The Next Phase: How to Find the PhD Program of Your Dreams
“Too many scholars think of research as purely a cerebral pursuit. If we do nothing with the knowledge we gain, then we have wasted our study. Books can store information better than we can--what we do that books cannot is interpret. So if one is not going to draw conclusions, then one might as well just leave the information in the texts.” ― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
There is a saying that goes..."Simply not being where you want to be...should be enough motivation." For those of us on the academic path, there is often a phase of uncertainty followed by ultimate triumph. You just have to keep trying until you succeed. The journey is the reward, but taking the action steps isn't the most fun. I can attest to this...but the discipline outweighs the discomfort once you begin. Many times we just want the ultimate results without realizing that there's a process to get to the destination. The past eighteen months have been an interesting journey to say the least. When I was at home this past year, I spent a lot of time just ruminating. My readership is broad, so if there are any of you reading this who are in undergrad, or any phase of life for that matter, it is perfectly okay... to have a gap year. If we're in a time where life expectancy is approaching 100 plus...the least we can do is enjoy our lives. This simple experience of giving yourself freedom...will give you time to think...and identify what you want next in life. Many times we are bombarded by the energy of those around us...and having the time to simply be...will clarify your mind and allow new visions and ideas to come forth.
I have made a personal promise to start a PhD in the fall of this academic year. The key to a fulfilling life is to have a plan, and my intention after the tumultuous two years prior...is to simply settle down this year. To get to the next phase of settling down, there are a few action steps that I am taking to accomplish this mission. Q2 is quiet...but intentionally lived. The lessons that I have learned on my journey are simply to be:
I have taken the liberty of using my readership as my accountability partners. I find that it helps with respect to achieving goals...if you say them out "loud". Not necessarily the finer details...but making a declaration that you want a certain thing means that you are confident in your desire for that item. As you declare and act, the way really appears. For this week, I thought I'd share with you my PhD journey. Just like when I was researching my Master's programs...the first thing that I did was go to my favorite website: Google.com. Not to be underestimated, I tell my students my Google story every chance I get. I got into the University of Leeds...because I spent a few weeks researching my career options...after my undergraduate graduation...and discovered their program.
Likewise...with my PhD journey...I have taken the time to explore my surroundings. In the current silence...I take the time to simply think...and once again...about a week ago...I headed to Google and discovered the website FindAPhD.com. Via taking the time to identify the criteria that I want...much like a genie....the website is generating hundreds of options for me to skim through on a daily basis. I take my time of course...and filter through...and in the most magical of ways...I've started finding programs that are similar to projects that I've worked on in both my industrial experiences, and in my collective school experiences. Industry moulded me in one direction, and academia has moulded me into another direction.
Taking the time to explore...I've started broadening my horizons and allowing myself to dream. At this phase of life...the intention is not to be exciting. There's a point in life where you're not going to need a lot of people around you...in order for you to be happy. You just need that critical mass. I don't want to draw too much attention to myself currently because I'm building something. The last thing you need when you're studying is for someone to invite you to a party. (Not saying she doesn't party...I'm all about that life)...but you have a purpose in this life. Distractions...will break your flow. All artists retreat when they are in the creation process. Freeing the mind...generates possibility. As mentioned, external influences provide distractions, so you either have to ask yourself is your legacy and stability important to you...and are you willing to spend even one or two months on an intense drive to change your future for the better? That is the question.
The starting image for FindAPhD.com is highlighted below:
The website predominantly focuses on UK PhD programs, but in the search, you'll actually find a wealth of opportunities in the USA, and in Australia as well. You simply identify the regions that work best for you. At this point in time, I'm heavily focused on the USA and the UK. My aim is to simply get into the academic flow...and the rest of life will then unfold. Ultimately however, I'd like to live in the USA. The USA is closer to home and I can visit...but I'll honestly be grateful wherever the opportunities come. In academia...you learn how global learning is...and once you're involved in activities that have the potential to change lives...it's a blessing.
As you can see from the image, there is a search bar. In this space, you simply go through the process of entering the program of interest. For this tutorial, I entered the topic Aeronautical Engineering:
The search, went ahead and identified a list of programs. For the sake of this tutorial, I won't get into too much detail, but you'll realize that there are two main segments. The keyword filters are to the middle left of the screen. You'll notice the keyword highlights, followed by more selective filters that allow you to determine searches via location, discipline, institution, and also by status. You can identify if you're an international student, local resident etc.
In the main search filters are the actual programs themselves. In the search criteria, I indicated international student, and a list of three programs appeared. I chose the first one...at Cambridge. Here are the finer details:
The program summary is highlighted. What is critical to you is the time frame ( and yes I'm applying...lol...might as well since I did the search). Remember that in this medium...we are focusing on the no excuses lifestyle. If you notice...all the various details are outlined. The location details, and program summary are highlighted. For those who worry about funding, you'll realize that the program stipend, and annual salary are outlined. That being the case, if you'll need sponsorship, the program will tell you what is available.
As you continue in your search, there are some programs that will allow you apply with simply a resume and a cover letter, or for the bigger programs, you will go through the school website and submit the relevant details that are needed. Additionally, to the base of the program page is a section that allows you to email the department and ask any relevant queries.
For the past week, I've been using this source, and will continue till I've exhausted the offerings. The good news about the UK applications is that they are free, so if you're worrying about GRE costs and application fees that often are associated with the US PhD programs (don't worry, I found some free applications in the US...we will discuss in another blog article), then you can always focus on the UK, and then do a deeper US search when the time comes.
The key is to simply get started, and eventually the light will come. I'm currently underachieving at one UK application a day. At this rate...I'll have submitted 20 applications by the time May ends. It is free...so I take advantage. You can do what you want...there's always a way. I'll see how best I can be a light on my own personal journey.
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