You’ve decided to continue your academic journey and picked what subject you want to pursue in graduate school. Amazing! Maybe you even have a dream university or PhD programme in mind. That’s great! However, there are some things you need to think of in advance. Prior to sending in your application, you will need to prepare your CV, write a personal statement, as well as talk to potential academic referees.
Most universities and research institutes in the UK, where I study, will provide details of documents and files necessary for the whole process. Getting familiar with the specific programme requirements should be your first step of preparing your applications. It’s important to follow the guidelines and meet set deadlines to make sure that your application will be considered by the admissions board.
Before you send in your application, it’s a good idea to think of potential referees. Usually, you will be asked to provide the details of two academic or industrial referees. Once you’ve completed all of the application steps, they will receive a form to evaluate you based on your previous performance. It’s really important to choose someone who has directly worked with you and can support your application. If you’ve done an undergraduate research project, ask your university supervisor. If you’ve taken a gap year and worked at a research facility, ask your lab manager. It doesn’t really matter who you pick, as long as they know you well and are willing to submit references for you.
Once you’ve got the references sorted, it’s best to focus on writing your CV. Individual project websites will state how long both your personal statement and CV should, as well as provide additional information on what to include specifically. You need to remember, that an academic CV will greatly differ from a regular one. It should summarise all of your academic and professional skills, as well as research experience. It is crucial to highlight your biggest achievements, with a big emphasis on research experience, when applying for PhD programmes. In addition, it’s always a bonus when your CV is well structured and visually organised. It might be worth showing your CV to your supervisor beforehand, since they can give you feedback and use the information to make your refences more complete.
The personal statement you’ll need to prepare, will have a different length depending on where you apply, however the average statement is a page long. The information you will need to include in your statement, will be pretty similar between different universities you decide to apply to. You always need to state why you want to apply to this specific programme, what interests you in this part of research and how will this help you in your future career. It’s also good to mention why you chose this specific university and how your previous experience has prepared you for undertaking a doctoral dree. Try not to take up space by blunt sentences. Whenever you mention your previous experience, try to explain what it has taught you and how you can use that knowledge in your PhD.
Once all of the above is done, all you have to do is submit your application and wait for the admissions team to get back to you and invite you to an interview! Good luck!