crippling anxiety and only one phd interview



after years and years of rejected applications for a phd programme, today I have been offered an interview for the one I've always wanted the most - LIDo!!!. I could not be happier and I am over the moon with the chance to interview. it is less than a week away and I am so nervous and anxious about it. I am stuck in a job where I feel I cannot progress but have to stay as I cannot commute far due to problems within my family. this adds to the pressure of being accepted into such a competitive programme. if I got accepted, I can move and relocate my family and feel like I am progressing with my life.

I feel like I am already coming into the interview with a disadvantage, I am sure majority of the interview holders will have better grades than I do (2.1 at undergrad and merit in masters is what I have). what can I do and how shall I prepare for this interview? what sort of questions do they ask, are they mainly academic based or not? if anyone can shed any light at all on tackling my anxiety or provide any information and tips on what kind of questions are asked, I would be very grateful!

please if anyone has any advice, drop me a reply!

thanks in advance

also, I know my grammar here is awful, I am typing in a rush as I do not want to be caught at work not working!

Avatar for rewt

Take a deep breath. It will be okay. Anxiety is a major issue and are you sure you want to start a PhD with crippling anxiety. PhDs can be stressful and you should look to manage it before you start.

For the interview, does the PhD have a set title, have you been asked to present did you submit a research proposal? Generally if you said yes to any of them you will asked be questions on it and that is your best chance to differentiate yourself. The interviewers want to see that you can form logical independent thoughts and not just regurgitate information. The skills required at undergraduate and postgraduate are different and the interviewers understand that with regards to your 2.1, but they might ask why you only got a 2.1 and you should have a decent answer prepared.

So if you have a title/proposal to talk about focus on what you want to do. Look for a few seminal papers on the topic (or what your supervisors have written) and talk about how your PhD fits into greater picture. What is your knowledge gap and how do you seek to fulfil it? Make a few bold predictions of you might find and if possible mention any issues you might expect. Don't be afraid to be wrong, you probably will be wrong, but showing that you can form a logical independent thought will suggest that you have the abilities to do research. Also, they will probably ask you questions about whatever you say, if you don't know the answer say that you don't know but talk about what the answer could be. A little humility can prevent you bullsh***ng too much.

If you don't have any topic/proposal to go off and it is a purely CV interview, the transferrable skills they are looking for are; previous research, analysing literature, any form of hypothesis driven work, planning skills, report writing skills, previous presentations or outreach, technical skills related to your PhD. That list is not exhaustive but you can be creative to find examples of you showing those skills before, you can maybe embellish them a little. When talking about them, explain in detail about; what you did, what were the problems, what did you achieve, what you would differently and how want to carry on building them. If you have answers for some of them of you can use them to answer other generic questions. From what I know, the most generic questions are; why do want to do a PhD (show passion), why should we hire you (tell them what to you want to do and how you will take the initiative further), what can you add to the department (show passion), what do you want gain from this PhD/what are your career prospects (be honest and realistic), what are your weaknesses (again be honest and have a plan to address them).

Avatar for rewt

After all that, take another deep breath. You will have other opportunities even if this seems like the only one. Things will get better. So try your best and take as much from the process as you can. That was a high level guide full of genericizations you don't have to do everything but just my attempt at a detailed guide, as every interview board is different.


PS: What university is LIDo? I have never heard that abbreviation before.

EDIT: I split over two posts because of character limit


Hi rewt,

Thank you so much for your response. My anxiety is something as far as I can remember I’ve always had. I am getting help for it, during the lockdown it may have worsened and the steps I took to reduce it are no longer working. If I did start a PhD, I will take steps in tackling it because I would have to. I not only want to do a PhD but do a PhD well. But anyways, I’ve been applying for three years and I’m scared at potentially ruining the only chance I’ve been given. I know I may not get this, and that’s okay but I want to say at the very least that I tried my best and that I could keep my nerves at bay for the 30 min duration of the interview.

LIDo is the DTP programme name, sorry for the confusion. It could take place at a range of London universities that the programme hosts such as UCL, Royal Holloway and Kings College. It’s not a proposal based, but rather a CV based one. Thank you for the examples of questions you’ve provided. I will definitely formulate some answers for those. If you don’t mind me asking, I always find answering what a weakness is extremely difficult. I feel like I don’t want to say something to jeopardise my chance but also would hate to sound arrogant with a shallow answer. What sort of answer is appropriate and would you kindly be able to give me an example?

Again, thank you for your help.


All the best


Avatar for springtime

Hi There,

I would agree with Rewt, in the fact that if you already have bad anxiety that it might not be a good time to start a PhD.
Although if you have been applying for three years then I would advise you to go ahead with the interview, even if you don't get it you can learn from it and use the experience in the future.
To give you an example for expressing weaknesses if asked, in past interviews I have mentioned that I lack the experience to communicate effectively with a large group of people. I then followed it up with, however, I have joined an organization called toastmasters to build and develop my experience and become more competent in this area. So you are being honest about your weakness (which if you have this particular one they will have already noticed) but you are following it up with a solution and showing that you are trying to overcome it.

Sometimes I think the more you want something the more worked up you make yourself! Like in your head you're probably thinking this is my only chance. In reality, it's not there are plenty of Ph.D.'s and there will be plenty more. So just remind yourself that this is not the be-all and the end all. You will still be you if you don't get it. Hope that helps a little.


How did the interview go, Chronophobia?