I started my PhD program when I was 65 years old. That makes me in the 0.02% of full-time graduate students. I realized that the part of my career I loved the most was teaching graduate students and to do that I would need a PhD.

I thought because of my years of experience— including being president and CEO of Education Foundations and Adjunct Faculty at an Ivy League University—that I would be exempted from the GREs.

But the university wouldn’t exempt me. I wasn’t concerned about the reading comprehension and the English part. I was petrified about the math. It had been almost 50 years since I had taken a math course. 

So I signed up for a course. After the first week, I was completely lost—I didn’t have a clue. It almost put me over the edge. I went to the head of the department who ran the prep course. He tutored me for free. 

The take-home exam in one particular course required me to sit at my computer for three hours. If I got distracted I would lose time in answering the questions. So I had to hide from my dogs. I would wave and say “Bye-bye” and walk into the garage, then my husband would take the dogs out to the backyard as I would wait five minutes and sneak back in and take my exam.

I wound up studying for six months. I set a goal for myself. I missed it by two points, but I was thrilled.

This is an excerpt from a comprehensive interview.