linear and optimal control. My mathematics was not stale. I talked to professors at the graduate school to convince them I was a good risk. (Sometimes I am astounded by how much trouble can get myself into.

I still had to take qualifiers again, and get recommendations, and letters of recommendations. It was quite a. hassle. SometimeBBcode Guides, I do not know if it was worth it.
 
  • #11
mpresic3 said:
Usually, the courses expire after 5 years. In my case, I was able to to get waivers for 2-3 courses, the physics courses I took throughout my work career through my employer. This was a lucky break. Even with taking the courses more recently, it was still past the 5 year expiration, but my grad school allowed them. I think it was clear to them that I was intent on a lifetime of study because when I ran out of physics course to study, I got my employer to fund aerospace engineering courses in linear and optimal control. My mathematics was not stale. I talked to professors at the graduate school to convince them I was a good risk. (Sometimes I am astounded by how much trouble can get myself into.

I still had to take qualifiers again, and get recommendations, and letters of recommendations. It was quite a. hassle. SometimeBBcode Guides, I do not know if it was worth it.
symbolipoint said:
See that final part in bold? What would or could you have done, instead?

I find the part at the beginning which I put into italics, to be interesting, and in many ways, I believe that too. Institutions may often put a restriction on you. If you have course credit for some course, you may be prohibited from enrolling in it (again or there). I asked about this regarding some Mathematics courses, and I was plainly told, I would not be allowed to enroll, because I already have that course credit, even after 20 to 25 years since. ( I think grade C or better was "already passed the course so cannot enroll again").

What could I have done instead?

Stayed in my job. As you can see from my post, they treated me pretty well in allowing me to take all those post graduate classes. Also I would have enjoyed a good salary. Maybe more opportunities for marriage, (I was > 20 years older than the typical grad student colleague). Bought a good house. Spent more time with family (sisters and brothers) in holidays and friends. Who knows, about the road not taken?I never heard of a being accepted at a grad school and having them refuse to allow you to take classes that you took over 5 years ago, and telling you at the same time your courses are expired. It seems like if they did tell you that, your options are limited. You cannot take the classes to fulfill your degree, and your course you have already taken will not count towards your degree. What do they suggest you do?
 
  • #12
mpresic3 said:
I never heard of a being accepted at a grad school and having them refuse to allow you to take classes that you took over 5 years ago, and telling you at the same time your courses are expired. It seems like if they did tell you that, your options are limited. You cannot take the classes to fulfill your degree, and your course you have already taken will not count towards your degree. What do they suggest you do?
My own situation was not related to graduate school. The time had been maybe 20 years since graduating with undergrad degree, I visited a previously attended community college, I had interest in reviving some Mathematics knowledge, asked either at the department or the c.c. counseling office about re-enrolling in a formerly taken-and-passed Mathematics course, and was told I would be prohibited from enrolling into a course in which I already earned good credit.
 
  • #13
Now I understand. Apparently, the cc counselling office considers your performance satisfactory. Maybe they feel your time is better served enrolling in a different area, or taking more advanced classes in math in a program at a 4-year university/college. It can be taken as a compliment. However, I can also see a downside if you wanted to enroll in advanced classes in math at a 4 year college, and at the same time, the college would not let you enroll without the prerequisites and also would not allow you to obtain the prerequisites.

I have twice (I consider two for two as often) found I could go to the professor teaching the course and he/she would allow me to take the course, although I did not have the formal prerequisites. Both times I got a passing grade although once, I got a B- in the grad course, taking the second semester of a course, when I had an earlier first semester of the course waived. (The professor advised against it, and ultimately he was right. I know I could have done better if I had the first semester.)

I should also make clear in an earlier post, that having the course waived did not mean I did not have to take as many courses altogether. It just meant for example, having classical mechanics waived, I did not have to take classical mechanics. I still had to take a physics course in its place, to meet the course requirement, I think it was 30-45 credit hours over 5 years. In light of this, maybe it is better to forget about petitioning to waive the course, and just take the course over again, if the department agrees it is the best thing.
 

Related to Going back to grad school after having finished all classes

1. What are the benefits of going back to grad school after finishing all classes?

There are several benefits to returning to grad school after completing all classes. These include:

  • Specialization: Grad school allows you to specialize in a specific field or topic, which can make you more competitive in the job market.
  • Networking: Grad school provides opportunities to network with professors, professionals, and other students in your field.
  • Advanced learning: You will have the chance to delve deeper into your chosen subject and gain advanced knowledge and skills.
  • Career advancement: A graduate degree can open up new career opportunities and potentially lead to higher salaries.
  • Personal growth: Going back to grad school can be a fulfilling and enriching experience, allowing you to challenge yourself and expand your horizons.

2. Can I go back to grad school after a long break from academia?

Yes, it is possible to return to grad school after a long break from academia. Many universities offer programs specifically designed for non-traditional students, and there are a variety of resources available to help you adjust to academic life again. Additionally, your previous work experience may even give you an advantage in certain programs.

3. Will my previous coursework still be relevant if I go back to grad school?

It depends on the program and your previous coursework. Some programs may allow you to transfer previous credits, while others may require you to retake certain courses. If you are returning to grad school in the same field, your previous coursework may still be relevant and can give you a strong foundation for further study. However, if you are changing fields, you may need to take additional prerequisite courses.

4. How can I balance work and grad school?

Balancing work and grad school can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Many students successfully manage both by creating a schedule and prioritizing their time. You may need to make sacrifices in terms of social activities or hobbies, but remember that your graduate degree is an investment in your future. Additionally, some employers may offer flexible schedules or tuition assistance to help you manage both.

5. Is it worth it to go back to grad school financially?

The answer to this question will vary depending on your individual circumstances. While grad school can be expensive, it can also lead to higher salaries and career advancement. It is important to consider the return on investment and weigh the potential financial benefits against the cost of tuition and other expenses. You may also want to research scholarship and funding opportunities to help offset the cost of grad school.

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