Do I stand a chance of getting onto this PhD programme?

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InadequateJusticex
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I'm thinking of doing a PhD in organic chemistry at Bristol but I've received some statistics and apparently there were 17 people per place and only 20% of these people were shortlisted for interview. Is it typically this competitive for PhD positions?

Unfortunately I think I'll only be able to get a 2.1 overall for my degree (but I would say my organic chem grades are higher than average) so would this hinder my chance?

I'm really keen and motivated about it so I hope this comes across during the interview as it seems to be the only thing I have going for me, but is it worth applying anyway or would it be a waste of time?
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Klix88
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(Original post by InadequateJusticex)
I'm thinking of doing a PhD in organic chemistry at Bristol but I've received some statistics and apparently there were 17 people per place and only 20% of these people were shortlisted for interview. Is it typically this competitive for PhD positions?
For my field, that would be pretty good odds for a funded PhD. The only one I've ever seen that I had a shot at, had fifty+ applicants. Don't know how many were shortlisted, but I doubt it was more than half a dozen or so. It's very variable by field though.

Unfortunately I think I'll only be able to get a 2.1 overall for my degree (but I would say my organic chem grades are higher than average) so would this hinder my chance?
A First would always be better, but it's really not possible to say. It depends on the calibre of other applicants, the enthusiasm of your academic references and the quality of your application.

I'm really keen and motivated about it so I hope this comes across during the interview as it seems to be the only thing I have going for me, but is it worth applying anyway or would it be a waste of time?
It's never a waste of time to apply if you have even the remotest shot. It could very well go your way. If nothing else, it will give you experience of the application process so that you can refine things for future applications.
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Jantaculum
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(Original post by InadequateJusticex)
I'm thinking of doing a PhD in organic chemistry at Bristol but I've received some statistics and apparently there were 17 people per place and only 20% of these people were shortlisted for interview. Is it typically this competitive for PhD positions?
If you're not sure whether to go for a funded PhD or a job, you've got to do lots of applications anyway - so apply and see what happens.

If you definitely want to do a PhD then you may well need to apply to different universities and look further afield - the more you apply to, the more chance of getting one.

Either way you might as well apply

(and 1 in 17 chance for a funded PhD seems about right, probably a bit low - it IS that competitive)
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MonteCristo
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A lot of these places (not all) are awarded internally. I would not underestimate the importance of contacting the supervisor, asking genuine questions about the project, and even visiting the lab if you can. I'm a great believer in a couple of strong applications (which are carefully researched and lobbied for) than a scattergun approach at many different projects.
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InadequateJusticex
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(Original post by Klix88)
For my field, that would be pretty good odds for a funded PhD. The only one I've ever seen that I had a shot at, had fifty+ applicants. Don't know how many were shortlisted, but I doubt it was more than half a dozen or so. It's very variable by field though.


A First would always be better, but it's really not possible to say. It depends on the calibre of other applicants, the enthusiasm of your academic references and the quality of your application.


It's never a waste of time to apply if you have even the remotest shot. It could very well go your way. If nothing else, it will give you experience of the application process so that you can refine things for future applications.
What field are you in, if you don't mind me asking? Also, who would be a more appropriate reference - my potential dissertation supervisor or my industrial placement supervisor? Bearing in mind that my potential dissertation supervisor will (hopefully!) be one of the staff members involved in the programme (whereas my industrial supervisor is in a different field) and hence I will be much more enthusiastic about my dissertation than my placement project, which may affect the quality of the reference!?

(Original post by Jantaculum)
If you're not sure whether to go for a funded PhD or a job, you've got to do lots of applications anyway - so apply and see what happens.

If you definitely want to do a PhD then you may well need to apply to different universities and look further afield - the more you apply to, the more chance of getting one.

Either way you might as well apply

(and 1 in 17 chance for a funded PhD seems about right, probably a bit low - it IS that competitive)
This programme is quite different to most PhD programmes that's why I'm interested - so if I don't get in I'll probably just not bother applying anywhere else and just try to get a job. I don't understand why PhD places are more competitive, I thought it'd be the opposite

(Original post by MonteCristo)
A lot of these places (not all) are awarded internally. I would not underestimate the importance of contacting the supervisor, asking genuine questions about the project, and even visiting the lab if you can. I'm a great believer in a couple of strong applications (which are carefully researched and lobbied for) than a scattergun approach at many different projects.
Looking at the alumni on the website, especially for the 2014/2015 cohort, out of the ~12 people admitted, only about 2 are from Bristol. Perhaps your statement rings true for the normal programme, but for this one in particular I don't think most of the places are taken up by Bristolians. But yeah good advice, I'll do that! thanks
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Klix88
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(Original post by InadequateJusticex)
What field are you in, if you don't mind me asking?
Archaeology.

Also, who would be a more appropriate reference - my potential dissertation supervisor or my industrial placement supervisor? Bearing in mind that my potential dissertation supervisor will (hopefully!) be one of the staff members involved in the programme (whereas my industrial supervisor is in a different field) and hence I will be much more enthusiastic about my dissertation than my placement project, which may affect the quality of the reference!?
My PhD application wanted two academic referees. They're more interested in your abilities as a researcher so if you're asked for one, I'd choose your diss supervisor. If you're asked for two, check that they will actually accept a reference from a non-academic source. If you're not doing a Masters, then someone like your undergrad course leader might ge a good choice after your diss supervisor. Someone who can put your academic ability in the context if your cohort e.g. can comment on you being in the top x% of your subject group, enthusiasm, consistent attendance etc.

I don't understand why PhD places are more competitive, I thought it'd be the opposite
Funding for PhDs is still relatively rare. Every UK resident can automatically get a set amount of undergrad Student Finance funding in their lifetime, so undergrad degrees are less competitive (there are courses which can be over-subscribed and highly selective, but these are the exception rather than the rule). With a funded PhD, there are inevitably far more people chasing each one.
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InadequateJusticex
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(Original post by Klix88)
Archaeology.


My PhD application wanted two academic referees. They're more interested in your abilities as a researcher so if you're asked for one, I'd choose your diss supervisor. If you're asked for two, check that they will actually accept a reference from a non-academic source. If you're not doing a Masters, then someone like your undergrad course leader might ge a good choice after your diss supervisor. Someone who can put your academic ability in the context if your cohort e.g. can comment on you being in the top x% of your subject group, enthusiasm, consistent attendance etc.


Funding for PhDs is still relatively rare. Every UK resident can automatically get a set amount of undergrad Student Finance funding in their lifetime, so undergrad degrees are less competitive (there are courses which can be over-subscribed and highly selective, but these are the exception rather than the rule). With a funded PhD, there are inevitably far more people chasing each one.
Ah crap, my only other option for a reference is my personal tutor who probably wont give me a stellar reference, and my attendance in tutorials in second year was awful (didn't find them helpful so I learnt in my own time). Bye bye PhD :cry:
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Klix88
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(Original post by InadequateJusticex)
Ah crap, my only other option for a reference is my personal tutor who probably wont give me a stellar reference, and my attendance in tutorials in second year was awful (didn't find them helpful so I learnt in my own time). Bye bye PhD :cry:
You certainly won't get onto a PhD if you give up that easily! Get a grip and think it through

If do find that you need a second academic referee, there must be other members of staff who'd be happy to talk about your good performance. Maybe the leader of a module which is relevant to your PhD topic, for which you'd had good results? Can you find a member of staff who needs an unpaid intern to help with their research? Many around my undergrad uni would kill for a reliable capable student to help out. I spent weeks on informal unpaid academic interning during summer holidays and built up a little "portfolio" of uni staff who might be happy to say nice things about me in a reference.

Be prepared to be tenacious. Funded PhDs aren't easy to win - think of them as like chasing your dream job. You might have to spend a year or two applying for them and it could take multiple applications before you even get interviewed. Maybe not if you get lucky, but it always helps to be prepared to dust yourself off and try again.
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InadequateJusticex
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(Original post by Klix88)
You certainly won't get onto a PhD if you give up that easily! Get a grip and think it through

If do find that you need a second academic referee, there must be other members of staff who'd be happy to talk about your good performance. Maybe the leader of a module which is relevant to your PhD topic, for which you'd had good results? Can you find a member of staff who needs an unpaid intern to help with their research? Many around my undergrad uni would kill for a reliable capable student to help out. I spent weeks on informal unpaid academic interning during summer holidays and built up a little "portfolio" of uni staff who might be happy to say nice things about me in a reference.

Be prepared to be tenacious. Funded PhDs aren't easy to win - think of them as like chasing your dream job. You might have to spend a year or two applying for them and it could take multiple applications before you even get interviewed. Maybe not if you get lucky, but it always helps to be prepared to dust yourself off and try again.
Haha yeah I was half joking when I said that Thanks a lot! Unfortunately my placement doesn't finish until late august so I can't even apply for summer internships or anything in the uni labs, which sucks. But I'm sure I'll manage
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mld
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I am doing my PhD part time as it is cheaper to do so. You may want to finance it yourself with a part time job. This way is possible as I am finding out. And I got a 2:2. PhDs are good fun, if you have a great proposal.
M.
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Alexanderh
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(Original post by MonteCristo)
A lot of these places (not all) are awarded internally. I would not underestimate the importance of contacting the supervisor, asking genuine questions about the project, and even visiting the lab if you can. I'm a great believer in a couple of strong applications (which are carefully researched and lobbied for) than a scattergun approach at many different projects.
I applied for one funded research position once and got to the interview stage. There were four of us getting interviewed out of something like 30 - 40 initial applications. One of the people getting interviewed with me was a friend and colleague of the supervisor and even got a lift in with them to the interview! They bombed the interview, but nevertheless, got the position.
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