Scholarship PhD Students! I need stories please?


I am going to be a third year student from the academic year of 2015/2016, and I would like to do a PhD at the University of Sheffield.
I cannot afford to pay for one so I need some funding. I have read about a bit and I would like to hear some previous experiences from students who are currently scholarship students at the moment. I would like to know their previous experience and their grades/work they did that helped them get the scholarship, so I have an idea of what I can do to improve my chances.

So far, things have not been looking good. I got a middle 2.1 in my first year and a low 2.1 in my second year (25% of final grade mark). I need to boost up my chances somehow. I know I can do better in third year (75% of my final grade mark) as for the first 2 years I only crammed the two nights before to get the grades (I am embarrassed to say that)

Can I please get some advice on things I can do to boost up my chances for getting in?
I am aware of the deadlines and they're pretty close.


Hi Howodd

I was actually in a similar situation to you, didn't do overly well in my 2nd year Christmas exams. However, I think what helped me get my studentship is an internship I did before my masters year (I did a 4 year masters degree) and took a year out to gain some real life lab experience. If you can, I'd try do some lab experience in the area you are interested in, and if you took a year out it wouldn't be the end of world - plus PhD applications can be all year round. Most PhDs accept 2.1s, but obviously you have to consider how popular they are.

Hope this helps


In my experience, you would be very unlikely to be accepted straight on to a PhD with a 2:1.

At my university, which currently has around 60 PhD students (including me) on 3 year scholarships, the recipients of aforementioned scholarships are either exceptional first class undergrad students, or have Masters degrees.

I got a 2:1, but then went on to do a funded MA and received a distinction in that.

Please do consider doing an MA in between. Not only are MA scholarships easier to come by (comparatively), but the experience of being a research student is invaluable when it comes to doing a PhD. I've never been comfortable with the direct undergraduate to PhD system.


Please do consider doing an MA in between. Not only are MA scholarships easier to come by (comparatively), but the experience of being a research student is invaluable when it comes to doing a PhD. I've never been comfortable with the direct undergraduate to PhD system.

Completely agree with that. Especially in lab sciences practical research experience is everything. No wonder that many people struggle when they start their PhD right after the bachelor. The only noteworthy research project you've done are a few months of bachelor thesis (usually under supervision) and suddenly they expect you to handle a 3+ years long term project on your own.

If going abroad for 2 years is an option, I can highly recommend a master in Sweden or Germany. For EU citizens it is often free, the standards are high and you find many Masters that are taught in English. Often your chances are especially good as a foreigner, as many universities try to promote an international environment (especially in Sweden). It also looks good on the CV if you have studied abroad, which is always nice to have ;)


I've recently received a scholarship to study History, and it was a fairly difficult ride if I am being brutally honest. Out of the six scholarships I applied for I only got one offered, which was smaller by about 4000 but still enough to live on and do it, granted by all means I appreciate I am in a minority to have even been offered that one so I am very grateful for the chance.

I received no feedback sadly, however, and this isn't meant to make you feel downhearted, I had a 2:1 at undergrad too, but even with a distinction in a research masters it was still very tricky for me to get onto my PhD this October. From what I gather doing a research masters helped as it proved I could do research and pass a viva, which are obviously pretty important so helped put me ahead of candidates with firsts at undergrad but who only did taught masters and sort of filled the gap my 2:1 gave me.

Honestly, it's a tough one, it seemed to me to be a combination of past work AND picking a subject which was right place, right time, I was incredibly lucky the FIFA scandal broke around decision time for instance based on my proposal.

Good luck, keep going, it can be very disheartening to go through the process (oh believe me, it has been a horrible six months!) but if you're determined to do this, do everything you can!


I echo what others have said about considering doing a Masters. Four of us are on scholarships in my department, and we've all done a Masters with a large research skills focus.


Best advice, read the course for where you want to apply. What are they asking for. If it even mentions Masters then actually they really want Masters graduates. Depending on your topic be careful about the Masters programme you pick. Mine didn't have enough research modules in it and I had to really fight to get my scholarship and ended up taking research modules in my first PhD year. Of course there are always the 3+1 programmes that are PhD with an MRes and you upgrade from the MRes depending on grades.

I also had a 2:1 that I got part time whilst working full time so I think my work experience went for me because the PhD was relevant to my past experience. I got a distinction for my MA. I was working when I did my MA so it wasn't funded but I did win a private funding bid for my research project from a research group and I presented the findings at conference.


My experience was quite similar to Wowzers, in that I got a 2:1 in my undergraduate but the work experience I got clinched it for me really. It was research and teaching experience and so I think it made up for the deficit. What I would say is that a Masters is great preparation for a PhD, and particularly where it is a research Masters. For me, I treated the MRes as a sort of pilot to see if I could cope with the demands of conducting a research project.

I will admit that securing a Studentship can be difficult, and for me it's been very time-consuming, when I probably should have focused all my energy on my Masters. This is something to bear in mind when you yourself are applying - make sure it doesn't take overshadow your degree. In terms of deadlines, the bulk of Studentships tend to start opening up around Jan/Feb time. This is the prime time to apply really. However, Studentships (in my field at least) are still opening up now for a Sept/Oct 2015 start date, so all is not lost if you want to hang off a bit. That said, it's better to apply early if you can, and if you're really set on this one uni in particular you'll need to be aware of their specific deadlines.

It's also good to keep your options open. The reason I have only just secured a Studentship is that I put all my eggs in one basket and assumed that my uni would give me funding. When this didn't materialise I was upset and it was a knock to my confidence. I'm not saying the same will happen to you but it's always a possibility. However, if you're set on Sheffield, to maximise your chances it might be worth considering extra things like a Masters or relevant experience. If this means dedicating a year to that after you've finished your undergraduate then it might be beneficial in the long run.


I am science and I got offered 5 fully funded PhD's including two funded by BHF, one by Wellcome Trust and two facultly funded ones.
I am a first class student, with experience during my second year summer break (funded by a society) and full year placement in a research envinronment. I had some awards for my academic performance as well.
Saying that, plenty of my other applications got refused so my advice is to keep trying.


I'd keep trying. I got a low 2:1 at undergrad although it was a four year integrated masters degree (MChem). I only had a mid 2:2 in year 2 and had to pull it up in years 3 + 4, and I got offered a fully funded PhD and an MSc by Research. I took the MSc and I have since been offered 3 more (and turned down lots of interviews where I had a good shot at getting them).


I've been there and done this too, and my advice would be:
- try to boost your grades as much as poss - it is competitive even if you have a first class degree
- make sure you get excellent references from academics you've worked with / studied under
- most people will have the above so try to get research experience in too - volunteer to do some work for someone if you can't find a paid role
- apply for multiple schemes - that way you are increasing your chances of being awarded one of them
- a final tip - don't be disappointed if you don't get it first time round - keep trying if it is what you want!
Good luck!


Echoing most others, I struggled to secure a scholarship and it was a case of just not giving up. I think I was successful on my fourth attempt at securing funding. Just before this happened I was starting to accept my fate and I had been saving up working two jobs to save up and fund myself. I applied for a part-time self funded position, was successful, and then applied for a scholarship at the University which I successfully got. Some universities are more likely to offer certain funding if you already have a place with them.

Another piece of advice I can give you, is depending on what subject you're studying in, publications make a massive difference. In the three years I spent trying to secure funding for a PhD, I also worked on getting my dissertation published, and one of my jobs was a research assistant which got me a further three publications. They can really make a difference in some fields.