13 things you need to know before enrolling for a PhD

Carrying out a Phd Program is not an easy decision to take, often the reasons for a Student to enroll into a Phd Program are more personal than professional, because Phd are highly challenging and financially not very much rewarding.

Most students going for a Phd and completing the program have a strong passion for their subject and develop a strong desire to become an expert in their field.


Passion being the primary reason, other students have also a strong interest in developing an Academic Career. if either your reason to sign up for a Phd Program is passion or career goals, there are several things you need to know and to understand before you enthrough yourself in this exciting experience.


1. Choose carefully your Master


The type of Master you choose and how you grade will play an important role in the selection process for your PhD. You will need a high score for getting funding and an even higher score if you want to apply to top Universities. The good news is that even if you get you Master with the minimum grade required, you can still get the PhD you like but you will need to work harder on your interview preparation process and defend the results you have had with good explanation and demonstrate that it will not jeopardize your capability of completing your PhD program.


2. Academic writing skills are different than previous writing skills asked in your Master Research


Most of students starting their PhD need to work hard on their academic writing skills even when they pursue their PhD in their native language. The expectations are different than when you write your thesis for your Master. You can learn more about what the requirements are and how to improve your academic writing skills here “The PhD ProofReaders”


3. You need to be a resident of the country where the University is located


It may seem logical for some but a bit less for others who have been doing their entire education in their home country, finding the right Phd Program sometimes require moving away from friends and family, or changing one more time the country of residence. The thing is that a Phd is not easy and having some kind of moral support is a must, choose carefully the place where you will enroll for your Phd also based on the climate or the social type of environment that you like and feel comfortable. For instance avoid North European countries if you know you need sun and don’t like to make a lot of effort to connect with other, countries like Denmark, Sweden, Finland are very good English speaking countries but the culture tend to be more individualistic and it can be hard from time to time to make friendships. Some universities spend a lot of time on making their environment international and do a lot for their foreigners students to feel integrated and supported. You may also want to check this when you select your University.


4. Developing your network during your PhD can be very helpful


Regardless of what many stereotype on PhD program may be, you will have many collaborative moments with others for trouble shooting or problem finding time to complete your research, from the start make sure you spend some time developing your network and making friends that will be helpful for your brainstorm but also are going through the same experience as you are. Having people to talk to and be able to relate to other experience can be very helpful especially during the moment where you motivation may lower or you face set back.



5. EU students can enroll in UK Universities with same condition as before the brexit


Until today, the UK government has assured their students that no further administration would be required if the students come from EU. This regulation will need to be verified with time but as of today no formal impact has been identified. UK is a great place for PhD students and many PhD programs are funded every year.


6. Need to be ready to face setback


This is not the first time, we mention it but it is worth it to be aware that enrolling into a PhD program is challenging and require a lot of self-motivation and courage. A high percentage of students quit. From the apa.org site, “a maximum of 75 per cent of PhD students finish their program per year. The reason why we insist is that if you are prepared to face set back, receive very hard feedback from your supervisor and you already know that some moment will not be easy, you can prepare yourself mentally for those hard time and focus on the rewarding feeling that you will have once you have done it. Being prepare for set back and being supported are 2 pre-requisite for a successful PhD program.


7. Try before you buy, conduct Master


If you are not sure that the PhD is made for you, often it’s easy enough to get a job doing Research Assistant work or similar. You’ll find out very quickly if the lab/ department environment is something you can cope with.


8. Learn to plan, everything takes ages


Doing a Phd takes at least 4 years and can go up to 7 to 8 years, you will need to be prepared, to be patient with your research and be very organized. You can skill up your time management capability by signing up to some time management trainings before starting your PhD program.

9. Apply for a full time Phd Program


Online Phd or part-time Phd have a lower successful rate. (Motivation, Quality of supervisor, and often it is more difficult to get an extra year to finish your Phd).


10. Double check if a Phd is really what you need by screening Post Phd open position on the job market


Read job postings to understand the skills you need to get a post doc job. You can go to a job board, Times Higher Education, Seek, ResearchGate, HigherEdJobs, AcademicPositions.eu and find a job that may be fitting your career plan for when you are finished.


11. You will never be as free to conduct the research you like than in your PhD


During your PhD program one very important and good things to know is that you will be free to perform your research the way you want it. For most Universities or program this is the case. This also means that you will have to take decision during your PhD that may slow down your research or speed it up. This is often discussed with your Supervisors, but be prepared to endorse those decisions.


12. You need to be good at handling data


This may seem obvious but understanding that handling data will be the major part of your PhD program is an important aspect to consider in order to know if this is for you.

Sometimes your PhD research will also require for you to code or develop complexe analytical mindset based on the field of your research.


13. Your supervisor will play a big part in your PHD program success


Last but not least, your supervisor will play a big part in your ability to finish your research. When going to your PhD interview, ask questions and survey other students about your potential future supervisor. Numerous are the PhD students who have stopped because their PhD research has turned into a nightmare due to the very poor relationship with their supervisor.

A PhD program is not an easy thing to choose. First you have to choose the field of research you want to conduct your PhD in, then understand if you want to create your own research proposal or apply to an open position but you also need to choose the country and the University in which you will want to spend the next 4 to 5 years of you life.


Many PhD students have enrolled themselves without considering all the aspects and impacts of what a PhD program may look like and the motivation it requires. If you are hesitating and still miss a couple of pieces to make your decision, consider those elements carefully and use your network on social media like LinkedIn to meet and ask questions to people who have been going through a PhD experience.


Once you have made your decision, and you have decided to find a PhD program, you will need to prepare for your PhD program interview. You can sign up for PhD interview training, The Ambitious is specialized in this field. There are different aspects to be trained on and prepare when you go to a PhD interview.


Prepare for job interview questions: