Applying for a PhD programme seems like a difficult process, especially if you are a working person or a fresher having zero or no experience in interacting with project guides/supervisors. However, there are certain things that you must consider before sending your application that makes your application smooth going. In this article, I’m going to share the whole process of applying PhD in India or Abroad.
Step I: Start As Early As Possible and Research on Available PhD Programs
The first crucial step in applying for a PhD is to explore and do some research. Make sure you understand the different types of doctorate degrees and their specialization, including eligibility criteria and PhD entry requirements. Then you can start your research on potential universities and programs that you want to enrol in. Once you get relevant information about a particular PhD program and university, then definitely, you will start getting ideas about the kind of work you want to do.
Always remember, the deadlines for PhD applications usually fall in late autumn but some universities, in and out of India, still accept applications until spring. It is important that you are tracking the time of your potential university so you won’t be late. If you are late then it means you will lose an entire precious year. Thus keep this point in mind.
Step II: Decide Your Area of Interest and Specialization
When you do your research, you should expect to be confronted with a myriad of available PhD programs from different colleges, institutes and universities. Everything will sound seemingly interesting and will cause you to feel ambivalent. To drive away confusion, try to consider your specialization during graduation and post-graduation. For example, if you have a Masters in Biochemistry then you can proceed to get a doctorate degree in the same field.
Also, make sure that you’re passionate and fully confident about your choice. Let’s say you love to study hard sciences like Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, or Nuclear Medicine. Then choose a PhD program focusing on particularly these areas. Always keep in mind, that your chosen subject will be the bread-and-butter of your entire PhD journey for the next half-decade. So don’t choose something that you’re half-hearted, otherwise, your dream of becoming a PhD scholar will surely be compromised
Step III: Choose A Relevant Topic for Your Thesis
Once you’ve chosen your field of specialization, think about what you want to write. It could be an assumption that you want to challenge or address a problem that hasn’t been addressed yet. It does not need to be perfect right away. So if you get an idea of what to write, then you’re good for now. The problem with most of the PhD students is that they start their PhD with over-ambitious projects. The key is to simply boil down your ideas on paper into one central research question. If you can’t think of an idea, try to investigate old research journals or projects or read through several dissertations. This will help you explore interesting topics that you can start writing about later on.
Step IV: Start Doing Research On A Potential Supervisor
Once you are done with the topic, the next thing you should do is to find a potential supervisor. You will be working with this person throughout the actual writing process that is why it is the most important part that you find someone that you’ll be comfortable with. Research on the person’s history, qualifications and experience in handling a similar thesis project. Is your supervisor an established academic? Does he have a good track record? Is he strict? How many students is he handling right now?
Gather as much information as you can to prepare yourself before you meet this person. Also, it’s a good time to think about what to expect from your PhD supervisor and the kind of support you’ll seeking to get based on his record.
Step V: Send a “formal” Application to Your Selected Supervisor
A PhD supervisor can probably handle just 5 to 10 students per semester each year. It is important that you must reserve your slot by contacting your prospect. Now, I have put emphasis on the word “formal” application because I don’t want you to send a generic mail to the supervisor. The people you’ll be dealing with are professionals and they get dozens of emails every single day saying “Sir, can you please be my supervisor?” or “Sir, can you please have a look at my thesis?” Unfortunately, these types of emails always go to the trash box of mail.
Students should craft a formal letter to get noticed. Below is an example of a good email that will surely grab the attention of your selected potential supervisor.
Dear Dr Manish Sharma,
I’ve read your journal about Bio-Chemistry with a focus on the molecular function of the latest medication for hypertension and it fits very well with my research interest. I’m sure you can give me the best input and advice regarding the subject matter and I want you to become my thesis supervisor.
With this example, you will see the difference between the normal emails and the decent ones, that how sincere the student is. Considering every supervisor’s highly reputable profession, sending formal letters is also one way of showing respect for that person.
Step VI: Always Follow Up with Phone or Through Email
Stop wasting your precious time pondering on several reasons why your supervisor has not replied. Assuming they're busy, it’s still your responsibility to administer a reply and make a follow-up. The best time to follow up with your supervisor's application is within two to three weeks. As you know, they’re frequently busy and you can’t expect them to give a reply within three days. But this doesn’t mean that your sent application has been turned down. Please check below for an ideal example of a follow-up email.
Dear Dr Sharma,
I wrote to you on the 15th of May requesting you to become my thesis supervisor on my investigative research in Bio-Chemistry regarding the molecular function of the alternative medication for hypertension. I would really appreciate it if you may reply to the present email and let me know your thoughts on this matter.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
Step VII: Ask Questions from Your Supervisor
Don’t be afraid to ask questions from your potential supervisor. Always get in touch with your PhD supervisor should be the first step of the PhD application process. You will be meeting more people within the same university such as the admission staff, lecturers, head of the graduate school, and research department. Most of these people are thrilled to help you together for a successful PhD application. So make sure that you clear your mind from doubts and understand every little detail of your PhD program by asking relevant questions.
Step VIII: Fill Up the Application Form Carefully
This may sound pointless for many of you but everything starts from the application form as it plays a role as a base for your PhD. There are a majority of students who don’t fill up application forms properly often get overlooked. For a stellar application form, make sure that you completely fill up all the necessary hotspots such as the Education and Qualifications, Employment History, Areas of Interest and Achievements, and Personal Statement, Statement of Purpose etc. PhD Candidates are shortlisted based on the application form and the second step would be the interview. So it is important that you’ve laid down all important information in your application to gain entry and proceed to the next step.
Step IX: Always Spend Enough Time On Your Application
If you’re in a rush to submit the application, just think twice of this – Your application is your gateway to your PhD Degree. So invest plenty of time to think about your application. Have you visited your university and talked to your potential supervisor? Have you carefully done a comparison of different research topics and PhD programs? Just be honest with the opportunities that you’ve explored. Who knows, you might be given a better opportunity because of your impeccable effort.
Lastly, try to gather positive feedback from the people who know you well. Make sure you choose the right people as your references such as your professors and your Master's friends etc and apprise them of your PhD application, so they can prepare something in advance.
Step X: Start Thinking About Your Future
We all are aware that not all PhD graduates go to academia. There is only 50 per cent of those who successfully finished their PhD thesis to become professors. The other half-percentage goes to other areas like policy work, non-government organizations, and private entrepreneurship. Getting a PhD might seem a long way but it’s good to have a vision of what your future will look like. This will help you to define your direction as a PhD student.
After knowing these 10 tips would be of immense importance not only for effectively completing your PhD application but also for a successful post-graduate journey. Good luck with your PhD application and we hope that you’ll get what your heart desires.
Got Questions? Feel free to write in the comments section below.
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