There is one thing, however, that I would advise each and every prospective student to do, no matter your subject or how long you have already been planning on doing (or not doing) a PhD:
Reflect upon your decision carefully before you commit to a doctorate (or decide to turn one down!). Thoroughly evaluate all the career options, both in academia and outside, that might be open to you after you graduate.
There may be career paths you aren’t even aware of just after graduating and these might present a great alternative to PhD studies. Or perhaps you already have an idea of the career you eventually want to pursue. In this case, you might do well to ask whether a PhD is indeed required or even helpful in getting you there.
As tough and complicated as such a decision might be, there are some reasons which generally shouldn't be your main motivation for doing a PhD.
Don’t do a doctorate just:
- For the sake of the academic title / degree, i.e. to have those three extra letters behind your name
- Because most of your peers from university do (everyone is different and what might be ideal for one person does not necessarily apply to another)
- Because you think the qualification will automatically lead to a specific job - or a higher salary (the reality is more complicated)
I initially thought of adding “because you don’t know what else to do with your degree” to this list, but this approach has actually worked out pretty well for some people I know. Perhaps because this attitude is likely to make you enter your postgraduate studies with fewer expectations than someone already planning for that professorship in 2030?