How many PhD places did/have you applied for?


Hello. I had a look through the forum and I don't think anyone has asked about this before.

At the moment I'm pretty panicked about getting a PhD place. I graduated at the end of 2010 and since then I have been obsessively searching for opportunities in my area of interest. I've got about 8 pending applications and about 4 of those feel at least partially hopeful to me (in other words, the supervisors are interested in me, but I don't know what I'm competing with).

So yes, is this a "normal" amount to apply for!? I feel a compulsion to keep contacting potential supervisors, but there's always the worry of getting inundated with offers/pissing off my referees (who have given two references so far, and I assume it's a bit of a tedious process).


I think it just depends. I only made one application - to stick with my MSc supervisor - and luckily we got the scholarship. I think if you've got a specific idea of what you want to do and write the proposal yourself, then you're more likely to apply to a smaller number of places, and if you don't get it just apply the next year. If you're applying for projects which have already been set out but have funding attached, then you might make a lot of applications. There's no standard response so don't stress over it. :)

Avatar for Caterpillar27

I only applied for 2 PhDs (at different institutions) - one a set studentship and one with my own proposal and research council funding.

Good luck  :-)


I applied for 4 funded PhD projects I found on

1 answered and asked me for an interview and accepted me for the position.
The other three never gave any notice. I emailed one project, but they said spots were filled already.

My girlfriend applied for 2 projects (not sure if it was 3) and both were negative.


I applied for one initially, got picked for it but the project didn't get funding, I then applied for three others, where I didn't even get interviews.  Fortunately the project I got picked for re-applied for funding for the following year, I had to interview again a year later, but the project got funding and they picked me again! Just keep trying, I found the project I got the supervisor was keen to email me about literature etc. the ones I didn't get interviews for the supervisors either didn't reply to my emails asking for information or sent only formal blurb about the project. So if they supervisors are showing interest in you it's probably a good sign! 


Hey Grugh! I did what Melsie did- just devised my own project with my MSc supervisor and then applied to several places for funding for it, and got lucky with a couple of offers of funding. But if you don't have any particular project in mind and are happy to be flexible with what you do, then I'd just apply to as many as you like the look of! I wouldn't worry about being inundated with offers- if you get an offer for a project you want to do you can just withdraw your other applications. Likewise, don't worry about the reference thing- your sups will have saved your reference and will probably use the same one for every reference request, maybe amending a few details where appropriate. Good luck with your applications! KB


Hi I had applied for about 5, but sent emails requesting further information to many more, would say about 10. I actually got the position from one of those I did not actually apply for but emailed asking for further information and attached my CV. I did not hear anything from them, and then heard about an interview. I understand about pissing off your referees.


Hi Grugh, I applied for one which suited me. And by applying I mean emailing the sup. and told him I was interested + CV. got the interview and got the place. but still enquired about others (that were sort of non-starters) in the period between initial contact and interview.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

======= Date Modified 21 Apr 2011 14:19:49 =======
Five. I got in initially with a materials engineering project a year after my Masters, but director at the sponsoring company refused to recognise the project.

About the same time, I got a hiding in interview for a pure engineering project and withdrew my interest (I think the potential supervisor misread my skills on my CV and I was interviewed for an unsuitable position) then there was a bizarre interview where the potential supervisor said there was no real broject available (materials).

I laid off for a few years and was simultaneously interviewed for a Bioengineering project (Russell Group) and a High Temperature Materials project (New University). I got offers for both
and took up the High Temperature Materials project.

I later went to the other Uni to do a years' Bioengineering post-doc and had a stinker of a time. It at least confirmed I chose the right place and project (High Temperature Materials) for my PhD.

All I can say is keep plodding away there and ensure the project is in the area in which you want to study. You will get there eventually. However, keep in mind with funding cuts, there just that bit more competition.

Don't take something that's not quite right for you, as you may end up facing a torrid few years that may end up nothing to show for it.

Ian (alias 'Beefy')


Hahaha. I get the impression from all your replies that it'll be all down to luck in the end.

I got offered an interview for the one I want most yesterday. Let's just hope I get some of that luck so I can stop applying for everything (relevant) I find!


(up) its a bit of a process writing reseach proposals i have a few in the works and am getting warm , whats the word count for a sociology phd like .


Well I was advised to apply for as many PhD's (that i was interested in) as possible but I think this is more because I am still an undergraduate competing in the postgraduate market.

I think in total i applied for 16 (4 of which are still pending), interviewed by 5, and offered a PhD last week.

Possibly look at rewording personal statement if you are still struggling. And don't give up hope, I've been looking for a PhD since September and I have only just got offered a PhD.