10 great pieces of advice for undergrads from a PhD student

Top advice from the students who've been there, done it and moved on to the next level. A PhD students tells you everything you need to know.
Aayushi Sharma
Aayushi Sharma

We’ve all had moments of uncertainty about the way things are going and especially about the future (panic mode activated!). But sometimes talking to the right people can help calm those nerves. Over the summer of my second year, I had the opportunity to meet a PhD student who gave me some advice about studying a Biosciences degree. Though some of this might be more relevant for incoming first years, its never to late for the rest of us! So let’s take a look at what she had to say, shall we?

Don’t bother buying course textbooks – just borrow them from the library

undergraduate advice

Unless you’re the type of person who loves scribbling all over your textbook, why bother spending money when you can get a perfectly good copy, probably even the latest edition, from the library for free?

Email your professors for career advice and internship opportunities – especially for lab experience

undergraduate advice

If you are particularly interested in a field that one of your professors is researching, and want to get further experience, send them an email asking for graduate job opportunities. They might offer you a summer internship where you get to work on your own project under their supervision. And you might even get funding from large councils like BBSRC!

Just because you’ve studied a degree in the subject, does not mean you need to get into this field after graduation

undergraduate advice

It’s highly possible that after three years, you may find the subject you studied isn’t your cup of tea at all… which is completely fine! Whatever your new interests may be, take that leap of faith and give it a shot. Don’t let fear stop you from delving into alternative opportunities. As a Biosciences student, I might choose to work in consulting, environment, health, business development or even teaching after graduation. In the cheesiest way’s possible, the world is your oyster!

Speak to people in the year above about their experience

undergraduate advice

Besides your professors, your peers (especially the ones in the year above), are the best people to turn to for advice. If you know that you need help writing essays for a particular professor, just ask these people. They’ll tell you exactly what to include to impress and get those high marks!

Pass knowledge down to your juniors

undergraduate advice

As your seniors have been there for you, be there for your juniors! Let’s not forget how much you struggled the first time you had to hand in a piece of coursework or had trouble choosing your dissertation topics.

Question your lecture material, question your extra reading, question everything

undergraduate advice

Never take anything you read or hear as gospel, even when it comes from your favourite professors. By questioning it all, not only will you come to your own conclusions, you will probably end up getting those high marks that every student is looking for.

Get involved in extracurricular activities – Any experience is good experience

undergraduate advice

Extracurricular activities give you skills that are muy importante! These are also extremely good ways for you to meet new people, try something different and can even be a healthy distraction from work. Oh and lets not forget that it looks pretty good on your job apps and interviews (especially if you end up on a society committee!)

Be careful about jumping straight into a PhD after your Bachelors

undergraduate advice

If you want to pursue a PhD straight after your undergraduate degree, be careful! You have to be prepared for late nights in labs or library, lots of failed experiments, some crazy levels of discipline and extreme motivation (after all you will be researching one thing for three years!) Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Or do you think you’d rather take some time out, maybe consider a master’s program and build up your skill set? Really question why you would want to do a PhD and make sure you do you research before coming to a conclusion!

Look for jobs where you have managerial advantage

undergraduate advice

Ideally, in the long run, you should aim to get into a managerial position. Look for roles which give you a chance to grow and eventually allow you to lead. Ultimately, this is where a lot of opportunities lie!

Enjoy your undergraduate degree and don’t worry about the rest

undergraduate advice

Honestly, go make these three years the best time of your life. Do what you want, work hard, party hard, make your mistakes, then learn from them. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad ones too. But whatever you do, never give up. University is one hell of a journey, so have a blast!

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