Applying for PhDs... is it normal to feel like I'm losing my mind?


I'm due to finish my Masters in a few months, and hey, seeing as I've always liked doing research, I thought I'd throw my hat in ye olde PhD ring. Like my father says, you can pray to win the lottery, but don't be surprised if the only response from God is "have you bought a ticket yet?"

One problem: It is driving me slowly insane.

I have been rejected. I have given up on the dream, changed my mind, only to change it back the next week. One day I'm going to take my respective field by storm, the next I'm going to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get a respectable job on a farm or behind a bar or in McDonalds, or whatever, none of this hiding in academia for another three years malarkey.

I did attend an interview recently that went fairly well... of course, that means I've heard absolutely nothing back. Honestly, it is a dream project, research I am simultanously excited about and terrified of, and as a result, my inner neurotic is engaged in an eternal game of pong; one paddle is the thought of how crushed I'll be if I don't get it, the other the thought of how I'll screw it up anyway if I do.

So, needless to say, being me isn't too fun right now.

Don't get me wrong, doing a PhD is all I've ever wanted - no doubt I'll continue to subject myself to this strange torture - but I need to know: Is this normal? It's been so stressful, I think I'm starting to lose my grip on reality.

All responses are appreciated.


Will worrying help you get a reply about your interview?


Hi Likewhat. It was a really stressful time for me too. I knew it was what I wanted to do but set backs sort of hit you in the face and leave you wondering if you should keep trying or not. My advice is, if it is really what you want to do, don't give up. You could chase and find out when they will let you know by. I think it does good to let them know you are eager - no harm anyway. It is completely normal to feel like you're feeling - but don't let it take over - do something else, watch a movie, look at what other options are out there for your Plan B. Good luck!!!!


hi likewhat
I've just seen your post. If it is something you really want to do, don't give up.
It's hard when there are no real answers yet.

Have a plan for the Day -- say you spend the morning on Phd applications etc. and then do something else in the afternoon, that will help take your mind off things and also encourage you not to obsess about it! You could also watch one episode per day of some series that interests you, whether its a documentary or an instructional vid on Youtube.

ho ho I am watching the Walking Dead now, have reached Season 3. I do this in the evenings.

love satchi


Waiting for any kind of decision is always horrible.

I applied to six universities in summer 2012 for PhD scholarships, and the first five rejected me. Then, a friend of mine told me about a sixth which she'd seen online, and the closing date was the next day. I hastily put together a proposal, amalgamated from the previous five, and click send. A week later, I am offered an interview, and I think it goes OK.

Half way through a holiday a few weeks later, I get an unknown number and ignore it. Then a voicemail icon. "Hello - it's X University - we'd like to offer you the scholarship commencing in September". I danced around the room like a young boy on Christmas morning. It was the sixth and last chance. If I'd not got it, I would have had to do it over six years part time, while continuing in my full time retail job. Fine - I would have done it. In fact, I'd be four years in now, with only two to go.

As it stands, I'm doing my final amendments after an R+R (no second viva) decision in November, and hoping to have the final thing submitted for good in June or July.

Don't give up. It's stressful, but if at first you don't succeed, try and try again.


Thanks for the replies everyone; it's nice to know I'm not the only person here who finds PhD applications really stressful.

I spent today aggressively cleaning and went for a long walk, which helped massively in distracting me.


Hey Likewhat

Ive been applying for PHD since 2013, not scholarships though but all I got were rejections. the thing is i practically lost my mind, I was frustrated. worst of all I thought it had to do with me graduating with a 2.2 in my undergraduate and not having a distinction in my masters. at some point I settled for maybe enrolling in an MBA whilst looking for a Phd, And i will sometimes just imagined I should probably just settle for a job with the government. I eventually got a job with a multi-national organisation and even got more frustrated and unfulfilled, am very spiritual and so I prayed hard. and went back to applying for a phd. and just today I got a reply from a professor stating her interest in my proposal and scheduled an interview with me for monday. To be honest am scared as hell, questions like''what if I dont impress her''? and am thinking she might loose interest in me after realising I have a 2.2 in my undergraduate and not a distinction in my masters. But like i said am believer am praying and hoping it goes well.

I NEED assistance on what to watch out for in my upcoming conversation with the potential supervisor


I hate to tell you this but that feeling doesn't stray too far when you've been accepted for a PhD either. A lot of people doing a PhD (including myself) feel like they are losing their mind at some point or another. Like others have said don't let this feeling break you!!

Joan - show this potential supervisor that you're passionate about the research, have an idea in mind of what practical implications your research could have when it's complete and try not to show that you've already lost your mind before you've started ;) Good luck


I fully agree with clairaN... in fact this trying to get funding/accepted business is sort of the beginning of it! The PhD has so many challenges / times when you feel you've wasted time/work/effort etc (at least in my experience). The thing to remember is - nothing is wasted - it is all experience. And some let downs are just inevitable. I think it continues on in to academia. Even my very successful supervisor has this... you write a grant proposal and it is rejected... You just have to get used to keeping on trying and not giving up!

Any luck yet likewhat if you're still posting on here?