Feeling Old in Grad School

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I know, I know, I am not that old, but I still feel old on campus. I turned 29 last Saturday which is pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my 20’s, but I am ready to move on. Frankly, some of my darkest days were in my mid 20’s and I want to say goodbye to them. Anyway, compared to my undergrad counterparts, I am a dinosaur.

Many people in grad school cannot relate to the individuals that are in undergrad. I know this to be true because I always hear grad students complaining how they just don’t understand the next generation of undergrads and how interacting with their lab buddies (undergrads) is very difficult. It hurts even more when you see all of these students coming in with UF Class of 2025 or now 2026. I graduated undergrad in 2016 and they will graduate 10 years after I did. This is nuts. Unfortunately, time moves forwards. Soon, Class of 2036 will be coming to see the campus. Crazy.

Why you may feel old in grad school

You are going to feel old because you are going to see so many young, undergrads, walking all over the campus. You may also feel older when you realize that you are 10/15/20 years older than them. Taking classes can also not help because, if this is your first time back in many years, you will be taking classes with much younger students. You might not even be as smart as these 20 year olds. When I came back after 2 years away, I was in grad classes with 21 to 23 year olds. I was 26, so I wasn’t really too much older, but I felt pretty bad when one of them said they were going out for their 21st birthday. Yes, that moment really hurt me lol. Now that I work alongside students that are much younger than me, it doesn’t feel so bad anymore.

Feeling old in grad school

Feeling A Little Less Old In Grad School

One thing that makes me feel less old is actually asking how old other grad students are. Compared to them, I’m a baby. I know we had one guy that graduated a year ago who was almost 50. Another grad student from last year was almost 40. This definitely helped to make me less sad that I was still in school at my age. I also read that the average age for grad students is 33 (link). So I still have a long way to go.

I think this is one of those things that actually makes me a bit less concerned about my age. Many Individuals come back to grad school after years and years of working full time. Some people juts come back after a few years of working but they are still older than me lol. It is not too bad.

Feeling old in grad school

If You are Considering Grad School

I want to encourage those that are thinking about grad school to do it, regardless of your age. Honestly, you spend so much time with other people that are similar in age that you aren’t really bothered by the undergrads. I read somewhere about a girl who was contemplating grad school. She was talking with her mother and brought up the fact that she would be 30-something by the time she had her doctorate. This really made the girl feel bad. Her mother told the daughter that she would be 30-something whether she wanted to or not, but at least she would have a doctorate.

So, if you are deciding to go back to school, or thinking of doing a grad program after undergrad, just know that you will feel old. But, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be part of the undergrad world anymore. Honestly, that time kind of sucks. The parties and friends were awesome, but now you get to work towards your dreams and your future goals. You get to do fun research that might be groundbreaking stuff! You have also matured way passed that phase of your life.

How to Get Over Feeling Old in Grad School

Eventually, you are going to have to get over the feeling old in grad school. People will always be younger than you. I think the part that really gets people is that fact that you are still in school. You are associating yourself with undergrad students, master’s students, and baby PhD Students. To them, you are old. You all are doing school, but they are probably in a lower position than you. Kind of think of it as a middle school and high school together. Of course you will be on a campus with very youngers people (the middle schools) while you are the high schooler. You can’t relate to them in any way, but you have to share a campus with them. Undergrads are like the middle school kids and you are the equivalent of a senior in high school. Don’t think of it as you feeling old in grad school. Think of it as you having way more experience than these other people. Mostly, because you do.

Final Thoughts

Feeing old in grad school happens to everyone. You might be the youngest in your group and feel super old compared to the other students going to your school. Trust me when I say this, age is not a bit deal. Everyone will get old and everyone will feel old at one point. Comparing your age to another person just makes you envious of them. But think to yourself, do you really wish you were back at that age? Dealing with acne, stupidity, and a ton of uncertainty. I sure don’t wish I was in their shoes lol. Yeah, having the body of a 20 year old is nice, but I wish I had that with the knowledge and wisdom that I have now.

If you haven’t checked out my blog about the pros and cons of going back to grad school, I highly suggest doing so. (link here). I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday, and I will see you in the next blog.

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