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Advisor in grad school: how does it work?


AcademicX

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Hi guys,

 

Could anyone tell me more about how the advisor/student relationship works in grad school? Do students usually choose an advisor after finishing the MA requirements (mostly classes)? Is the advisor the same as the dissertation supervisor? Do you pretty much work only with her/him once you start working on the dissertation? I think that dissertations committees usually have two other members, right? Any other insights about how this works?

 

Thanks in advance!

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I'd be willing to answer anyone's questions. I'm a PhD student already who's just hanging out here because I feel bad for you guys and I have some friends applying.

 

 

Do students usually choose an advisor after finishing the MA requirements (mostly classes)?

 

I think this is going to differ based on school. Some people (especially those coming from MA programs) apply to certain schools with the intent of working with a specific person (I myself did this). Other times people pick their advisors as they take classes. At my school (UConn) you have to have an advisor and a second committee member picked by your fourth semester. But I've heard from people at other schools (where a strict 5 year plan isn't enforced) where one can take longer, say up to the third year. In general though, I imagine you'll pick someone around your third semester, once you've had a bit of time with the department.

 

 

Is the advisor the same as the dissertation supervisor?

Typically, yes. You might refer to any of your committee members as your advisors, and the principal one as your 'chair', but typically people take 'advisor' and 'chair' to be synonymous in this respect.

 

 

Do you pretty much work only with her/him once you start working on the dissertation?

Absolutely not. You'll work principally with your advisor, but expect to still be involved with other professors, especially the other ones on your committee. Sometimes people's foremost influences aren't their advisors (e.g. Davidson).

 

 

I think that dissertations committees usually have two other members, right?

Typically three are required, yeah. If there aren't three people qualified in your department to work on what you want, you may get an external. Many people have more than three advisors though. I'll likely have four when all is said and done, but I wouldn't recommend more than 5.

 

 

I wasn't really focused on working with anyone in particular so I wonder how they'll end up hooking up people like me.

I came to my program looking to work with someone in particular. They didn't actually end up being my advisor (for a lot of reasons), and instead I chose someone else. I took a course with them and became really interested in the material and so it just happened naturally from there. If you have specific questions from here I could go further I guess.

 

Anyways, think that answers all of them so far.

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I'd be willing to answer anyone's questions. I'm a PhD student already who's just hanging out here because I feel bad for you guys and I have some friends applying.

 

 

I think this is going to differ based on school. Some people (especially those coming from MA programs) apply to certain schools with the intent of working with a specific person (I myself did this). Other times people pick their advisors as they take classes. At my school (UConn) you have to have an advisor and a second committee member picked by your fourth semester. But I've heard from people at other schools (where a strict 5 year plan isn't enforced) where one can take longer, say up to the third year. In general though, I imagine you'll pick someone around your third semester, once you've had a bit of time with the department.

 

Typically, yes. You might refer to any of your committee members as your advisors, and the principal one as your 'chair', but typically people take 'advisor' and 'chair' to be synonymous in this respect.

 

Absolutely not. You'll work principally with your advisor, but expect to still be involved with other professors, especially the other ones on your committee. Sometimes people's foremost influences aren't their advisors (e.g. Davidson).

 

Typically three are required, yeah. If there aren't three people qualified in your department to work on what you want, you may get an external. Many people have more than three advisors though. I'll likely have four when all is said and done, but I wouldn't recommend more than 5.

 

I came to my program looking to work with someone in particular. They didn't actually end up being my advisor (for a lot of reasons), and instead I chose someone else. I took a course with them and became really interested in the material and so it just happened naturally from there. If you have specific questions from here I could go further I guess.

 

Anyways, think that answers all of them so far.

 

I met Hallie Liberto when she came here, and she is the coolest (plus, going to Princeton for a year is awesome!). U Conn seems like an amazing department, I just wanted to say that. Nothing really else to add.

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I met Hallie Liberto when she came here, and she is the coolest (plus, going to Princeton for a year is awesome!). U Conn seems like an amazing department, I just wanted to say that. Nothing really else to add.

Yup, Hallie is awesome! Let me know if you have any questions about advisors, etc.

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When will a PhD student typically begin to choose her advisor?  At the end of the first year, second year, or other time? 

In response to one of the earlier posts, I posted this:

 

 

I think this is going to differ based on school. Some people (especially those coming from MA programs) apply to certain schools with the intent of working with a specific person (I myself did this). Other times people pick their advisors as they take classes. At my school (UConn) you have to have an advisor and a second committee member picked by your fourth semester. But I've heard from people at other schools (where a strict 5 year plan isn't enforced) where one can take longer, say up to the third year. In general though, I imagine you'll pick someone around your third semester, once you've had a bit of time with the department.

Apart from what I say here, I'd emphasise that sooner is better than later, although not necessary by any means. You should aim for the third semester I'd say.

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If you're seriously considering a particular school because of a specific prof or two in the department there, what's an appropriate way to establish that interest? 

Do you have in mind before you go there, or after? If the former you should visit (even if they're not offering you funding to visit) and make sure you have lunch with them and/or sit in on one of their seminars if possible. If the latter, you should be sure to take a class as soon as possible and get near to them.

 

Without meeting someone, you definitely should not accept an offer to a school on the basis of wanting to work with that person. There are lots of reasons, both personally and professionally, that you may not want to work with someone, and you should make sure you find out as much info as possible before making decisions. I suggest visiting and emailing graduate students for info, for example.

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