Let’s face it. Thinking about getting a Ph.D. can come with a lot of uncertainty, self-doubt, and questions about your career prospects long-term. After all, you are thinking about joining the 2 percent of the population who have pursued and completed a doctoral degree.
The decision to pursue a Ph.D. is a difficult and important one—a decision that involves both your intellectual interests as well as your practical ability to manage the logistics of the application process and then apply to programs that are a good fit for you.
Fortunately, we’ve gathered information and advice for you as you consider whether to pursue a Ph.D. Keep reading for four concrete tips that will help you navigate your Ph.D. decision.
Keep Your Passion for Your Subject Alive
As you plunge into the application process, don’t lose sight of the reason you thought about getting a doctorate in the first place: your love for your subject area!
This passion for learning and contributing in your field is the motivation that will drive you through the application process and into the years of study beyond.
As one SMU graduate student jokingly put it, “Your Ph.D. is like a marriage. You have to think a lot before you make the decision and you can not get out just because you do not like it in the middle.”
Ask Your Questions Upfront
The best way to develop a strong Ph.D. application is to ask as many questions as necessary at the beginning of the process. Talk to the graduate admissions office about the application requirements, schedule time with the professors you are interested in studying with and ask them questions, and talk to other students who are already in the program.
Taking the time to ask any questions as you work on applying will help your application be targeted to that department’s program.
Be Genuine About Your Interests
One SMU graduate student put it this way:
“Another key piece of advice I received was to be genuine about my interests and preparation. There is always a degree to which school and applicant alike try to determine best fit, and of course as applicants we want to be competitive and appealing to multiple schools; however, misrepresenting one’s interests does not benefit the applicant or the student in the long run.”
It’s important that you and your department of interest are a good fit for each other. Being genuine and clear about your interests helps ensure that both parties can make a mutually beneficial decision.
Trust Your Mentors to Counter “Impostor Syndrome”
Both aspiring and current graduate students can suffer from various forms of self-doubt. Maybe you’re worried that you’re not cut out for the rigor of a Ph.D. program or that you don’t compare well to the other people competing for spot in your program of interest.
This is the time to listen to your faculty mentors and recommenders. If they are convinced that you have what it takes and have encouraged your desire to pursue a Ph.D., lean on their judgment and trust that with hard work and a supportive department, you are more than capable of thriving during your years of graduate study.
We've Got a Full SMU Resource to Help You Think Through the Ph.D. Decision
In this resource, we offer you some of the insider information you need in order to choose a program, apply successfully, and thrive during your years of graduate study. You’ll get answers to common questions, tips for putting together your application, and full testimonies from students who made it through the application process and are now pursuing Ph.D.'s.
We’re answering questions like these:
- How do you prepare a strong application?
- How do you select a program that fits your area of interest?
- Will you get in?
- What are the years in a Ph.D. program actually like?
We invite you to check out the full digital resource today!