7 Things you should probably do before starting your PhD

It is still a blessed summer time, so we have less then two months before our lives changes forever as we enrol into PhD course, which will take at least three years of our lives. So…what should we do before getting ourselves into the PhD adventure? How to use the summer vacation prior your PhD?


♯1 Read a book

OK…it doesn’t sound very romantic, I agree, as we know that at least 80% of our PhD activities will be – reading books. However, there is a huge difference in reading a book for fun and reading for academic purposes. Reading for fun would probably mean reading an interesting novel, or adventurous book, or anything that we really enjoy and can relax with. Reading for academic purposes, on the other hand, means skimming quickly through the content, couple of paragraphs to see do we actually want to invest next 30min in reading the book. Academic reading usually can’t be connected with reading on the beach while drinking a nice cocktail. It is mostly followed by writing notes from the book and thinking where it could match in our research.So…..take a nice book, find a relaxing place……and just enjoy it!

♯2 Write a blog

Writing a blog while doing your PhD can be amazing and useful experience. In case you are writing a casual diary type of blog, it will be useful for your mental health, as diaries usually are useful. It can help you set your goals for PhD, your expectations, decisions and in later phase, reading through these can be beneficial in re-examining your studying purposes, emotions and other feelings.

Also, you can write a scientific blog, where you would like to write about your current research, new findings, interesting studies you came across in your reading etc.

Even more importantly, writing a blog can enhance your creative writing skills and writing motivation. Of course, writing you PhD assignments is completely different from blogging. However, more writing create the ease in starting to write. It is always difficult to start writing your project, as you usually don’t have the words to start with. Practicing in blogging can give you some ideas and ease that difficult start and maybe even, fear of the word ‘Introduction’.

In any case, writing a blog is beneficial so start writing something ASAP! Why wouldn’t you publish your blog in a for of a book after three or four years of PhD-ing and share your precious experiences with others?!

♯3 Find a Job

Having any kind of job before PhD might be normal if you are already employed and want to pursue a PhD as a part of your employment. Or, maybe you just graduated from your master’s degree and you are usually working during the summer. However, finding ‘some’ job, mostly part-time, can be beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, it can provide an additional income what is always an advantage. Then, you might transform your hobby into work what is very pleasurable and healthy in directing your thoughts and time in something other than PhD. Also, ‘just in case’ some emergency happens (you don’t get PhD funds at the end), having a job can help you decide what you should actually do in your life.

Although some universities don’t allow you to work while studying towards PhD (Oxbridge, for example), working while studying can help you a lot to manage your time more wisely. Also, it can direct your thoughts toward something more than only PhD topic, annoying supervisor who doesn’t help you and questions you cannot answer. In fact, you can be a ‘supervisor’ for other students – undergraduates- and offer your knowledge in certain subject. Giving lessons in musical instrument, academic writing or maths for high school graduates can always be cool, as it brings extra income.

♯4 Travel

I don’t want to say that while doing your PhD you will stop living your life and doing stuff you usually enjoy doing. But, there will be some constrains and deadlines you will need to follow, which sometimes won’t allow you to travel and spend time in different places. Use the time before your PhD to treat yourself and just travel a bit around.

Also, don’t forget to look for professional conferences and grants so you can actually go around and present your papers in conferences. Of course, it doesn’t happen straight at the beginning of your course, but you should always be prepared to look for new opportunities and widen your horizons.


♯5 Get Inspired

Equip yourself with positive influences and inspirations before starting your PhD, as it will help you stay motivated when things won’t look as bright as now. Search for people who inspire you and go and talk with them. Find out about their motivation, struggles and successes. Also, talk with people whom you very much appreciate as leader in the field you want to study. They can give you many interesting advice on your mental health during the PhD course and prospect afterwards. Also, try to implement some of the advice and lessons other people learned through their lives while you will be pursuing your so-much-desired career as a PhD student.

♯6 Examine your goals

If you are just about to start your course, the question ‘Why you want to do a PhD course?’ might seem inappropriate. If you don’t want to do it, you wouldn’t even apply for it, get admission and read this right now. However, you should figure out your proper reasons for getting a PhD. What would you do after? Of course, three years time from now might seem like eternity and you probably don’t have a clue where you see yourself in three to four years time. But, having any kind of idea can help you to focus on your study and to take all the best opportunities out if it. For example, if you think that a PhD can help you in your business, than you can approach all the readings, activities and your papers through the lenses of a businessman, trying to see connections between theory and your business. Also, doing business while studying can be an excellent way of getting experience without so much ‘real life’ responsibilities, as it is not expected that you will have all the skills and expertise as a professional. There are many more things you can do to improve your business with a PhD course, and you should probably consider networking a lot. During your course you will meet many interesting people and you never know who will be your link to other connections and possible partners.

On the other hand, if you see yourself in academia, you should seriously connect with like-minded students and professionals, building your network of people interested in similar research. You will always need to publish papers so why not to actually meet the editor of prestigious journals, introduce yourself to them and show your interest? Not even mentioning what are the benefits of professional network if you want to get a job as a professor afterwards. Prepare yourself and work towards your goals! This time before PhD is ideal to put some of your expectations on paper and get to know yourself little better.

♯7 Just Hang Out and Chillax…

At the end of a day, we are all very social creatures who like spending time with each other. Being focused in something so complex as your PhD will keep you very busy and sometimes ‘on distance’ with people you care the most about. I’m not saying that you will stop spending time with your loved ones, and just PhD-ing will bring you many new colleagues, maybe even friends, whom you will be surrounded in the library and other places. However, take your time now for your loved ones, friends and family and just be there for them and with them. They will appreciate it later when you become very busy, and you will know that you can always have their support. A degree is worth nothing, remember, if we have respect from everyone, except the ones we care for.


2 thoughts on “7 Things you should probably do before starting your PhD

  1. Pingback: Link-ed-In your PhD – How a polite introduction email can change your career | Cambridge PhD-ing

  2. Pingback: Why not to get a PhD? Best / worse case scenario | Cambridge PhD-ing

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