Apart from the degree application, the subsequent interview process and the application to relevant funding sources and scholarships are important steps to be taken. Below are some tips and personal experience from various postgraduate students on how to prepare for an interview and secure funding will be covered.
Interviews are a good opportunity for applicants to demonstrate passion and knowledge. Both Alessandro and Jorina went through an interview process for their PhD, and the interview covered the general questions including the reason for getting on the course, their personal skills, research topic, research method, and future plans. In terms of advice for future PhD applicants, both of our interviewees suggested thoroughly reading the relevant literature to research proposal, and preparing answers to potential questions that might come up. Nevertheless, Alessandro emphasised that there was no reason to be overly stressed about the interviews, as it was basically a chat with interviewers on a topic you are passionate about, and in a lot of times, the interviewers might be from completely different fields and might know very little about your specific research topic. In his case, although he was pursuing a PhD in Psychology, his interviewers were a psychopharmacologist and a neurologist. One important point Alessandro mentioned was to be honest about the limits of the research proposal, as no research is perfect and being able to criticise your own proposal demonstrates your all-rounded thinking.
On the other hand, as DClinPsy is a taught doctoral degree, before her interview, Olivia revised everything she had learnt during her undergraduate years, and did quite an amount of extra reading, as her undergraduate psychology degree did not touch much on clinical psychology. She attended interviews in different universities, and each time, she was given several cases on pretend clients, and was asked to suggest different approaches on diagnosis. She believed her revision was very helpful, as she was able to apply the different “big” psychological theories, e.g. the Attachment Theory, as she was analysing the pretend clients. She mentioned that UCL in particular asked a number of knowledge-based questions during the interview, and the topics they touched on were different every year, so you could not really prepare for these questions (apart from reading loads). She believed the interviewers would like to see the ability for applicants to think on their feet, as this is a skill that is often required for a clinical psychologist. Again, Olivia did not think applicants should stress about the interviews, as the interviewers expected candidates to have limited knowledge. All they wanted to see were applicants’ thinking process and their ability to apply knowledge on real-life situations.
Scholarships and Funding Opportunities
A postgraduate degree is not only academically challenging, but can also be expensive. The UCL “Postgraduate Funding” website provides a list of available studentships, bursaries, grants and loans for postgraduate students, along with external links to charities and trusts offering welfare and educational supports.
One of our interviewees, Alessandro, is funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) at UCL. Looking back at his application experience, he urged postgraduate applicants to start looking into and tryout different scholarships and funding opportunities as soon as possible, due to its competitive nature. However, he also mentioned at the same time the importance to balance between the quantity and quality of applications. One tip from Alessandro was to know your funding body well, as funding institutions generally have specific strategic aims and preferences, and it is key to choose the institution with characteristics that matches the applicant’s own. Personally, Alessandro believed the research methods and the predicted implications of his research in his proposal largely helped to secure his funding. He mentioned that input from future supervisors would also be immensely useful in securing funding opportunities, as these supervisors have probably worked with and offered help to a lot of postgraduate students who went through a similar process.
Another interviewee, Jorina, is half funded by a UCL scholarship, and half by her teaching job at UCL. She recommended applying for a UCL scholarship, as the application process was very simple: she only had to fill-out her personal information, including the department she works in, information on the other half of her funding, and a brief outline of her future plans; she did not have to submit a personal statement or any other additional essays. Nevertheless, she stressed the importance of both a strong academic record and extra-curricular involvement in securing a UCL scholarship among the vast number of applicants.
Olivia, currently on her way to completing a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology, is of a special case, as her degree is funded by the NHS. All students accepted on the NHS funded places are employed by the NHS as Trainee Clinical Psychologists while they study, with a current starting salary of £26,302pa along with an additional High Cost Area Supplement. The NHS covers the tuition fees as well.
This article was written by Gianna Li and edited by Aleya Marzuki. Both of them are members of the Bugle Team.