What are the little secrets of elite Ph.D. programs? - PhDData

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What are the little secrets of elite Ph.D. programs?

October 2022

Let’s see below what we can consider like secrets, or at least not well known information before begin a Ph.D.

Departmental politics and financing are a major driving force behind many odd and wasteful choices, so you should be aware of them and tread carefully. A Ph.D. student who is confused by the dysfunction of their department should look at internal politics to get the answer.

Students should be aware that faculty members are still individuals capable of lying, cheating, and harming them. Professors who misuse their position exist, albeit, fortunately, they are less common in prestigious colleges because such institutions tend to hire the best and brightest.

There is a wide range in quality among Ph.D. candidates. Some students are already established as stars when classes begin, while others are just “typical” pupils with “potential.” It might not be very encouraging for those who are still merely capable of potential. Interestingly, the “superstars” at school are often kinder and more giving than their average counterparts.

We now live in a world where “ghost-advising” is a common practice. In this scenario, a respected professor serves as your “formal” adviser, while an unofficial “nurturing” advisor provides much day-to-day guidance. Many times, this will be a less senior employee. Ghost advising isn’t always a negative thing for students; after all, it looks great on a resume or recommendation letter if a big-name professor is listed as your advisor, but younger faculty members frequently have a better understanding of your current situation and the challenges you’ll face in the future. Dissertations are a fantastic method for “unofficial” advisors to fulfill their intellectual curiosity and get up to speed on developments in specialized areas of the field.

When deciding between a hands-on and a hands-off advisor, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each. Although a hands-on adviser can be an excellent resource for a student, they also have a higher expectation of “obedience” from their mentees. They may take it personally if the student goes in a different intellectual direction or does something “terrible” like getting married or having a child and moving away from school to be with their new family.

Unlike more involved professors, those who take a hands-off approach tend to be more accepting of their students’ intellectual variety and openness to new ideas (including learning from other professors). Conversely, it is simple for students to lose track of their responsibilities and end up undisciplined, intellectually isolated, and hopelessly lost.

Tenured professors at prestigious universities have often enjoyed a smooth, unblemished career path. Sometimes they didn’t have to choose between their careers, their spouses’ careers, and raising their children. If they were more senior, they might have entered the field during a time when wives were expected to put their husbands’ careers ahead of their own, and if not, their status as “star” professors may have made it easier for them to find work for their partners.

It may be very challenging for Ph.D. students to find out how to balance the professional demands of their partners or marriages, particularly if neither partner nor spouse feels confident in their future success in the workplace. Thus, many teachers at these elite institutions lack understanding and empathy for the difficulties faced by many of their graduate students.

Depression and anxiety are surprisingly common among graduate students, both in general and in the top Ph.D. programs that place more significant stress on the students. The majority of professors are encouraging, yet the structure of graduate school seems to be harmful.

The hyper-competitive nature of the graduate school admissions process is a stark reminder that everyone is vying for the same limited resources of status and financial support. Your exceptional intellect and research prowess are what you’re really marketing to your peers and funding agencies. This tends to make individuals absurdly competitive in terms of intelligence. When given a chance, such as at a presentation, professors and students will frequently begin openly questioning one another’s findings.

People will attempt to make you feel stupid even when they aren’t deliberately hostile to your studies. Although not everyone experiences this, and it doesn’t occur constantly, it is undeniably a common occurrence. Going into graduate school unprepared might be pretty unsettling.

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