In this series, I am sharing what I have come to know about selective doctoral applications and experiences – or everything I wished I had known. The first part was about deciding whether or not to pursue a Ph.D. at all, and the second part was about how to locate a program of interest. This post is intended to provide you with some feedback on how to tackle the application itself.
If you are returning to this series my assumption is that you’ve already thought carefully about embarking on a life-path as some sort of researcher, and are thus certain that you want to find a Ph.D. program that suits you. If you have not, please consider reading Part I before moving on to this next step. In this post, I will outline some of the most important considerations for identifying a program to which to apply. This is a long and fully packed post – so I hope you have a good reader or are willing to print it out. I also hope, however, that it contains valuable and helpful advice.
I am very fortunate to work in a selective and well-resourced institution, and have many opportunities to meet amazing, young people embarking on a career in graduate education. I also encounter many interested (and interesting) people who just don’t understand what a Ph.D. is, how to go about finding a good program for them, or to go through what is a very competitive process. This is particularly important because these are things I also did not know when I started on this path. I’m thus setting out here to share what I have come to know as straightforwardly as possible.
With some reflection, I think that I may be the last of a generation of scholars to figure all of this out as I went. Even in the last few years, I’ve seen applicants getting increasingly polished, and so there is a great need to undertake this entire endeavor strategically. In this series, I’ve constructed some guiding questions both to get the reader started, and as a means to explore some of the bigger issues at play.
My plan for this series of blog posts is to cover the following: