PhD application questions - do you feel like an idiot trying to write about yourself?

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I'm aiming to have applied for a Ph.D. or two by the end of this week, been meaning to do this for months but coursework & exam preparations have left me with no spare time until now. The first thing I wanted to ask is, is it realistically possible to make a good, complete application for a physics Ph.D. position in the four free days I have off from now until Monday? I mean making it from scratch too. I know you are supposed to know a thing or two about the position you are applying for, but really I haven't done anything more than browse around the courses available and noticed a few Ph.D. titles that caught my eye.

I'm in the fourth year of my physics degree (MPhys) in the UK, and am set on a physics-based career. I am more aware of what my least favourite areas of physics are than knowing what I definitely want to pursue something in. For example, I found the computational physics ones, writing c++ code etc. to be infuriating, and the condensed matter side of things doesn't particularly excite me. I'm not going to do a Ph.D. and possibly extended career in something that I haven't got 100% enthusiasm for.
I'm leaning towards the particle physics or nuclear fusion or fission areas, and want to start making applications for these. Are these a sensible choices to go for?

How much are you realistically expected to know about the course and the professional physics world that I'd be applying to get into when writing these applications?

Also, when writing applications, do you ever feel like a bit of an idiot when trying to write about yourself and how great you are and why you deserve to get the position? How can you manage this without coming off as someone completely full of themselves or just talking bollocks?

Lastly, have I left things too late to be applying for UK Ph.D. courses in the UK starting in 2011, given that its 03/02/11 today?
 
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Yes it is possible to do it in four days. I do assume you have thought about applying for PhD a lot before now. For example you know why you want to do it, do you have an idea roughly what you will be doing in the program, do you like research, what kind of experiences you have, why are you applying to a particular program. If you have thought about these before you can do it.
Knowing details of the program is not difficult, just read the program page. You should know however why you are applying there. What's their strength.

You don't have to sound full of yourself to write about your strength. You can describe what kind of experience you have (lab work, research, independent study, intern etc) and maybe how you have learn from them. That's what i did anyway.

Until now I still wonder if the admission committee actually care much about it. No one seems to pay much attention to it other than taking a quick look at what sub-field the student might be interested in.
 
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Yes it is possible to do it in four days. I do assume you have thought about applying for PhD a lot before now. For example you know why you want to do it, do you have an idea roughly what you will be doing in the program, do you like research, what kind of experiences you have,

well yes, doing a Ph.D. has been at the back of my mind for years, but why do I want to do it?
1) I don't want to have to stop learning physics, I'm no good at anything else anyway.
2) I don't want a career in a non-scientific area. If I have to do a normal job I'll be unsatisfied.
3) Getting a job anywhere is hard these days, now seems like the best time for a Ph.D.
4) I feel like if I don't do this now I never will.

I'm basing my choice of what I want to study based on the modules I have most enjoyed during my undergraduate degree. Infact I've never had a plan for the future as far as education goes, I've always just taken the subjects I most enjoyed.

As far as the Ph.D. subjects I'm looking at (probably particle & fusion physics) I have zero actual lab experience - what undergraduate is ever expected to have any experience in those areas? All I have is what I've been taught in lectures etc.
Again, as far as research goes, I've never been a researcher before, I'm guessing I'd enjoy it but having never done it before...

You can describe what kind of experience you have (lab work, research, independent study, intern etc) and maybe how you have learn from them. That's what i did anyway.

The only proper lab work I've ever done the project I'm doing now for my masters year, but it's semiconductor based, nothing to do with particle physics or nuclear fusion... Never done any internships either. Infact, I've got nothing apart from good grades to put on my CV. All I have done at uni is done my coursework and gotten drunk, nothing extra-curricular I could mention. Starting to feel like any application I make is going to fail...
 
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