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1 of 3 Incoming Students


sdt13
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Hi everyone,

 

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of meeting with my advisor for the first time at a conference. Everything went really well and we got along great, but I am not sure what to make of the following situation. Apparently he has 3 students coming in at the same time, one being me. He admitted that he originally wasn't going to contact me because he thought 'I was too good and thus wouldn't want to join the program' (I had to write him about the status of my application, and once I did, we Skyped the same morning and I had an offer with funding that same evening). This is kind of a bizarre statement and so I don't really know what to make of it or this situation in general. Any advice?

 
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I don't think that's an uncommon attitude among professors: They don't want to go through the hassle of recruiting somebody if there's a really good chance that person will go elsewhere. If a prof can only make one or two offers, getting them to the right people (whom you want, but who will also accept) is really important. This can also, in part, explain why sometimes people get into top choices but not their so-called safety schools.

 

I think it slightly weird to tell you this directly, but I wouldn't read too much into it because he probably considered it a compliment.

 

In case it needs to be said, don't repeat that story to your fellow students :P

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I agree with lewin.  The professor either thought it was a compliment or perhaps wasn't thinking period before speaking, but I don't think you should view it negatively.  It sounds like your following up really sealed the deal and removed the concern that this school was just your back up plan.  Congratulations!

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In some fields in Canada (definitely physics, maybe not yours), the future advisor is the one that determines whether or not you get accepted -- i.e. you only get in if a prof is willing to pay for you. So it's more of a job hiring process than a committee that selects the best candidates. So, it makes sense that prof who sees your great application and thinks that you will end up somewhere else might not want to make you an offer. Because if they do, and you hold onto it for a long time while deciding your best options, you might end up declining it way later. At the same time, the prof can't offer the spot to another student because they have to wait for you to decline before the money frees up. If they wait this long, the next best choice might already accept another offer elsewhere and they're stuck with none of their top choices.

 

So maybe that's why he waited for you to contact him first, to show that you're actually interested in the position. I think in a lot of these cases, it would make more sense, to me, for the prof to offer the position anyways to the best student with a time limit, or to ask them outright if UVic was their top choice. Either way, I am sure that the prof is thrilled to have you in his group and might feel like they were able to "poach" you from another school.

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Thanks for the great feedback, guys! We ended up having a conversation regarding why I chose this program and I think both of us walked away excited to be working together.

 

However, does anyone have any advice or experience regarding being 1 of 3 incoming students for the same professor? MY undergrad advisor said this is not common at all as far as he knows, but it may have it's advantages (e.g., having 3 like minded people to work with) and disadvantages (e.g., tons of competition among the three).

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Not in psychology but, my advisor has tended to let in 2 students at a time so students are staggered in the program. I've never sensed any competition between myself and the other student that started when I did but, that may be because our research is really different even if it all falls under the same umbrella (theoretically and methodologically). I think the level of competition depends partially on your department's funding structure. In ours, everyone has the same funding for the same amount of time so there's no competition there. There is for external funding but, there's no sense worrying about how one internal colleague is going to affect that unless you have the exact same materials, qualifications, etc. In my case, because our research is pretty different, there was no way we'd be confused even when we applied to the same funding sources.

 

Upsides include that you'll be going through coursework, adjustment to the new place, adjustment to the lab, etc at the same time and have someone to talk with about these things.

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I've heard that, at least as far as your broader division/program is concerned, 3 is actually kind of ideal.  My mentor put it this way: if you're the only one, it's lonely and isolating, and you have nobody to commiserate with.  If you're one of two, everything turns into a kind of competition -- you'll be constantly compared, and someone will always seem like the "better" or "worse" student.  If you're one of three, the competition is diffused, because there's more variation.  Much more than three, and you risk being lost in the crowd.

 

I would think the same logic might apply to advisees, although I can see the case for smaller cohort being stronger in that situation.  Since you can't change it, though, I'd think about it as a good thing!

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