IR Careers PhD Programs Publishing

Tips For Finding & Applying For The Right PhD Program

So you want to do a PhD?

Are you planning to do a PhD and at the point of applying, but a little bit confused on what and how exactly you want to go about it? Well, take a few minutes to read this.
Here are some tips from my personal experience for finding PhD programs and searching for specific opportunities.

Tips for finding and applying for the right program

By Joshua Akintayo
PhD Candidate, University of Ibadan

1. Actively research information about PhD Programs

This particular tip may sound obvious, but it is quite crucial due to the large difference from undergraduate programs where you are more likely spoon-fed information.
Information on PhD programs generally requires more meticulous research. On the website of one of the schools I applied to, I later discovered a page written that getting an offer of admission is not a guarantee for funding. As far as I was concerned, the advert page for the PhD opportunity did not offer enough detailed information about the programs. It was not until after I applied to the program did I find the specific information about the PhD program. Meticulously researching the program saves you from disappointment and ‘half-truths’ about your PhD.

2. Do something while you wait

Yeah, you heard right! The period from thinking about a PhD to submitting your application is not a time to relax. Preferably this time should be invested wisely into getting relevant research skills or preparing a few publications or conference presentations. Getting either of these done positively strengthens your application and gives you an extra advantage in highly competitive positions.
While waiting for the commencement of applications to the schools and PhD programs I was interested in, I gathered relevant internship experience at a top think-tank in my country. Also, I was able to publish a few pieces (a journal article, encyclopedia entries, book review, and book chapter). Furthermore, I participated in seminars and workshops where I honed my research skills. Despite this work, a potential supervisor in one of the schools I applied to still advised me to enhance my current research portfolio for the application.

3. Do not be too narrow in your interests

In order to be open to more opportunities, it is essential to be flexible in your approach and search. I propose two ways to do this. First, carefully explore different research areas before settling on your specialization. Secondly, try as much as possible to situate your research preference between two research areas; this creates better opportunities to get selected for PhD programs.
For me, after a short period of narrow (and unsuccessful) applications, I tweaked the approach to my research area and opted to be more diverse. I situated my research interests between politics, criminology and development studies.
Finally, you may have heard this thousand times, but let me reiterate it.


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