3 ways to prepare for PhD applications effortlessly

It’s Shivalee here again talking about all things about PhD applications!

So, did you figure out your WHY to pursue a PhD?

If not, please read this blog about figuring out your WHY before reading any further: https://reflections-empowerment.com/why-should-you-pursue-a-phd/

I started my PhD applications in the last semester of my masters. The number of rejections made me realize that I didn’t prepare well for my PhD applications. Hence, I had to invest one more additional year in research training. 

Most of the time, the thought of walking on the path of PhD is planted in your masters. Then why not start preparing for your PhD right from your masters? Planning beforehand will save you a lot of time and frustration. 

Here are the three important things you can do in your masters to make your life less painful.

  • Try before you buy

Going by the saying, before investing 3-4 years of your life getting a PhD, getting a hang of it earlier is never a bad idea. Spending more time in the sandbox will make up your mind and help you gain confidence. During your masters, you get buffer time for research experience which in turn gives you clarity over the decision of getting a PhD. Initially, you will be all excited to start your masters thesis, but working in the lab for 6-8 months straight will hardly keep you motivated. You will explore different traits in yourself such as how you like to plan your experiments? What are your favorite techniques? How do you react when the experiments fail?  How do you troubleshoot your experiments? etc.

Perhaps you may figure out that you are interested in an industrial job or teaching and wanna earn a real salary than living on stipends (for several years) after your masters. Or maybe you may notice that you are really passionate about science and want to continue research for your PhD. 

  • Collect those valuable skills

Masters is the time where you can fill your bag with soft as well as hard skills. Soft skills such as organization and time management will lay down the base for your PhD. When you take up research projects, you will have to hustle between your research as well as the curriculum and here is where the organization skills play a huge role. This period will give you a chance to try out different planning methods and fix to one system which works for you the best. 

Learning to program, writing scientifically or even researching a new method is never a bad idea. Take out some time and try to get these skills which will save ample amounts of time in your PhD. Having valuable skills on your CV will definitely push you up the ladder in the application process.

  • Choose your PhD topic 

You will study numerous subjects in your masters and in the meanwhile you will figure out which subject you are passionate about. Choosing a PhD topic doesn’t mean figuring out exactly what you are going to work on but finding a general field. For example: I did my masters in biotechnology and I was interested in immunology. At the beginning of your PhD it is hard to decide the exact topic you are going to work on but you can find the area you want to contribute to. Hence, I would encourage you to explore the boundaries in the adjacent topics, go where your interest takes you in terms of taking classes and discovering research areas. You can also start reading articles and dig into the fields which you are really passionate about. This will help you in shortlisting the PhD positions to apply and will save time as well. 

Apart from these three important aspects you can also focus on getting to know the faculty of the university you are interested to get into for your PhD, get good grades and start preparing for GRE if required. You can also be involved in extracurricular activities such as working or volunteering as a teaching assistant for the subject which interests you, writing for university newsletters or starting your own blog. This can make your PhD application stand out. 

A master’s degree isn’t just an eligibility criteria to fulfill for a PhD position but these two years can help you to get a taste of what it is like to be in a lab- based research full time. Don’t see masters as a waste of time but utilize it to gain valuable skills and become independent which will in turn boost your confidence and help you to choose the right PhD position!

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