Graduate school admissions and age

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I will be starting a PhD (if all goes well) at the age of 26. I know this is not much older than the average, but how much do graduate admissions (particularly at top programs) see students that did not have the standard "4 year bachelors out of high school to PhD" route? For some reason I have the feeling that the prestigious programs will use anything they can find to reject an applicant. I had to drop out of university due to documented personal circumstances for a few years. Since returning I have racked up a very strong application all worried but I am worried that my "nontraditional" status will hurt my chances.
 
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Vanadium 50
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For some reason I have the feeling that the prestigious programs will use anything they can find to reject an applicant.

If you believe things without evidence, you will not make a good scientist.

I know someone who entered grad schools in his 50's. Had a productive - albeit short - career.
 
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I don't have such an extreme example, but honestly it isn't uncommon to see someone in later 20s entering graduate school.

Now, it is true that programs can and will ask what you were doing in the time in between, and at times will rule you out in favor of an applicant perceived (though not necessarily truly) less risky, something I can say explicitly comes from people who do admissions at prestigious programs.

You're right that some professors are biased about these things, though ultimately some subjectivity is quite inherent to the process. It is definitely untrue that people your age do not get accepted to the most prestigious programs enough that you should be unduly worried. Make sure your application has no holes in terms of explaining what you have done with your time.
 

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