How do they decide who to shortlist for PhD interviews?

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username5459644
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Given the competitiveness, how would they decide? Surely they will be inundated with applicants who have a first in their undergraduate and a distinction in their master's and are able to write a persuasive, eloquent and compelling personal statement?

So what kind of things will be used to distinguish similar candidates when competition is high?
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by xbiology)
Given the competitiveness, how would they decide? Surely they will be inundated with applicants who have a first in their undergraduate and a distinction in their master's and are able to write a persuasive, eloquent and compelling personal statement?

So what kind of things will be used to distinguish similar candidates when competition is high?
Where you took your 1st degree, the details of your transcript (e.g. notable successes or fails in specific courses), relevant project work or summer placements, prizes, Deans list, publications and very importantly letters of reference and class position can all factor into this. It’s not really possible to game this, its the entire package of your achievements over the last 4+ years that gets looked at. However, once it gets to interview stage the social side of things also cuts in, supervisors will want find students who are a good fit to the group and who are going to work well with existing post docs and PhDs.
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Keele Postgraduate
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(Original post by xbiology)
Given the competitiveness, how would they decide? Surely they will be inundated with applicants who have a first in their undergraduate and a distinction in their master's and are able to write a persuasive, eloquent and compelling personal statement?

So what kind of things will be used to distinguish similar candidates when competition is high?
It really depends on the PhD you're applying for.

In my field (the Humanities), the most important part of the application is the research proposal. Universities and funding bodies are looking for strong research proposals that address a gap in existing knowledge and have high impact value. Whilst a strong track record over the course of the BA and MA is also important, the strength of the proposal is absolutely key.

In the Humanities, if we're applying for an already-funded project (such as a collaborative PhD), then the way that the applicants intends to fulfil the PhD brief, as well as their suitability to fulfil the requirements of the project brief (i.e their previous experience, track record etc.), tend to become the primary factors.

I'm aware, however, that in STEM fields - where you're more likely to be applying to join a project/lab - things work quite differently. As mrwednesday has said, it's really a case of considering everything that a candidate offers, and looking at what they are likely to bring to a project. And once you get to interview stage, there will also be an element of how well you fit with supervisors, existing students/postdocs, school/university research culture etc - think of it like a job interview!

Amy Louise
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QuentinM
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(Original post by xbiology)
Given the competitiveness, how would they decide? Surely they will be inundated with applicants who have a first in their undergraduate and a distinction in their master's and are able to write a persuasive, eloquent and compelling personal statement?

So what kind of things will be used to distinguish similar candidates when competition is high?
I think a big thing that distinguished me in my final PhD interview (which I was successful in thankfully) was having experience in a large number of the techniques that would be used in the PhD (for reference it's neuroscience). I had already cultured the exact cells (they are patient derived stem cells so when I say exact I mean those exact patients) that I would be using throughout the project, for example-a huge advantage given how patient derived cells behave.

For STEM I would say relevant experience is HUGE. I've been rejected from a lot of places, regardless of my grades (a 2:1 and merit at BSc and masters, both at top 20 UK universities, for reference) because I didn't have enough relevant experience.
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