5 things to consider before pursuing your PhD

26th Jul 2016
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We’ve all thought about doing a PhD at some point in our lives. Some still keep the option open. The beauty about pursuing a PhD in any subject that interests you is that it’s never too late to go for it. There is no field that is too saturated or worked upon, where new things cannot be discovered. Every experiment, observation, and conclusion is a magnet for an array of possibilities – some which can even become revolutionary in the future.

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Although the pressing question of finances does occur, most PhD students choose passion over pay and delve quite fairly in the world of stipends and health care. Most enrol in these programmes because they want to discover and leave behind an untouchable legacy, one that will help create a proactive change in society and its billions.

However, there is quite a fair share of instances where PhD candidates drop out midway through their course, wasting a good couple of years of their lives and resources. Everyone knows that pursuing your PhD is hard work and requires tremendous amounts of dedication and steel will. But sometimes one may waver.

For all those planning to enrol into PhD programmes and dedicate the next three to five years of their lives to academia and research, here are a few things to consider before taking this monumental decision.

Keeping the passion alive

This probably sounds like a Bon Jovi song, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. A PhD programme offers students the opportunity to completely immerse themselves in their subject of interest and receive a monthly stipend for it. Loosely translated, this would mean getting paid for working on your favourite subject. Sounds spectacular, right? However, once a year or two goes by, you could find yourself a little bit stuck. Too much of one subject tends to get wearisome and frustrating, and you may convince yourself that you aren’t too interested in it anyway. This is the danger spot for any PhD student. So the question you need to ask yourself is, are you really in this for the long run? Or is it a temporary interest, lined up to change with the season?

Curbing expenses

It’s very easy to state that money doesn’t matter, because you’re doing this to change the world. But once you embark on your PhD journey and assure your parents that you don’t need any more pocket money, you’ll be pitched forward into a pool of expenses while also balancing your social lifestyle, and the truth is you may not have enough for both. At these times, the lure of a job in a mainstream industry may seem tempting, but you need to know if you have the willpower to not get swayed by the big bucks.

Self-doubt

When you’re signing yourself up for a PhD programme, know that you are dedicating a good three to five years of your life to it. This may seem like a cakewalk at the time, but as the days crawl by, it can get a bit frustrating. The ‘what ifs’ may rear their ugly heads and you’ll be plagued with doubts about wasting your best years on campus. However, you need to remind yourself that these are the most fulfilling years, where you will learn everything you want to and need to and some more. So by the time you’re done, you’ll be a definite pro.

Dealing with the road less travelled

There is a chance that you might feel like you’re slowing your life down when you see your childhood best friends pitch forward through time, doing everything at the ‘right time’. Your parents may be on your case about how your nosy aunts are asking them when you’ll tie the knot, how your biological clock is ticking, and how you aren’t getting any younger. There will be different kinds of pressure from all angles about your life and your decisions, but it is up to you to keep your head held high and stick to your decisions.

Changing the world?

Most PhD candidates join the programmes thinking they are going to change the world. Be it in science or arts, a sudden discovery, an untried experiment – anything could spark a new solution or answer a lot of age-old questions. But you have to be prepared for the fact that not every project and every discovery could land you the Nobel Prize. Some of your work will be considered and distributed proudly and some won’t. You need to know that you are in this to contribute, and sometimes, you may not receive the recognition you think you deserve.

But the trick is to know that in whichever way possible, you are making a difference. You are contributing to the plethora of solutions that are being unleashed into the world, to help change it for the absolute better. And that, right there, is why every single bit of effort and hard work you put in counts.

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