The search for Ph.D. opportunities: Some helpful tips

The search for fully funded opportunities for a PhD could be very competitive and challenging, especially for someone just starting the journey. With tons of highly qualified graduates and limited job opportunities, a PhD seems to be the “path of least resistance” for many. In this post, I have compiled some tips from my little experience of searching for PhD opportunities, and I hope you find these helpful:

  1. Do I really need a PhD?

Yeah, you read that right. Do you really need to do a PhD? Three to five years of your life is a very long time, and you want to be sure that you are pursuing that Ph.D. for the right reasons. To be candid, you do not need a PhD to be a success in life. There are tons of highly successful people who are not PhD holders. You can have a gratifying career in research without a PhD. You must convince first yourself of the need to do a Ph.D., and this is the most critical part of the journey. If you are yet to have good reasons, I would advise you to take some time off to think so critically about this before you proceed.

“If your ‘why’ is strong enough, you will discover the ‘how’” – Bill Walsh

  1. What problem interests me enough for me to attempt to solve?

After you have decided on the right reasons you need to pursue a Ph.D., you should have at least an idea of what you hope to research on. A Ph.D. is a solitary degree that tests your ability to carry out research independently and provides a significant learning experience (let me add that this is always a transforming experience) for the student. Do not start your Ph.D. without figuring out what exactly you hope to work on else you will waste valuable time. You need to be somewhat clear about what you want to do. This does not mean that you should have everything clearly figured out as changes are bound to occur when you commence your Ph.D. Thankfully, many schools ask for a research proposal and a motivation statement as part of the requirements for application. You might need to seek for the guidance of more experienced people in your field of study which takes me to the next point.

“Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems” – Peter F. Drucker

  1. Are there people I need to reach out to?

Do not ever think that you can go on this journey all by yourself. Reach out to people: those who are equally in the search for opportunities, those who have been successful in securing opportunities and those who are experienced in your field of interest. They could provide the necessary support to guide you through the journey. Sometimes, this support comes by informing you of opportunities or helping you refine your research ideas, linking you up with potential supervisors, the list is endless. I have enjoyed the power of networking and these days, there are lots of online resources available: I have found Researchgate and Authoraid beneficial online social networks in particular.

“Stick your neck out…it’s a lot more fun than sitting at home and watching other people do it” – Richard Branson

  1. Always be prepared!

Do not wait for the “right” opportunity to come before you start preparing yourself for it – it would be too late by then. Get all your documents together: motivation statement, research proposal, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and certificates, just get them ready. Look out for questions commonly asked by funding agencies: questions like: “What are your long-term goals? How beneficial would your research be to your country?” and have prepared answers for them. Determine that you will never let opportunities slip through your fingers.

“It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared for it” – Whitney M. Young, Jr.

  1. If I am given the right opportunity, what would it look like?

As an aspiring young African scientist, being fully aware of the challenges of carrying meaningful research in Africa, the first instinct was to go as far away from Africa as possible! While this seemed like the best approach for me then, I would say – be open. I happen to know that there are excellent opportunities even in Africa and I am currently enjoying one of such. This brings me back to my first question: What do you REALLY want? When you have truthfully answered this issue, you would be able to determine which opportunity best suits your needs. There are thousands of opportunities available, but you must be able to identify those that would provide the best learning experience and growth potential which would set you on the right course in your career.

“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities, strong men make them” – Orison Swett Marden

Decide on what you want and do not settle for anything less than that. I wish you all the best in your search! Please feel free to ask any questions you might have and share any helpful tips as well. I look forward to hearing from you.

Categories: My PhD Experience

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8 replies

  1. Very informative! Thanks Pearl


  2. Quite insighful. Thanks for sharing these useful tips. I believe you’ve got more to tell us.


    • Thanks, Ufuoma. Quite honestly, there is a lot to say and I hope to post a lot of helpful hints periodically on this blog. Kindly follow for updates.


  3. Hmmmn… Quite insightful. Now I’m thinking I should go back to my drawing board.. Thanks for taking out time to do this.


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