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The balance of freedom and structure in a mentorship


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I tend to approach research from a creative, big picture side of things, but, at the same time also tend to get lost in my own big ideas. From anyone's experience as an undergrad or grad, do you think I'd fare better in a more structured environment or one that affords me opportunities for free exploration? In graduate school it's obviously a balancing act, but if you were (or are) in my shoes, what would you do? I have two great offers, one to work with a mentor who is more structured, and the other who takes a relatively "hands-off," almost even lax approach. 2 weeks until big decisions... any input would be appreciated.

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I guess it depends. I'm a very divergent thinker. I like hearing about research done by others, and enjoying thinking of new ideas for them just for fun. It's a strength, but only if focused properly. I'm not arrogant enough to think I'll make a career out of doing research on "everything", so even though I'd probably feel better with a lax mentor, I'd probably do better and learn more with one who's more structured. My current (undergrad) adviser is like that, and I'm lucky enough that I'll have two in grad school who will be the same. Of course, in this case, it's even more critical that I identify strongly with my mentor's research. Luckily, I do. Just my two cents.

Edited by QxV
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My $.02:

Find an advisor that will put you on a project ASAP. I would err on the side of structure and even micromanagement at this point. When you begin to develop your own ideas, make your goals known to your advisor that you want to pursue it somewhat independently. I think an advisor that's usually very hands-on being distal is easier to find than an advisor that's typically laissez-faire suddenly becoming your micro-manager.

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