Some Advice, Please?


Hello, as some people may have seen I made a few threads on getting a PhD in France, well after weeks of waiting and answering interview-esque questions by email, I have finally been told I made the shortlist but because I was "borderline" I wasn't considered for interview. First off, what does everyone think "borderline" means, borderline awful (I really shouldn't be, I have an MRes and a 2:1 undergrad degree and I have often been told that someone like me would be preferable to an undergrad! I also had relevant background knowledge but I am not 100% sure my references would have been exactly glowing, I wasn't the best student in my group at all.) or borderline good but not good enough?

Second, would anyone have any advice for me? Considering I am being told I am a good candidate but still struggling to get a PhD place (its been 2 years now), what is going wrong? Is it the fact that I am temping? I have bizarre circumstances in that since I finished my Masters I have been all over the place trying to find work in this damned recession. Another consideration is my age, I am 25 and will be 26 next January. I was told at an interview in Oxford that they considered me "old" and that I wouldn't be able to progress to postdoc because they are apparently ranked by age. (I'm sure this is against equal opportunities laws.) Has anyone else been told this and has anyone experienced such discrimination at interview?

Lastly, as I said I am temping. I got stuck doing admin work in between my degrees and its starting to feel like its all I will end up doing! I was considering doing a technician job instead but looking at the adverts it looks just as competitive and they demand more experience, whereas with a PhD they don't expect you to hit the ground running. Am I just wasting my time on a wild goose chase after this PhD that I have been envisaging? I don't see how I will get to do proper research without a PhD, I know technically its supposed to be possible but I doubt it will be to the same degree (pun not intended!)

Any advice would be appreciated!!


Sorry I have not followed your other posts, what do you want to do a PhD in?


Dear Claire,

I understand how frustrating it could be for a good candidate like you. I guess this is just because PhD opportunities are now becoming harder to avail. If you have some material at hand, I would ask you to publish in an academic journal. In that case, you would be able to add a good feature in your CV. Again, you could try applying to the not-in-top-five-yet-well recognized universities. They can be easier to obtain. And once you are in, you can do really good research with you dedication and passion. At the end of the day, it is the person that matters most, not the university.

Best of luck.


I think it would be worth applying for some technician jobs in the meantime because:
1. The competition might not be as hard as you think
2. It would look more relevant on your CV than admin work, and develop skills that you might not yet have
3. Even if you aren't successful, it'll give you more practice of application/interviews in an academic environment, which might strengthen your PhD applications
4. You might find that wherever your working really grabs your interest and you'd like to do a PhD there, in which case you would have a far higher chance of winning over the supervisors there if your work has been good.

It's true that they can't expect you to hit the ground running in a PhD. But you'd be at a heck of a disadvantage if you had no practical research experience outside of your degrees. If you do some technician work, even if just for a few months, it will help your transition to being a PhD student enormously.

I should add that although you don't say what your field is I'm kind of assuming it's something sciency/lab based. I have never heard it expressed explicitly, but I do get the vibe that lab science is perceived in some quarters as something you have to get as far as you can when you're young so as to make a career for yourself. Which is not helpful, partly in terms of discrimination, as you say, and partly in terms of excluding people who could make a valid contribution, perhaps even more so with the benefit of their years. I changed from a lab based pure science field to a more interdisciplinary one where people come from a range of backgrounds, and I'm actually at the younger end of the spectrum there - age and experience is viewed as a positive thing, and the career trajectory generally seems more healthy in my view.

On the topic of experience, do you have any relevant achievements/experiences outside of your degrees? If so, sell them well in your applications. If not, you might like to try acquiring some while you are going through this interim period.