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How to compare potential advisers for grad school?

  1. Dec 30, 2012 #1
    How do you go about actually narrowing down potential advisers from different schools? What are some tips for visitations that will help with this decision? How does one compare the prestige of different advisers? Counting publications seems silly and asking around your undergrad department could be skewed.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2012 #2


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    Education Advisor

    Here are some questions that I would ask potential supervisors (now that I've been on both sides of this issue):
    - What expectations do you have of your students? (With respect to: schedule (daily and over the course of the project), independence, publishing, conference attendence, part-time jobs, etc.)
    - How often would we meet?
    - Do you prefer formal or informal meetings?
    - How many students have you supervised?
    - What projects have your former students worked on?
    - Were they successful?
    - Where are they now?
    - How does student funding work?
    - How many students do you currently have?

    Obviously you don't have to ask these exact questions, but while interviewing with potential advisors it's a good idea to ask open ended questions to initiate a real dialogue. Although some of the questions may seem awkward at first, it's better to get them out of the way up front rather than (as some students do) wondering about them for half of their graduate time.

    Another big tip is to talk with both current graduate students and post-docs in the department. This helps avoid getting stuck with somewho who bends the truth in answering such questions.
  4. Dec 30, 2012 #3
    This is probably the single best, and yet most rarely followed, advice for people looking for a grad supervisor. Ignore it at your great peril, LogicX.
  5. Dec 30, 2012 #4
    How exactly will I have the opportunity to talk with their current grad students? It's not like they are going to let me loose in their lab...
  6. Dec 31, 2012 #5
    Why shouldn't they? When you meet with the advisor, say, "I would like to speak to some of your current students about their experience in the group. Would that be OK?" If they say no, that alone should be a giant red flag. This is someone you're going to be supervised by for years. Good advisors don't take that lightly and want you to have as many opportunities as possible to see if you'll be a good fit.

    I once had a professor joke, "The two most important decisions in my life were deciding who to do my PhD under and who I was going to marry. In that order." A bit extreme, perhaps, but it makes the point. You wouldn't buy a car without kicking the tires. If a professor won't let you speak to his or her current students, it's like someone selling a used car who won't let you get an inspection. So go ahead, kick the tires.
  7. Dec 31, 2012 #6


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    I was going to reply to the OP, but there's no way I could have possibly stated it better than LastOneStanding has above.
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