The decision to do a PhD or not is a very personal one. There are many things you need to consider. With this 3 part series of Tips for future PhD students we hope to help future PhD students just a little.
We want to thank everybody that helped make this list of tips. Our colleagues, friends and definitely our social media followers. This list was created from our experience and those of others, but it is important to note that there are very big differences between countries when it comes to the process of applying for a PhD position. We are doing our PhD in the Netherlands so the tips are definitely all relevant for students here, and many of them will be applicable in any country. A PhD is a PhD after all.
Since we have a lot of tips we will be splitting this up into three parts. The First one is: The PhD, is it a good idea? This part is meant to help you decide if a PhD is for you. Then part 2 is: Find a PhD spot that works for you. Where we give tips for when you are looking for a PhD spot and what things you need to think about. Then the last episode 3 is called: Tips for the application process. Where we give tips for how to get the most out of you interviews The next 2 parts will be posted in the following weeks.
Doing a PhD can be a wonderful and life changing experience, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. Are you still considering if it is something you want to do? Then the list below will help you figure it out. You can off-course also listen to our podcast episode where we talk about the tips and give our personal opinion on them. Enjoy!
The PhD, is it a good idea?
- What kind of person are you? Can you deal well with setbacks?
- Are you tenacious? or easily dissuaded?
- Why do you want it? Clarify strong reasons for committing.
- What do you hope to get out of it?
- Are you a curious person? Are you ready to spent years of your life investigating a tiny part of a subject? Especially in basic Science this will not always have real world applications.
- Are you very organized when you work?
- Can you stand up for yourself when it is needed? Even if it is against a supervisor.
- Do you love Science AND lab work/doing experiments? Would you enjoy the journey and not just the end goal?
- Can you find happiness in the small victories? Even if you feel like you are not making big progress.
- Do you love challenges? Or do failures get you down easily?
- Can you work under high pressure
- Do you need motivation form others or can you motivate yourself? In academia you cannot really on confirmation from others, because in many situations you are not going to get it.
- Can you handle criticism well? Or do you take things very personally?
- Are you good at working independently? A lot of the times a PhD is working alone on a subject with only occasional feedback from a supervisor. The responsibility for your progress is all yours. If you prefer to work in a team you need to look for this specifically.
- Make sure you have a good support system to get you trough the difficult times. Make sure to make time for family and friends no matter what.
- Are you the kind of person that takes your stress out on others? Is it then really worth your personal relations to do a PhD?
- Are you interested a career in academia after the PhD? This comes with many up and down sides too! This we will discuss in a future episode!
- Are you willing to sacrifice a big part of your personal life?
- Academia isn’t the end all be all job. There are private sector and gov jobs too. If the PhD isn’t for you that is also ok!
Part 2 and part 3 will be coming soon!