Back to School: Mid-Life Adult Perspectives About Their Graduate Education

Back to School: Mid-Life Adult Perspectives About Their Graduate Education

Özge Erdemli, Nihan Demirkasımoğlu, Tuğba Güner Demir
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2395-7.ch011
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This chapter aims to gain in-depth knowledge of the doctoral experience of older graduate students. For this purpose, a phenomenological study was conducted. Ten students aged 40 and older who are studying in graduate education were interviewed. Collected data were analyzed using descriptive and content analysis techniques. Findings revealed that being a doctoral student aged 40 and over has both advantages and disadvantages. Almost all of the participants try to complete their education simultaneously with their profession. In addition, they have heavier family responsibilities than the younger doctorants. This factor leads to a distraction and division in their motivation. However, it is clear that being in the university environment, acquiring new perspectives, and producing something new gives satisfaction to the participants despite the existing difficulties. On the other hand, young doctorants' insufficient professional experience makes older PhDs advantageous in terms of integrating their professional experience with doctoral education.
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Although graduate students have a lot in common with undergraduate students, they have differentiating characteristics (Kerns, 2006). Therefore, historically, graduate students have been defined as individuals who need different attention and support from undergraduate students (Schroeder & Terras, 2015). The definition of adult learner in higher education is mostly used to cover all university students aged 18 and over. Although non-traditional older student is generally used to describe individuals who are 25 years or older, there is no common definition of older graduate student (Barker et al., 1997). The educational opportunities and support needs needed for youth and adult students coexisting in higher education differ, and there is often an increase in problematic situations for older students (Kasworm, 2003). As the population of “non-traditional” students in higher education, including older adults, increases, the demographics of the student population are changing and a wide variety of experiences emerge. Increasing numbers of adults are returning to school after a long time (Cooper, 1999).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Graduate Education: It is the training conducted after the undergraduate education and aimed at specialization.

PhD Programme: Specific field of doctoral education.

Adult Education: It is a practice in which adults engage in systematic and continuous self-educating activities to acquire new forms of knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values.

Older Graduates: Older graduates refers to graduate students between the ages of 40 and 65.

Older Students: Students who are older than the majority of students.

Mid-Life Adults: Mid-Life Adults refers to individuals between the ages of 40 and 65.

Doctorants: Students in the thesis period of the doctoral program.

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