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Prospective students and potential PhD advisors

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In our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, Kent writes: I'm a current MA student about to visit PhD programs, and I've realized that I have no idea what to say in meetings with potential faculty advisors. I've thought about trying to read some of their work beforehand, but I'm not sure how discussing that would help me (other than perhaps getting a handle on their methodological approach). I'm concerned about quality of advisement and so on, but I don't want to ask questions that might come off as indelicate or rude. Some guidance would be much appreciated! Great query. In my experience, a student's eventual choice of PhD supervisor is absolutely vital. Some supervisors are effective, churning our successful PhDs and job-candidates left and right. Other supervisors, on the other hand, are truly awful--routinely having students who either never graduate or fail to be competitive on the job-market due to poor mentoring. As I don't work as a PhD supervisor myself, and it's been a long while since I've been in a PhD program, I'm not sure what a prospective student should say or ask a potential advisor during a campus visit--beyond simply having a conversation and trying to suss out whether the advisor is a good fit 'personality-wise.' For what it's worth, my first-, second-, and third-hand experience is that being a good personality fit is important. Some particularly confident students may thrive under pressure--and indeed, may even need pressure from a supervisor to work effectively (if they are liable to procrastination). This kind of student may benefit from having a really active, vocal, and critical supervisor. However, other students--for example, students liable to insecurity--may respond poorly to an advisor like this. Indeed, I've not only seen this happen--certain types of students losing confidence in their abilities (and, in turn, their work-ethic) due to overly-critical. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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