…. by Meaghan / from Canada / studies Archaeology / 3rd year of PhD (PG)
In my opinion, one of the most important parts of the application process for a PhD is securing funding. I am currently a third year PhD student in the Archaeology department and hold a Principal’s Career Development Scholarship and a Global Research Scholarship, which fully fund my tuition at the university and provide a living stipend while I study. The whole process of trying to get funding was really nerve wracking for me, and I hope that I can share some insight into the entire process to help others in their own search.
When I started pursuing my PhD application, I sat down with my partner and we outlined what we would need to cover financially to be able to let me study for the three years I would need. It is a good idea to look at all elements of the costs and all the avenues you have to support yourself. I did the research to get an idea of what my tuition cost would be (I am Canadian, so I pay international tuition), what my research costs would likely be and what it would cost for us to support our day to day life while I studied. It was very clear that the only way for me to be able to carry out my PhD would be to secure funding that could pay my full tuition and help towards my living costs.
It is a good idea to look at all elements of the costs and all the avenues you have to support yourself.
I would really recommend taking your time to consider how you will fund all elements of your degree. Think about how much time you could commit to working outside of your degree and how much money that would bring in. Remember that outside work will take up time and add stress, and for some students there may be limitations on work hours due to visa restrictions. Based on my own experience and that of friends, I would say it is really worth pursuing funding for a PhD. It is a hard and stressful time without adding the unknown element of trying to support yourself alone through the entire process.
“The next big tip I would give is: GIVE YOURSELF TIME”
The application process for funding in the UK tends to have really early due dates. This can make it incredibly hard to secure funding if you do not give yourself at least a year to dedicate to the process. Many scholarship deadlines are as early as October the year before you intend to start studying and most are past by February. Also, many of these applications require you to already have submitted your PhD application, so make sure you have time for this. I tend to advise that at least a year between a masters and PhD degree is needed to manage to secure funding. I would also be cautious about starting a PhD without funding if you know you will need it to finish, there is very little funding available for students who are already studying.
There are a lot of scholarships out there, so take your time to look around and see what you qualify for. Then sell, sell, sell yourself. Remember how interesting the research you are doing is and how amazing you are to have got to the point of applying for a PhD and then convince the scholarship boards of the same thing. I find it a bit hard and uncomfortable to big myself up like this, so I had friends and family read over my applications to help me better sell my ideas. Make sure you back up your applications with good referees who believe in you and your research; it can make a big difference for your success.
And hopefully you hear back with some positive responses. Don’t panic if your first letter is a rejection, mine was. Then I got two really wonderful letters securing me my full tuition costs and a living stipend. This isn’t quite the end though.
Don’t panic if your first letter is a rejection, mine was.
Once you know about the funding you have secured, it’s worth going back to your list of expenses and seeing what still might need to be covered. For me, I had no funding for any research costs. This meant working really hard to secure several grants to cover the expenses for the experiments I was conducting. I have also had to secure funding for conferences and talks that I have attended. Luckily there are options for these too. The University has a lot of resources that you can apply for to help with some of these costs.
Most of the funding application process is really just time and hard work. If you ware willing to put that in, it is possible to secure the scholarships, grants, bursaries, loans or whatever you need to support your research goals. The best thing you can do to be successful is to be well prepared and clear with what kind of funding you need to carry out your degree and then work your butt off to get it, it’s good practice for the PhD.