They may have a legal existence, but they can be as ‘unscrupulous’ in the tactics they employed to drive desperate prospective postgraduate into their services. Some use all their networking in the system, to get you a place, regardless of topic & supervision interest. As they would claim, desperate times, call for desperate measures. Once they have employed this desperate measures, they somehow coerced these desperate prospective students into accepting a place.
I almost get caught in it. But feeling something fishy about the arrangement, I backed out of it. And I know a few people who actually did not and could not. In a postgraduate degree of unstructured nature, which spells big time uncertainty, you would want to avoid starting on the wrong foot. But these agents, who claimed they cared, actually could not care less. Some students had to spend time later, to change their topic of interest or field and worst, even the supervisors themselves. These education agents, come highly unrecommended.
So PhD Application 101:
- Always try to find your own supervisors. Look up their publication list. Besides looking for topic, also the dates of their last publication. If they are fairly very recent, that’s a good thing. Because they are still in the education networking system actively, (not on sabbatical leave, retiring or dying) and that means their interest are also up to date.
- Avoid being desperate in the first place, by starting the application early on, even before you received funding for your study. This is actually easy said than done, almost everybody gets desperate one way or another, at any one point throughout the application for a place. Why? Well, for starters even in the years of the email, yahoo messenger, etc… some potential supervisors, simply don’t reply! Even if they do, they are either not interested in the topic you intend on doing or not interested at all.
- Once you have been in contact, keep on doing it from time to time, before your application is finalized. You can actually learn a lot from the communication, their style, their patience with you and all, gives at least a future prediction of things are going to be when you finally get to work under them.
- Again, if you are desperate and time is running out (due to various reasons) and have to resort to agents make them give a few suggestions, instead of only one. And try to establish contact regardless.