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Important Things Students Wish They Knew Before Starting Their PhD


Dec 11, 2021

If you are planning to start a PhD program, chances are, you are getting lots of advice from students, professors, administrators, your parents, and even the Internet. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which advice requires your attention and what will have the most significant impact in the long run. So while you daydream about the day you eventually bag that degree, here are a few things you should give serious consideration to. These tips may save you from frustration and properly guide you in making better decisions as you begin on that path to getting a PhD.

Location Is Extremely Important

When selecting a PhD program, the first consideration should be the availability of research opportunities at a preferred university. After all, students will need to research a topic in detail for up to four years or more. Furthermore, when considering the location of a university, students should consider how much time away from research they might have. You will have a life outside of the lab when you need to take a break to unwind. You should be able to live comfortably in your environment for the duration of your program. However, this does not apply to students in online PhD programs, as they have the luxury of learning from anywhere in the world. They can get their degrees while staying at home, surrounded by their favorite things and people. For offline PhD programs, students need to ask important questions like if they need a city atmosphere to be productive and if their ideal location should be surrounded by forests and mountains if being close to their family is important. One great tip is to imagine living in that environment without a PhD program in mind.

A PhD Is More Than A Continuation Of An Undergraduate Program

Many students don’t properly reflect on this thought. They just jump right into a PhD program. For PhD programs, the goal is not just to pass an assigned number of courses as an undergraduate program but to develop relevant and original research in a field of expertise. It’s more than a certificate; it’s a career path. It requires a more practical, hands-on, and technical process that may be extremely tedious. On concluding a PhD program, students will be judged based on the quality of their research and not on how well they ace their courses. Grades are not critical if they stay above the minimum GPA requirement. Hence more emphasis is placed on the research. If you feel you are not ready to do so much research work, it’s okay to take a break after your undergraduate studies.

A PhD Is Not All There Is To Life

Some people take their PhD programs way too seriously. Of course, getting a PhD is serious business, and it requires as much attention as a full-time “9-5” yet, it’s no excuse not to take a much-needed rest. Do not end up working all the time, including weekends without adequate breaks, and then end up experiencing burnouts. It is vital to develop a decent work-life balance during a PhD program. Learn to spend quality time with friends and family, enjoy the weekends and holidays. A PhD can take about four to five years of intensive research and take regular breaks. Certainly, there will be times when you might have to work on weekends or holidays, sometimes to meet conference or journal deadlines. But, always remember to compensate for the overtime; your mind and body will thank you for it.

Build A Career While Getting A PhD

During the PhD years, it is extremely crucial to try to get involved in other voluntary activities such as offering guest lectures in a supervisor’s class, reviewing papers for academic journals, being a part of organizing different social or academic activities in the department such as lunch seminars or hosted conferences. All these activities offer immense value to a career that students might not realize in the very early days of the PhD program. Considering that getting a PhD requires a significant amount of time, getting acquainted with other people in a candidate’s field of expertise through these volunteer activities will go a long way in fostering better career opportunities after their degree.

It is okay to feel overwhelmed with the entire process of starting a PhD program. With the steps mentioned above, you can make a more informed decision before even considering a PhD. You can also decide if offline or offline PhD programs work better for you. 

By admin