5 tips to start your PhD

Starting a PhD can be a daunting task, but it can also be an exciting and fulfilling experience. It’s a big commitment, both in terms of time and energy, but it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling journey that leads to personal and professional growth. If you’re considering starting a PhD, here are a 5 things you should know before you take the plunge:

1. The right programme and supervisor

Choose a program and supervisor that align with your research interests and goals. Your supervisor will be your primary mentor and guide throughout your PhD, so it’s important to find someone who shares your research interests and is committed to supporting your growth and development as a researcher. Look for a programme that offers the resources and support you need to succeed, including funding, access to research facilities, and a strong cohort of fellow graduate students.

Check out these available studentships if you are considering PhD at University of Surrey!

2. Be prepared to start

Before you start your PhD, it’s a good idea to get your ducks in a row. This might involve taking classes to brush up on your knowledge or skills, applying for grants or scholarships, or finding ways to save money.

You should also start thinking about how you’ll balance your studies with other responsibilities, such as a job or family commitments. I personally work part-time job alongside my research, whilst being an active committee member in the university’s Taekwondo club. It becomes a lot to juggle but it helps to get my mind of research for a bit (plus it’s a rewarding experience!)

3. Expect challenges

A PhD is a difficult journey, and it’s not uncommon to encounter roadblocks along the way. You will face writer’s block, failed experiments, have trouble finding funding, or encounter unexpected setbacks in your research that are out of your control!

Best visual representation of PhD journey on the internet

That is why it’s important to stay resilient and keep your long-term goals in mind. Seek support from your advisors, peers, and loved ones when you need it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. This brings up the next point…

4. Support network and taking care of yourself

Your fellow graduate students, your supervisor, and other faculty members can all be valuable sources of support as you navigate your PhD. Build relationships with these individuals and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice when you need it. A PhD can be demanding, and it’s important to take care of your physical and mental health. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy meals. Take breaks when you need them and make time for activities you enjoy outside of your research.

The Researcher Development Programme (rdp) at the university provides trainings, workshops, mentoring and 1-to-1 support to help you through your journey. They even host rdp cafe every Friday where researchers come togather for a chat and a well-deserved break!

5. Organisation

Stay organised and manage your time effectively. A PhD requires a lot of self-motivation and discipline. Develop good time management skills and stay organized to ensure that you are making progress towards your goals. You will get asked to do certain tasks some of which have nothing to do with your research. If you have time and want to help, you are encouraged to build relationships with collegues but never feel obliged to do so…Remember to say NO!

I believe it is human nature to overestimate what we can achieve in a day and underestimate what can be achieved in a decade, so set the realistic daily targets that will take you to the final goal!

In conclusion, starting a PhD can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It’s important to choose a topic you’re passionate about, find the right program, get prepared, and expect challenges along the way. With hard work and determination, you can successfully complete your PhD and make a meaningful contribution to your field.