PhD at 21

posted
27-Nov-08, 12:41
Avatar for Keep_Calm
posted about 12 years ago
Hi Guys,

I'm new around these parts so firstly, hello! I can't tell you how much reading all your posts has helped me in the past few days.
This is related to something I wrote in reply to Beave's thread the other day. I graduated this summer from uni and went straight into a PhD in October. Is anybody else in the same boat? I'm finding it so hard ignore the little demons in my head that say I'm not ready (even though I desperately want to do this), especially when I get the usual 'you're HOW old?!' from people in my department. :-s
Just wondering if there were other people who have experienced this and how they have got on?

Cheers folks
posted
27-Nov-08, 13:20
by A116
Avatar for A116
posted about 12 years ago
Hi,

I was 22 when I started mine so I did do an MSc first (if I remember correctly you didn't) but I look about 14/15.  No lie. It used to bother me when people commented on how young I looked.  Now, not so much. On the days when I'm meeting elites (people in positions of power) I dress formally etc to make me feel better.  Not suits but smart trousers and dresses etc. You could try this.

Don't let anyone make you feel that you're not ready for this.  Especially yourself! I am sick and tired of hearing people go on and on about how they really don't think people are mature enough in their very early twenties to be doing a PhD.  Just because it wasn't the right decision for them doesn't mean it's not the right decision for you. In fact both of my parents did their Further AND Higher education as mature students and I was old enough to remember them doing it.  I was strongly advised by them that if I wanted to do a PhD then now is the best time. Yes there are advantages to having spent years in "proper employment" but similarly, there are advantages to being a youngster.

Finally - you got into a PhD at 21.  That is an amazing accomplishment. You should be so very, very proud of yourself.

Congratulations.

A
posted
27-Nov-08, 13:48
edited about 20 seconds later
Avatar for scienceishard
posted about 12 years ago
Hi I did the same as you. Started at 21, I'm 23 now and in my third year. I'm getting on just fine. The only regret I have is that noone warned me how much the PhD would take over my life and how much I would have to sacrifice for it. Feel like the best years of my youth have been spent being stressed and anxious beyond anything I could imagine. Still, I think its worth it, there are advantages and disadvantages. Watch out for people thinking you are niave. When I started I was quite naive (which I put down to age and experience), and it didn't go down too well, so I learned to appear more confident and experienced even at times I felt out of my depth. I do feel a little bit like the PhD has aged me, but in a wisdom kind of way. I tend to bring a little immaturity to the department, but I think thats just fine, it would be boring if we were all the same. Our lab is mainly made up of people 30+, but there are a couple of 'youngsters'. I find everyone gets on just fine.
posted
27-Nov-08, 14:01
edited about 24 seconds later
by rexybug
Avatar for rexybug
posted about 12 years ago
Hi all!

I turned 23 last month, and started my 4 year PhD just before that, and I am getting a bit freaked out that I will be nearly 27 before completing it! That's if I do manage to write up within the three year period, and if I am honest, it is causing me to seriously consider if getting this PhD is going to be worth it in the end. I guess the reason I am writing, is just to say that you are in a great position to be able to get your PhD whilst you are still young enough to change directions if you want.
As for all the people that you feel are judging you, it doesn't really matter what age you are, lab politics, and what can only be described as the bitchiness of some people is something that most of us have to put up with for some reason or another! So keep your chin up, and be proud of the fact that you will have achieved so much!
posted
27-Nov-08, 14:25
Avatar for missspacey
posted about 12 years ago
Rexy, starting a PhD at 23 years old is fine and finishing at 27 is absolute fine too. I started mine at 25 and I'm over 30 now and still writing-up! Lots of people get their PhDs by 25/26, but most do not, and usually it's only scientists who finish that early because PhDs are completed within the 3 years (of course, there are exceptions to the rule).

Don't stress about your age.

posted
27-Nov-08, 14:52
edited about 27 seconds later
by Sim
Avatar for Sim
posted about 12 years ago
I'm the same as scienceishard (started at 21, now 23 in my third year).  I get the same sort of reaction from people because of my age. There have been times where i felt my inexperience and naivety have shown through. I found it easy to blame my age for this, but i eventually realised that EVERY PhD student has these moments, regardless of age. 

My conclusion? It's just as tough for me as it is for everyone else, my age has nothing to do with it. No one finds a PhD easy, and nothing can prepare you for it, no matter how old you are. You might be 21, but you're not the only one who feels like their not ready or out of their depth.
posted
27-Nov-08, 14:52
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for Keep_Calm
posted about 12 years ago
Thanks everybody for your replies.

I know deep down that what you say is right- there are advanatges and disadvantages of doing this at any age. The main positive thing about doing this so young is that I have no other real distractions in my life at the moment and its a time when I can be completely selfish and focus on myself. On the other hand, like you say, Scienceishard, it is also a big sacrifice to make. I've never had to handle stress and anxiety like this before and its hard to know if I'm emotionally ready. But I love my subject (most of the time!) and I've always known that this is what I wanted to do so if I can keep my head up high then I'm pretty sure I can get through it...I think...
For those who said that dressing professionally and acting confident would be a good idea, I agree. I've not had to meet many 'elites' yet, though, and as for supervision meetings etc I don't really want to go in suited and booted as my supervisor is pretty laid-back and I think it would seem a little odd. However, I might start wearing, as you say, shirts or smart dresses. I guess when I'm slouching around in jeans I really look young, which cant help.
A116, no I didn't do an MA, which gets some people's backs up, but like you I would still only be 22 even if I had. So besides deliberately going out and getting a job I didnt want just to waste time until I was an 'acceptable age' there's very little I can do about it really!
Just interested in what you say MissSpacey about it usually only being scientists who finish within the 3 years? I'm a literature student and am expected to finish within 3 years. Just wondering what you meant?
Thanks again, everybody.
posted
27-Nov-08, 15:14
by rexybug
Avatar for rexybug
posted about 12 years ago
Hi again,

The scientific disciplines generally have better funding than other areas (this isn't always the case, but most science PhD students are supported by a stipend of ~ £13,000 in the U.K) and because of this, as well as pressure to get publications and a competitive post doc, most scientific PhD's are meant to be completed within a three year period. As far as I understood, if you have to support yourself throughout our PhD without a stipend then uni's are generally a bit more lenient with the time frame of completion.

With regards to the age issue, I think one of my problems is the real lack of money as I start getting toward the age that mortgages etc become a real consideration. Is it not a temptation to transfer skills (which as a science student, seems to be in quite high demand) to a profession that would provide more security?
posted
27-Nov-08, 15:25
edited about 21 seconds later
by phdbug
Avatar for phdbug
posted about 12 years ago
Hi All,

Hmm...i did my Bachelors, and then two masters degrees, and still started my PhD at 23. this is in the social sciences. It has not only not been a problem, I am absolutely at par with all others..performance wise..
posted
27-Nov-08, 15:41
by Rosy
Avatar for Rosy
posted about 12 years ago
Quote From scienceishard:

Feel like the best years of my youth have been spent being stressed and anxious beyond anything I could imagine.


Those are not the best years, trust me... the best is yet to come and you will have your PhD out of the way you lucky thing!!! I have (or will have) spent almost my ENTIRE 20's in college - started at 21 and then went straight through to PhD - I will be 29 by the time I finish. Now THAT is wasting the best years of your youth ;-)
posted
27-Nov-08, 16:03
edited about 17 seconds later
Avatar for Keep_Calm
posted about 12 years ago
Quote From phdbug:

Hi All,



Hmm...i did my Bachelors, and then two masters degrees, and still started my PhD at 23. this is in the social sciences. It has not only not been a problem, I am absolutely at par with all others..performance wise..


I think I see what you're saying phdbug: that it is preferable to do the extra work AND start a PhD young?
The more I think about it though, the more I doubt whether, in my specific circumstances, a master's would have helped very much at all. I'm looking at quite an obtuse range of texts which I doubt would have been covered in sufficient depth in most master's courses to have been any use. In fact, I was accepted onto a master's course before I found out I had got this studentship, and there was only one module which covered the time period I am looking at, and its focus was entirely different to mine. I don't doubt that it would have helped broaden my general knowledge of literature, and possibly have prepared me for the written aspects, but I'm sure I would still have been facing largely the same problems as I am now had I done it. And at the end of the day there was quite a lot of competition for my place: I'm sure some of the other candidates had MA's but they picked me.
Can you tell that I've talked myself out of my earlier insecurites
:p:-)
posted
27-Nov-08, 16:15
by phdbug
Avatar for phdbug
posted about 12 years ago
======= Date Modified 27 Nov 2008 16:20:19 =======
======= Date Modified 27 Nov 2008 16:17:37 =======
Hi,







Hmm I didnt know u didnt have a Masters, so my comment was just my own story. Hmmm...i think a BSc completed at 21 is fine, I completed mine at 20 exactly and had PhD options, didnt take them for I wanted the masters work. So, as i said then I did two masters, adnd joined a PhD at 23, which is quite Ok I guess considering all the degrees packed into this.







Its entirely a question of personal choice. Though, on a different issue, phds are meant to be relatively obtuse usually, and not a direct question of being 'covered' in masters courses, which at the most provide some generic field or niche related background which doesnt hurt. My phd topic has most nothing to do with anything that was 'covered' on the masters, (unless anyone thinks one 50 min lecture on 'New media and internet' delivered to 160 MSc students has covered the topic of 'interpretative pathways on pragmatic 2.0 devices' ) but yes I have a grad level disciplinary backing which allowed for some thinking time on what I thought I knew but didnt know really. Honestly, I feel more enlightened than I did at 20, which is when I got my Bachelors degree. And, well, i dont mind doing the 2 masters if I could stil start a phd at 23.







But it boils down to personal choice. My only point I guess is, youth is usually a good thing to have on your side, there are cons as well. And, no phd topic is ever 'covered' on masters courses, which are at best, only indicative of large field related debates. And these indicative intellectual moments are if not mandatory/essential are, if well taught, desirable/useful to get to know the field. Not for a moment saying people without masters are drowning, or those with masters are ruling the roost.
posted
27-Nov-08, 16:26
edited about 14 seconds later
by Wookie
Avatar for Wookie
posted about 12 years ago

I also finished by undergrad by the time I turned 21 (May birthday). And I took a little under a year working as a R.A before starting my PhD, still at 21. I'm 2/3 through my first year and doing ok so far.

I had to attend some compulsory 1st year training and there were mainly social science people at it, and mostly all with 10 years age wise on me. It was a bit daunting, but at the same time, also gave me a bit of a boost, being able to be there at a younger age and (hopefully) able to stand up academically. Everyone has different backgrounds, but no one in particular is going to give you a better start at your PhD.

So don't worry too much, and remember you had to earn your right to be here in the first place, so obviously that's a good start!
posted
27-Nov-08, 20:24
by A116
Avatar for A116
posted about 12 years ago
Hello,

While no Masters covers your PhD topic in depth sometimes you can feel more confident about things with a little prior experience (not that I'm saying you need it!). I have a Masters but I still took some M level research methods modules which were at a lower level in order to see how my new uni taught them and also, to keep up to date. I didn't have to pay for any modules within my school. My school also had agreements with other departments. Also, no coursework as I was only "auditing". Was great.

Would you be able to do this in some relevant areas to give you some more confidence?

A
posted
27-Nov-08, 20:59
edited about 28 seconds later
by PC_Geek
Avatar for PC_Geek
posted about 12 years ago
Hi.

I did my BSc, graduated at 21 and went straight into my PhD in the October - I don't think anyone in my department said 'you're HOW old?' as it's common practice to accept students straight from Bachelors.

I did find a few people accused me of 'lying' when I told them what I did... but that's their issue if they didn't believe me. I've had 2 people also accuse me of 'lying' about my title as someone whose 25 'couldn't possibly' have a PhD, but again... bothered? sod them.

I found the transition OK - the thing I found the hardest was writing my thesis as I didn't find it easy to write in the style needed and 'prove' every single statement I made. If I did my time again.. I would make damn sure I recorded where each paper I read came from... and practise more academic 'writing' by trying to publish more papers.

I know a lot of people who have done the same as you... and most of them were absolutely fine :)

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