25 Survival Tips to be a Successful PhD Student

How to be a Great PhD Student 25 Survival Tips

Being a successful PhD student involves a lot of things, and managing them all is no small feat. From putting together conference papers to working on your research, it’s sometimes hard to decide where to focus your attention at any one point. Many people think that it is critical to maintain a healthy balance between your academic and extracurricular activities in order to maintain good physical and emotional health.

Let’s find out verified 25 ways to complete your PhD successfully, including taking care of your health:

1. Discover your favourite way to work or learn

One of the most critical things you can do as a PhD student is to determine your prefered way of working. Depending on the degree of flexibility your PhD project permits, this could be done in small chunks over a long day or in one large chunk over a shorter day. You may want to visualize your thoughts surrounded by a sea of notes, or you may prefer to work in a more orderly environment during your PhD studies.

Every individual is unique. It is critical that you crack your own code as soon as possible. If you’re going to study for at least three years to study PhD, you’ll need to find out how you actually learn and work.

2. Create an intelligent PhD routine

It is critical to maintaining your focus during your PhD. Your best option for doing so while maintaining your peace of mind is to create a schedule that you can follow – and then stick to it. Get up and complete your PhD tasks on schedule, just like you would if you were reporting for a job. Schedule time in your routine to conduct research and study essential material in your field. Schedule time for enough sleep, healthy nutrition, exercise, socializing, and recreation. Bear in mind that you will have additional responsibilities, such as attending lectures and symposia, commuting, parking, cleaning your living space, buying supplies, and meeting with study groups and peer PhD collaborators. Simultaneously, work a realistic schedule to avoid working oneself into a time of fear.

3. Practice academic writing every day

Your writing style and research methods may enable you to complete your PhD dissertation ahead of schedule. That is because developing the ability to write fluently in an academic manner should become second nature. To avoid last-minute panic attacks, schedule research time, gather and correctly reference sources, and create multiple draughts. Daily writing for at least 30 minutes can help you organize your PhD notes and results, as well as identify areas that require extra research. Read more about academic writing for PhDs here. Additionally, much of what you write contributes directly to your understanding of your subject area. Due to your other responsibilities to teaching, cooperation, and extracurricular activities, establish and adhere to a writing routine. Simultaneously, read more intelligently, comprehending how the literature matches your aims. When reading and writing, seek out vital ideas rather than lengthy passages.

4. Build your relationship with PhD supervisor

One option that many new PhD students neglect is the opportunity to build a strong connection with their PhD supervisor. Your supervisor is almost certainly a busy person who is mentoring numerous students. They cannot accompany you during the process. If you want their advice, you must initiate contact rather than wait for them to contact you. PhD supervisors are a treasure trove of knowledge and experience, so take advantage of them!

5. PhD supervisor is your role model

This gets me to my next point: to listen to your PhD supervisor’s advice seriously. They may not be an expert on your topic (it would not be your topic otherwise), but PhD supervisors have strong experience in the research field. Remember: they have gone through your situation! You do not have to agree 100% of the time, but you should listen to and take what they are saying. Their advice could help you improve your PhD research methods and successfully complete your PhD studies in time. If you feel their advice is not right, speak straight and present your reasoning in front of your PhD supervisor. This could help you organize your thought process quicker.

6. Find a supportive PhD community

Obviously, as a PhD student, you cannot afford to collaborate with negative colleagues or discouraging friends. Complainers might drain your energy and perhaps lead you to engage in negative thinking or make comparisons to the development of other PhD candidates. Conduct your own research, but seek advice from people you can trust and who are looking out for your best interests. Join organizations dedicated to your primary topic of study with which you can discuss academic and social issues. A supportive community like PhD Success can help you break free from isolation by offering a hand of support.

Attending and presenting at events isn’t the only method to connect with your community. You might want to join other PhD students at local pub nights or departmental events. A PhD can be very isolating at times. Being able to interact with others who are in a similar situation can help you stay on track and provide extra support.

7. Build your network effectively

Along with joining a positive PhD community, begin networking from the start of your PhD studies. You’ll spend four or five years at the institution, which provides adequate time to develop and strengthen relationships with working professionals, educators, junior faculty, and peers who contribute to your developing knowledge base. They can recommend exploring literature, research trends, and potential publication, conference, and workshop opportunities. Remember to research online tools and other communities as part of your networking efforts in order to establish your credibility as a colleague. Create a profile for your professional/research activities on sites such as LinkedIn or join a LinkedIn Discussion Group. Speak with seminar presenters. Connect with writers you find throughout your literature research and join career groups outside your university’s normal sphere of influence. Finally, try conducting informational interviews to better understand the workplace, increase your visibility, and interact with potential employers.

8. Keep an eye on all opportunities

As a PhD student, one thing you will find is that while there are numerous opportunities available, they will not necessarily fall into your lap. Maintain contact with your PhD community to find when conferences are looking for papers or when other opportunities arise. Your supervisor may not always encourage you to write a paper or present at a conference, so take the initiative and find one for you.

9. Keep an eye on your PhD thesis

With this in mind, it’s critical not to become distracted during your PhD program. In the end, you won’t pass the viva exam unless you have a solid thesis, so concentrate your efforts there. Writing more articles and papers is excellent, but those publications and presentations will be useless if you don’t finish your PhD.

10. Prepare a financial strategy

It can be difficult, if not impossible, to have enough money to get through your programme. However, simply understanding where to find solid funding sources might provide you with some relief and help you save time. Prepare a financial strategy and do the necessary research to ensure your financial survival. Don’t let money get in the way of your main goal of identifying your passions, honing your skills, and making advancements. The United States Department of Education offers financial aid to PhD students. To fund your total fees, you may need to combine numerous opportunities, such as grants, scholarships, loans, fellowships, housing charges, and winning teaching and research assistantships. Some graduate students make money tutoring, but you’ll have to weigh the time commitment against your routine schedule and academic obligations.

11. Don’t forget your “why”

Another thing that every PhD student should remember in mind is why they are pursuing the degree in the first place. Doctoral research is a hard task. It can be isolated and frustrating, with lengthy stretches of little payoff. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back. Reminding yourself why you’re doing this in the first place will help you rekindle your enthusiasm.

12. Health is success for PhD students

Students at Rutgers University are advised to find other methods to relieve stress without consuming — even healthful ones. Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as the proper portion proportions for all of your meals. Cutaway junk food and sweet desserts, which make you want to eat more of them. This is also true of alcohol, which can reduce your health and create anxiety. Drinking is common at student and faculty events, so approach with caution, even if your peers brand you a wimp. Vary your meals and set aside a day where you can eat anything you want without eating guilty. According to WebMD, students should eat berries, oats, milk or yoghurt, salmon, dark green vegetables, walnuts, beans, and dark chocolate. In small doses (8 oz) and without a lot of sugar, coffee is fine. Although latte and mocha drinks are pleasant, they frequently include a lot of sugar. If you don’t want to consume too much coffee, green tea can help you wake up but avoid energy drinks and other jittery stimulants.

13. Don’t compare yourself with others

It’s easy to assume you’re not performing as well as other PhD students around you, aside from loneliness or burnout. Perhaps one has completed their PhD thesis before you, or another has recently been published. Everyone works at their own pace, focusing on different aspects of the process. It would be best if you never compared your work style or speciality research endeavour to that of another. You could as well compare apples to oranges.

14. Ask questions at anytime anywhere!

Because they don’t want to appear foolish, many new PhD students hesitate to ask questions. Nobody will believe this; believe me when I say that. You’re probably asking a question that was previously on someone’s mind! You are not expected to know everything as a PhD student. Take advantage of the fact that you’re surrounded by departments full of academics with knowledge ready to be absorbed. If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask it!

15. Exercise every day at least for 30 minutes

Even moderate exercise can improve your physical and emotional well-being to keep focused on PhD studies. Regular exercise reduces stress, enhances memory retention, and improves mood, among other things (particularly in winter). According to Colorado Tech researchers, exercise boosts “the number of brain cells in the hippocampus, which governs the development, retention, and recall of memories – all critical for student achievement,” according to Colorado Tech researchers. The hippocampus begins to shrink in most adults in their late twenties, resulting in memory loss over time.” If you have regular workout partners or participate in intramural team activities, exercise can help you expand your social bandwidth. Remember in mind to stretch. Consider enrolling in a yoga or Pilates class. Join in some running, weight lifting, swimming, or rowing. Hike with your buddies or coworkers. Get your mountain bike out of the garage. Get in a 30-minute workout at least three times a week for the best effects. According to Time Magazine, cardiovascular exercise can help with sadness, anxiety, and mood problems. You’ll also sleep better.

16. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks

My best piece of advice for being a successful PhD student is to take regular breaks. Sometimes, an unhealthy work ethic is fostered in academia that convinces people that they must work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is entirely and completely false. Students who are able to function are the best. And, in order to function properly, your brain requires appropriate rest intervals, a good night’s sleep, and some weekend fun.

17. Accept rejections as they come

In a PhD programme, rejection is a routine and unwelcome emotional downer. However, how you respond to it is critical. Unsolicited advice can be intimidating. Competition for internships, fellowships, and publications can make you feel overwhelmed. Two coping strategies are not taking rejection or harsh criticism personally and chalking it up to experience. It has the ability to soften the punches as they come. It’s dangerous to compare yourself to other prospects. There will always be someone better than you, just as there will always be someone better than you in athletics. However, you are not chasing your colleagues’ goals, dissertations, or even the same degree — you are pursuing personalized information and skills for your post-doctoral life. Barbara Robson, an Associate Editor for two academic journals, writes on Quora that the majority of manuscripts (80% or more) are rejected and that getting published requires a certain amount of luck. If a journal rejects your paper, look for another place to submit it. Don’t send a hate letter or an intellectual response if you’re passed over for a conference. Now is the time to move on.

18. Find mentor or professional advisor

It’s critical to find the ideal mentor and dissertation advisor if you want to succeed in your PhD. Choose an advisor who shares your research interests and career goals, according to the Gradhacker Blog at Inside Higher Ed. Ask about the success rate of the PhD students they mentor graduating. View their list of publications, conference presentations, and other research accomplishments to see if they walk the talk. Find out if they can provide continued guidance. Examine their ability to mentor others and their personal chemistry when it comes to working together. Is it hard to speak with them, or are they abusive or condescending? Is it likely that they won’t be able to have a productive and respectful connection with you during your time in the programme? Not all successful teachers make excellent advisers. Some people could be too preoccupied with writing or attending conferences to meet with you. After each advising session, you should feel more focused, energized about your research and dissertation, and armed with ideas for success.

19. Keep in touch with family and friends

When a friend asks if you want to hang out, you tell them, “I’m in a PhD programme, so ask me again in five years.” Maintaining relationships with family and friends is critical. They have the ability to maintain you and keep you from becoming isolated to the point of isolation. They can be distracting at the same time. Maintaining a sense of balance can be achieved by scheduling time with family and friends while adhering to the requirement to maintain on research and writing. The PhDStudent Forum recommends combining family or friend events with studying when possible. Take study time for yourself over a lengthier vacation to family, for example, to maintain your academic pace. Visit a café to study alongside family and friends who enjoy reading in public as well. Be careful to express your schedule effectively and find ways to schedule necessary phone calls and visits. Join friends for some exercise or fun.

20. Organize and keep yourself calm

Living alone can be conducive to learning, but not if you have noisy neighbours above, next door, or below you. However, if you isolate yourself at home, you can develop a terrible case of cabin fever. Wherever you reside, you should feel at ease and be comfortable to get things done. Clutter can be a source of anxiety for some people. According to Inside Higher Ed, living with roommates can save money, but it comes with its own set of obstacles. Other routines and schedules shared by PhD students can involve unwanted noise, emotional drama, unwanted visitors, or social habits that can send you over the edge. Investigate potential roommates thoroughly, allowing for a contingency plan in case problems arise. It may be beneficial to develop a friendly yet direct communication technique. Alternatively, you can create a private work zone in your bedroom to study PhD. You can find a peaceful study atmosphere in a library carrel or a small café if necessary. If you’re living with family, the same advice applies.

21. Take part in other activities

Dedicate some time to things you enjoy doing on a regular basis to maintain sane equilibrium. Work in the garden, learn photography, play live music, kayak, take a cooking class, volunteer in civic or advocacy activities, or learn a foreign language. Make something out of your hands. Play a game of scrabble. You can use paint to express your playful or creative side. Take enrolling in a dance class. Improve your ping pong game or learn to meditate. Relegate your PhD brain to background noise because it’s nearly impossible to turn it off. That way, when you return to work, you might have breakthroughs or discoveries.

22. Take care of your mental health

According to Inside Higher Ed, there is a mental health epidemic in graduate education. Graduate students are six times more likely than the general population to suffer from anxiety and depression. “Transgender and gender-nonconforming graduate students, as well as women, were much more likely to feel anxiety and depression,” according to the study, than their straight or male peers. A poor work-life balance can exacerbate burnout and depression. When you’re dealing with mental health concerns, the worst thing you can do is keep them to yourself or feel like a failure for having them. Go to the university counselling centre (student health centre) or a reputable outside mental health group for personal counselling. Become a member of their emotional support groups. Free intervention services, discreet telephone counselling, suicide prevention help, and referral services are all available through the National Grad Crisis Line (877 472-3457). Look into NAMI on Campus Clubs, which are mental health support organizations organized by students.

23. Work with your expectations

In the end, who you are is not a PhD student. You’re currently enrolled in a graduate programme. According to the Indiana University handbook to succeeding in graduate school, you should break down overwhelming expectations into manageable tasks. Doctoral students frequently believe they are imposters amid experts. According to research from Johns Hopkins University, straining to meet one’s own expectations can lead to low self-esteem, procrastination, guilt, and depression. You may find that you cannot meet your perfectionist expectations, so adjust your plans to ensure that deadlines are met to the best of your ability. The guide goes on to say that you should clear up any expectations that others may have for you. This is especially true in the case of families and those who provide financial or emotional support.

24. Attend regular events and conferences

I can’t stress this more! Conferences and presentations provide a wealth of learning opportunities. To begin with, you become a part of the larger community in your research field, and you can establish a long-term network of peers. You can also learn more about your understanding alternatives. Even attending conferences outside of your area of expertise might spark new ideas and send you feeling revitalized. Participating in panels is a terrific opportunity to meet new people and show off your network. Attending job fairs is another method to network while learning about the industry. You can set up further encounters with experts by phone, remotely, or before the next conference through networking at conferences. Citing conferences and your own presentations on your CV isn’t a bad idea.

25. Commons Problems faced by PhD Students

Where there’s a PhD student, there’s a problem! Ok, that was funny but here are the most frequently asked questions, or say issues, faced by PhD students worldwide.

What topics are PhD students afraid to talk?

The lack of progress on a PhD dissertation is the number one thing that PhD students are afraid to talk about. This was definitely true in my case and many of my classmates with whom I chatted. The dissertation is a large project with many stages that take a lot of self-discipline over time. It helped a lot when I got over my embarrassment about it and started talking to other people about it, and I was able to find a way ahead.

Another topic that PhD students are hesitant to share is their hesitation about being enrolled in a doctoral programme and whether or not they should continue. These are all critical questions that such students should be aware of and discuss with others (counsellors, friends, etc.).

What was your most difficult challenge, and how did you overcome it?

As previously said, the most difficult aspect of completing my PhD was completing the dissertation. I was able to cross the finish line thanks to two factors (and came from speaking to friends and classmates). (1) Because my dissertation was quantitative, I hired a statistics adviser with whom I met on a regular basis (weekly or fortnightly), and this helped me in making good progress by providing much-needed structure (and assistance with statistical analysis). (2) I let go of my dissertation chair and found him with someone I had a lot better working relationship with. My new chair was better educated about my dissertation topic and was also a lot more supportive. I made tremendous progress with him and was able to finish my dissertation in a reasonable amount of time.

What are some effective ways for reducing stress and anxiety?

I believe a few things will help reduce stress when working on a doctorate. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, pleasurable hobbies (such as going to the movies), counselling, and/or chatting to friends and family are all common possibilities.

However, I believe that the best way is to work gradually through each part of the PhD programme one at a time until it is completed. A helpful way to think about it (with both the dissertation and the PhD programme itself) is to break it down into smaller chunks and work on each one individually, finishing it before moving on to the next.

What strategies did you use to deal with the pressures of high competition?

My advice to students facing high levels of competition is to try to put things in perspective: do your best to gain the best resources (internships, grades, etc.) you can, but keep in mind that once you’re out in the field, some of those things may not mean as much. So, you can obtain a ‘pass’ in your doctoral programme but then go out and make a tremendous splash in your profession.

What can you suggest to maintain your interest or inertia in order to complete your PhD/Dissertation?

‘Cut up the sausage’ and concentrate on/work on each piece individually; Locate aid or supportive persons and meet with them on a regular basis; Create ‘deadlines’ and milestones for yourself to work towards, and enlist the aid of these others (good) people to keep you accountable.

Find ways that work for you to help add structure to this massive unstructured (or sparsely organized) project known as a PhD — particularly the dissertation. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you get through it and onto the next (and bigger) stage of your profession. Just do your best and don’t get too caught up in the moment while you’re there.

Good luck with your PhD!