What Ph.D. program should I attend?

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There are several important factors to consider when deciding which program to attend. The most important factor is to decide what you want to do in your career. Different schools highlight the importance of researching versus teaching. If you have a strong desire to focus on one of those areas, you should go to a Ph.D. program that is strong in the area of your interest. If you want to have a balance of teaching and research, you should consider schools that value a balance between research and teaching. The answer to this question is the most important part of deciding which Ph.D. program is right for you.

Once you have decided what you want to do with your career, then the following suggestions will help you decide where to go.

  • Gather as much information about different schools as you can. A good starting point is visiting each school's web page.
  • Talk to people who have either been at a school or are currently at the school of interest. See University Information for help finding who has been where. Please be respectful of the time of the people you are contacting. Ph.D. students and faculty are busy so asking them questions that are already answered on the school's web page is wasting their time. Also, don't send out the same email to multiple people at the same school. Students and faculty talk and it looks bad for you to send out a form e-mail requesting information.
  • Consider schools where other BYU students have not gone. Pre Ph.D. students tend to follow a herd mentality and don't give wide consideration to different schools.
  • Determine what type of research you are interested in conducting. Certain schools do not support some research methodologies. Make sure the schools you are considering do what you want to do.
  • Consider which topical area of research you are interested in examining. Do not expect to go to a school and convince professors to change the area of research they are focusing on to work on projects that interest you. You can expect them to continue working on what they find interesting and letting you work with them if they think you will be helpful to them.

After you have gathered information about schools that interest you, you will need to apply to these schools. Hopefully, you will get to visit several schools and find which one fits right. An important warning: while you may be tempted to go to the school other people consider "best," it is far more important that you feel comfortable and like where you will work. Several Ph.D. students have dropped out because they didn't fit with the school. Making sure you fit with the school is far more important than making sure you are at the school others consider the "best."


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