I'm going to graduate with a physics degree at the end of next year (around December). I want to do my PhD in Europe, but I know that the academic year starts in September, and I don't think I can finish before that.
Is it uncommon to begin work at the start of the year (February, March) rather than the usual date? Does that lower my chances of getting in to most universities? I mean, I'd have to tell them that I won't be able to go until the next year, and that seems pretty unorthodox. Maybe there's some people that won't have a problem with that, but I imagine they'll be in the minority. I'd probably lose the spot to someone that can start in August/September, wouldn't I?
What should I do? I don't think taking 6 months off is a good idea, and I definitely won't have any more courses or finals by that time.
The European universities that I know of, will hire a PhD candidate and employ the candidate under a time-limited contract. You are not enrolling in a pre-set program, you are being employed. The timing for completing any mandatory coursework is usually very flexible. There are no general rigid rules with regards to when to hire someone for a PhD position. As most, but not all, students typically finish their Master's during summer, most positions will have a starting date in early autumn. But some do not. It depends on circumstances. You will have to look up adverts on available PhD positions, and see what the specifics are. You will also find contact information to people in the group that is hiring, and you can and should give them a call. They will be able to provide more information on how much flexibility they have.