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How to apply for PhD's

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

I have written a blog post about applying for PhD's. Over 3 years of mostly unsuccessful applications, there are lots of issues that I dealt with. Essentially, I've written this blog to help people thinking about academia get through those issues. I hope this post convinces people thinking about academia to give it a go.

Other reasons I wrote this post:

  • I've been lucky to have very supportive supervisors. I've written this post for anyone who might not have the same support.

  • I was a very nervous undergraduate who didn't know how to interact with more senior academics. This was often to my detriment.

  • I was naive to some of the harsh realities of these applications. I have tried to address these issues in this post.

  • I wanted to dispel any myths around academia needing to be a lifelong ambition. I'm sure that lots of bright undergrads decide not to go into research because they don't think they're committed enough. As I wanted to be a medic until I was 21, this certainly wasn't the case for me.

Some of the issues I touch on surrounding applications may be obvious/irrelevant. I think things like this need to be discussed for the benefit of those to whom it is not obvious. I certainly needed to hear some of these issues spelled out clearly.

For people who aren't interested in the issues surrounding applications, there are also lots of specific points about the logistics of applications. These include:

  • the value research experience

  • structuring proposals

  • presentations

  • interview questions

  • what to ask at lab visits etc

These points are from my experience, and shouldn't be taken as gospel.

Full disclaimer - these applications were very UK focussed (perhaps even to a few universities), and some of this advice may be specific to our field, i.e. computational psychiatry/cognitive neuroscience.

I would love any feedback on this to make it useful for potential budding academics as possible!

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