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Are you ready for a PhD?

Studying for a PhD is a highly rewarding experience that opens up a whole new world of possibilities, but it is also a decision that you have to take very seriously.

If you are considering embarking on this journey, you need to have a look in the mirror and ask yourself whether it is really something that you wish to do. Do you have the time to devote the the necessary studies? As studying for a doctorate degree can take up to 10 years if you opt to study part time! You should also consider the financial implications associated with studying a PhD, as it can be very costly.

If you start a PhD without being completely sure about your decision it is not a good basis for academic success.

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Prospective PhD students should consider many different factors when deciding on whether to study a PhD or not, and to make this decision easier for you, we have devised a few important questions for you to answer and these should help you find out whether you really are ready and fully prepared to start a PhD. This test will evaluate whether you are ready to become a PhD student and if you can handle the challenges that being a PhD student will bring. If you answer the majority of these questions positively we believe you are ready to become a PhD student, but make sure you are honest in your answers!

1. Do you have a personally satisfying reason to undertake a PhD?

If someone could have a look inside your brain and read your mind, would there be at least one emotionally or rationally satisfying reason for you to undertake a PhD? People have different reasons for doing a PhD, and each reason is equally valid. Einstein once said that everything is relative, and that’s certainly true when choosing the right reason to do a PhD. What may seem an uninspiring or shallow reason for one person may be deemed as the perfect reason for somebody else. While your friend’s inspiration may be getting the title of ‘Dr’ you may view this as a less important factor. It’s not uncommon for students who have started a PhD without a good reason to drop out in the middle of the course because they lose their motivation so it is essential that you begin your PhD with a personally satisfying reason to ensure that you don’t just wake up one morning without the motivation to continue your course. It doesn’t matter whether your reason is universally right, only that it is the right reason for you!

2. IQ = W: Are you as hard working as you are intelligent?

If we compared the IQs of those who get the most out of their PhD to the IQs of those who fail, we probably wouldn’t find any difference. Successful PhD students are not necessarily more intelligent than the unsuccessful ones – they just work harder! Thomas Edison declared that genius is hard work over intelligence, and let’s face it, if you can’t trust the man who developed the first commercial light bulb, who can you trust?! Without the “electricity” supplied by your hard work, the light bulb in your brain will not glow! So, if you decide to do a PhD you need to make sure that you are ready to work hard on a long-term project and use your own initiative.

3. Have you found the right department for your PhD?

Some people believe in soul mates – it’s romantic to think that there is some unconscious force attracting you to a partner regardless of time and space... However, when it comes to finding your “soul department”, these almost certainly do not exist! There is probably not an unconscious force attracting you to the university department that’s perfect for you, instead selecting your department should be a thorough evaluation process. Do you like the city in which your department is situated? Do your research goals overlap with those of that department? Is the PhD you are applying to do enough of an intellectual challenge for you? These are some of the questions you will have to answer when considering which department to study your PhD at.

4. Will doing a PhD enhance the type of career you want to pursue?

Starting a PhD without finding out whether it will enhance the type of career you desire is like refilling your car without checking what type of fuel you should be using... and if you fill a diesel car with unleaded you won’t get very far! If you wish to use your PhD as a vehicle to take you to your desired career destination you need to make sure it is travelling in the right direction. Read our article on Why to PhD to find out more about how a PhD can aid your career in either academia or in the professional workplace.

5. Are you patient enough to do a PhD?

Have you ever heard of the marshmallow test? In it a child is left alone in a room with a marshmallow and is given a choice to either eat it immediately or wait for 15 minutes. Those who wait for 15 minutes get another marshmallow and can eat both of them, however, those who eat the marshmallow immediately there is no second marshmallow...  Well, studying for a PhD could be compared to doing the marshmallow test, in that you have to stare at a marshmallow for 3-4 years without eating it! In other words, you need to be able to work on a project for 3-4 years without getting any immediate reward. If you prefer to constantly receive rewards for doing your work, getting a job may be a better option. But on the flip side, when it comes to PhD although patience is a virtue, the final reward is definitely twofold!

6. £s: Do you have the necessary funds to pay for your studies?

Although initially the most important thing about your desired PhD program is whether you can get accepted, and the cost itself almost seems like a technical side detail, having the money itself is in many ways even more important than getting accepted. Many students celebrate their acceptance to a PhD course only to later realise that funding is not as easy to get as they thought, and that they will not be able to pay for their studies.

It’s not a good idea to start a PhD course if you don’t have the funds to pay for the entire period of studying, this is because it is very difficult to find funding during the second or third year of the course, and obviously if you had to give up your PhD at this point for purely financial reasons it would be a huge disappointment! However, if you don’t have the appropriate funds to cover your entire postgraduate program there are still many things that you can do to enable you to study for a PhD. One option is to do a part-time doctorate program which would mean you would have time to work during your studies. If fees and funding are a big concern for you, please read our section for further help and advice, and don’t forget you can apply for a Postgrad Solutions Study Bursary worth £500!

7. Do you have the necessary qualifications?

Although this question may seem banal, it is not uncommon that students apply for a PhD course without being qualified enough. Make sure you’ve earned the appropriate qualifications before starting your PhD application. Each university has different qualification requirements, and some may make you do a conversion course if you fail to meet their prerequisites, but it’s best to check the individual university websites for specifications. However, even if you are not happy with the grades you received for your master’s degree, the UK is full of high quality universities and with some determination and a bit of luck you should be able to find a place at one of them!

THANK YOU for taking the FINAL TEST! We hope that you passed and are ready to become a PhD student!


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