ARTICLE: Things You Must Consider Before Pursuing A PhD Program

If you are planning to apply for a PhD program, you are probably getting advice from dozens of student’s professors, administrators your parents and the internet. Sometimes it is hard to know which advice to focus on and what will make the biggest difference in the long-run. So, before you go to back to daydreaming about the day you accept that Nobel Prize, here are the nine things you should give serious thought to. One or more of these tips may save you from anguish and help you make better decisions as you embark on that path of a PhD.

  • SEEK INFORMATION ABOUT PHD PROGRAMS

Depending on your undergraduate institutions, there may be more or less support to guide you in selecting a PhD program but there is generally much less than when you applied to college. On several websites, you can find out the content written by the renowned professors listed in the graduate schools. The information about the PhD programs are available all over the internet. Thus, students have the option of collecting as much information as they want to and decide according to that.

So do not wait for your career centre or department to lay out a plan for you. Actively seek it out from your career centre counsellors, your professors, the internet and especially alumni from the same department. First-hand experiences will almost trump the knowledge you get second hand.

  • PhD programs are quite different from the undergraduate program

Many students do not realize until they have jumped head-first into a PhD program. The goal is not to complete an assigned set of courses as in an undergraduate program, but to develop significant and original research in your area of expertise. You will have required courses to take, especially if you do not have a master’s degree yet, but these are designed merely to compliment your research and provide a broad and deep knowledge base to support you in your research endeavours.

At the end of the PhD program, you will be judged on your research, not on how well you did in your courses. Grades are not critical as long as you maintain the minimum GPA requirement and you should not spend too much time on courses at the expense of research projects. Graduate courses tend to be designed to allow you to take away what you will find useful to your research more than to drill a rigid set of facts and techniques into your brain.

  • Take a break between your undergraduate education and a PhD program

PhD program is a senior level of the studies. you need to be sure why you want to pursue PhD and then make the decision. You need to have a short break after completing your graduation and then start your PhD program after the detailed research of the topic. You need to be certain about the independent research.

Many people burn out or end up trudging through their PhD program without a thought about what lies outside or beyond it. a break of a year or two or even more may be necessary to gain perspective. If all you know is an academic environment, how can you compare it to anything else? Many people take a job for five or more years before going back to get their PhD.

It is true that the longer you stay out of school, the harder it is to go back to an academic environment with lower pay and a lack of set working hours.A year of break would give you six months or so after graduation before PhD applications are due.

  • Variety of research options

Even if you believe you are committed to one research area, you may find that five years of such work is not quite what you expected. As such, you should find a PhD program where the professors are not all working in the same narrowly focused research area. Make sure there are at least three professors working on an array of topics you could imagine yourself working on.

In many research programs, you are supposed to pick a research advisor before even starting. But such arrangements often do not work out, and you may be seeking a new advisor before you know it. that is why many programs give students one or two semesters to explore different research areas before choosing a permanent research advisor.

  • DEVELOP TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS

After surviving college, you may think you have mastered the ability to squeeze in your coursework, extracurricular activities and even some sleep. In a PhD program, time management reaches a whole new level. You will not only have lectures to attend and homework to do, you will have to make time for your research which will include spending extended periods of time in the lab, analysing data and scheduling time with other students to collaborate on research.

You might have to teach for a number of semesters, and you will want to attend any semester that may be related to your research or that just peaks your interest. You will have to manage these extracurricular activities you did as an undergraduate. While in the abstract, it may seem simple enough to put this all into your calendar and stay organised, but you will hardly get any time to manage all these things.

  • TAKE THE ADVANTAGE FROM THE EXPERTS

It may be your first time to write the fellowship or grant proposals, write scientific papers, attend conferences, present your research to others, or even peer-review scientific manuscripts. From my experience, very few college students or even PhD students receive formal training on how to perform any of these tasks.

Alternatively, ask a more experienced graduate student or your advisor for the advice on these topics. In addition, be prepared for a learning curve when learning all the procedures and processes of the group you end up working in.

Even if it may seem like a downer, remember that you should have the passion for the research you work on, so you should be excited to think up new experiments or different ways to consider that data from you have collected. A PhD program is quite the commitment and rarely lives up to expectations but it is well worth the time and effort you will spend for something that truly excites you.