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I am willing to pursue a PhD degree in Northern Europe (mostly in Scandinavia). So, I take advice from differen professors of my university.

The exact question I asked was:

I want to complete my PhD degree in a Scandinavian Country

Some of them told me that it does not matter where I want to go. Others told me that it changes with respect to the region I want to go.

I was ready to be satisfied with only one common advise, however, most of them told me completely different expectations.

They can be summarized as:

  1. Cumulative GPA should be 4.00/4.00.
  2. You should publish a conference paper.
  3. You must publish a journal paper in a mediocre journal.
  4. Most important thing is getting very good reference letters.
  5. It is just luck. You should give every university a try.
  6. They mostly look at your cover letter.
  7. You should find someone that you know from that university. He/she should advise you.

Are these sentences professors' own expectations? Or are some of them completely true?

Or...
Should I take all of them into consideration?

To sum up:
I am pursuing a PhD in Scandinavia. What should I do? Are the expected qualifications same as US or Asian countries?

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    Some of the expectations listed are reasonable. Some, however, are definitely not. #1 is an example of the latter. – Compass Oct 21 '14 at 15:28
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    This seems like several questions bundled into one: are you asking about Scandinavian Ph.D. programs, or about regional differences in general, or about Ph.D. expectations in general? Can you please focus and clarify? – jakebeal Oct 21 '14 at 16:41
  • @jakebeal Well, that's my recklessness. Sorry for that. I forgot to make my point. – padawan Oct 21 '14 at 16:46
  • I have no Scandinavian experience, but I think you have mostly gotten good advice from the professors. You probably do not have to achieve all those things. I doubt the cover letter is the most important component of the application, but certainly you should write it well. My understanding is that the difficulty with Scandinavian universities is that there are not very many of them. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 21 '14 at 17:05
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    My supervisor didn't even look at my transcript, so 1 is definitely not true (in general). Also, I don't have publications. But the main thing is that the PI decide who to hire, and each one has their own criteria. – Davidmh Oct 26 '14 at 15:24
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In Finland, you usually start your PhD studies after your MSc studies. If you don't have an MSc yet, get it first.

Other than that, there are no unusual requirements or expectations. You just have to convince your potential supervisor that you personally are the best person in the world for this position. Hiring a PhD student is a huge investment — in the ballpark of hundreds of thousands of euros of grant money, plus numerous hours of their time to supervise the student — and you really have to convince the professor that you are worth all that.

A fairly common approach is to do your MSc studies in the same place, get to know the professors, work as a summer intern in their research groups, write a MSc thesis under their supervision, etc., and this way gradually convince them that you really are not just an excellent student but you also could become an excellent researcher.

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    The same is roughly applicable to Sweden. Note that having a MSc is not a hard requirement, but almost a de facto one. – Davidmh Oct 26 '14 at 15:22
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    Finland is not in Scandinavia :) – Sverre Oct 26 '14 at 19:58
  • @Sverre: Close enough. – Jukka Suomela Oct 26 '14 at 21:33

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