The not so daunting PhD Application

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Let’s call them decision junctures. We face them quite frequently. Where the path that we had been traveling splits into two (or sometimes more!) and we have to take one of them.  The decisions that we make at these junctures often decide the way we will be living the rest of our lives. And when these decisions concern our career, it gets more serious than ever. It is important that we make informed decisions and choose wisely so that we don’t regret our choice at any point further. We face one of these junctures once we finish out post-graduation. With all the contentment of having graduated successfully, we face a situation that demands a decision to be made. We have the choice of either getting into the high-paying industry or get into research and hone our knowledge further. While most of us may choose the former, a perspicacious few of us decide to get into research.

The reasons for deciding on a research career is subjective. Some visionaries would want to do something ground-breaking, while some may be inclined towards academics. I leave that to you. But, once you have decided to go ahead with your decision to pursue a career in research, the first step in this direction is to apply for a Ph.D. position. I have been in the process for a few months now and thought of sharing my opinion on making your application standout. Let’s see how to make an exceptional application.

Before you apply

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This is a major decision that concerns your career. A lot of things should be considered before taking a final call on whether or not you want to go ahead with your decision. It can take about 4 to 5 years of time with a not so attractive remuneration. And this period certainly requires intense focus on your area of study and also requires you to be updated on all the research happening in the focus area. Since you are likely to venture into something that is untested, there are clear chances of results not turning out the way you expected them to. Make sure you have the mindset to persevere. Check out all the skillset that is required for you to complete the research, if you do not have them yet, spend time developing it.

Develop interest: Be specific

This according to me is the most time-consuming task before you start your research. To develop an interest that sustains distractions is not something that can happen overnight. You have to spend time in developing a deep understanding of the field. Once you have understood the field to some extent, try attending some conferences which can pave way for you to understand the current research trend as well as meet the researchers who are working in the same field. Be specific of what you want to focus on. Bear in mind that you are no superhero to solve all the problems of the world. Instead, go about framing a precise research problem systematically.

Choose the research institute and supervisor wisely

This is a tricky part of the journey as there could be many professors and institutes carrying out similar research in the mentioned field. You have to be wise when making your list of prospective supervisors. Go through the profile of the institute and check if your interests coincide with the research work being carried out. The funding opportunities that could possibly be availed to you is also a crucial detail to be made clear about. In case your topic requires industry collaboration, check if the institute listed any established partners on the website. Most supervisors will not be able to spend a lot of time with you as they have a lot of researchers working under them. You have to be wary of this possible situation and plan astutely.

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Plan your first email

The first impression is way important than we comprehend. Especially, in a situation like this, you have to make sure of the first email being perceived well. Since the professors are usually busy, you have to write an email, that communicates your intent and research interest effectively. Organize your thoughts before drafting the email. Make sure you enter your personal information, research inclination and the reasons for it from a wider perspective. Also, make sure to demonstrate verbally how your candidature can add to the research prospects of the institute. Mentioning the relevant accomplishments could also add value to your email. Make sure to add just enough and appropriate information and attachments. Do not forget to attach your CV and if possible a brief proposal.

Be realistic with your proposal

Although not always do you need a proposal to be attached to your first email, it is, however, better to frame a proposal to be a step ahead in case one is demanded in further conversations. This also could add to exhibiting your intent. However, you have to be careful when framing the proposal to make sure it is realistic to carry out the proposed research within the mentioned time and with the support and resources offered. As well, consider the reliance on some external source for the data and whether or not it is possible to get the data as this could end up being a major hurdle in the further stages.

Make a research impressive CV

Make sure your CV includes all the minute details of the research projects you have been a part of along with other academic qualifications you have. A practical experience that relates to the field of envisaged research is an added advantage.

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Sport a clean CV which does not look too clumsy and neither looks too blank. If you have any publications in any journal or if you have presented any paper in conferences, make sure not to forget them.

Those being general tips for your application, different research institutes and universities usually require of you to follow a general procedure they sketch out to standardize their application process. Make sure you comply them. Ending the blog with wishing you luck for your application. Although the process might seem daunting, an organized procedure will help you evade all the ‘I’m sick of this’ situations. Persevere.

 

Saleem

 

 

Saleem Javed is a master’s student at the University of Stuttgart doing an International course. An engineer by education and profession, who writes to make sure he doesn’t stack it all up there. Strongly believes in the quote “If you want to be remembered, do something worth writing or write something worth reading”. Plays safe, picks the latter!

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