Deborah Oyine Aluh

Waking up with the crippling anxiety of your next means of sustenance when your funding runs out is a feeling many PhD students can relate to. It’s a constant battle between the pursuit of knowledge and the practicalities of survival. Many PhD students often find themselves overwhelmed with several worries, and one of the most common sources of concern is the sustainability of their funding and the ability to complete their research within the designated funding period. Amidst the constant hustle and bustle of conducting research, writing papers, and enduring the never-ending wait for peer reviews, they must also ensure that their work progresses in sync with the funding they receive. As the clock ticks and the deadlines loom, the question of the sustainability of funding and the ability to complete research within the allotted time becomes a haunting presence. The Ides of March approach, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the fate of the PhD.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. This is particularly relevant for PhD students, who often face unforeseen challenges that may hinder them from completing their degrees within the expected timeframe. Considering how this is a common issue among PhD students, wouldn’t it be wise to start saving at the beginning of the PhD journey? While it may be difficult considering the meager living stipends most PhD students receive, having a rainy-day fund can provide a sense of security in the face of potential funding loss. It is also important to have open discussions with supervisors about alternative sources of funding that may be available to you when the one you have is exhausted. Talk to your supervisors early about alternative funding sources. Don’t wait until you’re two months away from being broke to bring it up. You should foresee potential delays and have these conversations at least 4-6 months in advance. I knew in my first year that my funding would run out in the third year of my four-year PhD. So, I made it a recurring topic with my supervisor from the get-go.

Another great idea is to apply for research stays that can potentially cover expenses after your funding ends. During this time, you may focus solely on writing your thesis, so it doesn’t matter whether you are at a different university or country. However, it is important to plan ahead, as these grants have specific deadlines and durations. You kill two birds with one stone by doing this since these research stays not only offer financial assistance but also the chance to broaden your academic horizons, collaborate with experts in your field, and gain exposure to different research methodologies and perspectives.

So, if you have already explored all the previous options without success and your savings are barely enough to cover the remaining months of your PhD, there is no need to worry. Freelance jobs and weekend jobs can be viable options to consider, depending on your field. It is also important to start exploring these opportunities several months before your funding runs out to establish a reputable profile on freelance websites. With effective time management, it is feasible to juggle these additional jobs while dedicating the necessary time and effort to writing your thesis.

Even the most capable and dedicated PhD students, just like Julius Caesar, may find themselves facing 23 metaphorical daggers when their funding comes to an end. Proactive measures like creating a safety net through early savings, open communication with supervisors, and exploring alternative funding opportunities can be a PhD student’s shield and sword. Rather than symbolizing doom, let the Ides of March be a reminder of your resilience and determination to shape your future.

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