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Is it too old to do a PhD in Physics at 21 ?

  1. Feb 21, 2015 #1
    I recently moved back to the UK, but since I haven't been in the UK for the past 3 years, I will have to wait for 3 years to do an undergraduate degree. What's even more, my high school diploma, which is from Egypt, is not accepted to be equivalent to the British A-Levels, and so I am doing A levels at the moment. However, by the time I can apply to universities, I will be 20 or 21 depending on certain circumstances. Do you think my age will affect my chances if I apply to top universities? From a general perspective, do you think I will be expected to be better than the average 18 year old applicant, since I had two more years to be better or something?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    No it's not too old and actually it's never too old.

    The real question is how much math do you have under your belt for physics?

    If you get a BS and then wait ten years before going to grad school then you'll have to recover your math edge, a problem younger BS students fresh from the undergrad won't have to do,
  4. Feb 21, 2015 #3
    I have been recently reading Poole's linear algebra and Larson's calculus. My math skills are alright. + I am doing an A-Level in mathematics at the moment, and even if I do take a gap year, I will be doing a Further maths A-Level.
  5. Feb 21, 2015 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    So if you're doing okay then talk with your advisors about your plans and they can provide more accurate information about getting into a top flight school. Even if they say no then still apply because you can't win if you don't play the game.
  6. Feb 21, 2015 #5
    Here people are 19 or 20 when they start their 5 year road to an MSc. Throw in a year delay and the average student is 27 when they start their PhD. Donno what you are thinking.
  7. Feb 21, 2015 #6
    Where exactly is here?
  8. Feb 21, 2015 #7


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    Plenty of students start a PhD later than that. I'm 28 and in my sophomore year of undergrad. I'll be starting a PhD when I'm 30 or so.
  9. Feb 22, 2015 #8

    Netherlands. Ok, there are also people that are 18 and have no delay. It's a 3 year BSc and a two year MSc then a 4 year job as a research assistant/teaching assistant while you do your PhD research. Maybe you have to say that they are 21-23 when they enter grad school.

    Just confused that you think you are way too old at 20 to start a PhD. If you had typed '23' I would be 90% sure you had meant '32'.
  10. Feb 25, 2015 #9
    I hope not, I'm in my early 30s and in my first year of physics grad school.
  11. Feb 26, 2015 #10
    21-22 is when most people start physics PhD's seeing as how they graduate undegrad by then, most physicists are NOT a Julian Schwinger who finish their PhD's at age 21 and are doing pioneering work by age 25.
  12. Feb 26, 2015 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think he meant starting his undergrad at 21, and then progress to a PhD.
  13. Feb 26, 2015 #12
    how I envy the young, yes you :wink:

    I have 5 years of study to do before I can even think of school then it's 12 years of school :eek:
  14. Feb 26, 2015 #13
    I've heard a lot of people talk about how math and physics are a young person's game. They say this because typically the people who make grand innovations in our understanding of their fields do so before they're 30. But, there's plenty of people who are well into their 70's who are still doing great science and making progress in their fields. And 21 is definitely still a safe bet. If you were 35 as a first year undergrad and had to worry about holding a job while you work and kids and all the mess that comes with that age, you might have a problem. but even then a responsible person could still do it.

    TLDR; You'll be fine :D
  15. Feb 26, 2015 #14


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    A 21 year old is a child in a man's body.

    There is no age limit to getting an advanced degree. If you were 60 I would say go for it. If you were 80 I would say go for it.

    Contrary to younger peoples beliefs, you aren't actually dead past the age of 30. In fact I went back for my bachelors degree at that age.
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