Even though I have just dropped out of my PhD after some years, I have learned a few lessons that I'd like to pass on to anyone thinking about doing a PhD.
Why a PhD?
Think carefully about why you want to do a PhD - are you doing it for the right reasons? Is it an appropriate and relevant thing to do for your career or professional development, or would you be better off doing some other sort of study or project?
Be very careful in your choice of supervisor. Is he/she going to support you in the way you need? Has he got the appropriate topic knowledge and research experience? Does he understand what you want to achieve? Will he challenge and stretch you in a supportive way? Can he teach you? Will he give you feedback in a reasonable time frame, or is he too busy doing other things? What is his experience of being a supervisor? Is he looking out for your interests or his own? If your supervisor has deficits in some of these areas, choose a secondary supervisor or mentor who will make them up in other ways.
Make sure you know what student support your university provides. Make sure you understand what processes and resources are in place to support you, especially if things do not work out as well as you would like.
Follow your instincts. Don't be pushed into doing things or following topics that do not feel right to you.
Do as much preparation as you can before you enroll such as your literature search and proposal development - this will go some way to saving you fees.
Get plenty of support from friends, colleagues and topic experts.
If you are doing or have a PhD, what tips would you pass on to potential candidates?
Image: 'Blizard Building lecture theatre' Squirmelia