Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Graduate Student

By admin
Jul 10th, 2014

graphic - woman mature writing notes lecture asianAccepting a graduate student is a decision.  This decision has an impact on your professional (and let’s tell the truth, your personal life) for a significant period of time.  In addition, this decision affects the student’s life during graduate school and beyond.  Make it a good decision.  Here are ten questions to ask before you accept someone as your graduate student (or agree to be on his/her thesis or dissertation committee).

  1. What is your time frame?  You can probe further to get the specifics, but start with this one.
  2. What is your previous background in this discipline?  You can follow this question with one about how the decision was made to pursue a graduate degree in this field.
  3. What kind of work ethic do you have?  After the student answers, ask for examples.
  4. What is your ability to receive mentoring and guidance from someone else (in particular, YOU, the advisor or committee member)?  This one is worthy of some discussion while you explain what your style is to the student.
  5. What are your goals for pursuing and earning this degree – in this field – at this time?  This is a three-part question, but grad students might as well get used to complex questions, right?
  6. Why did you choose me for an advisor?  As a professor, you are skilled enough to listen for the answer, both the spoken and implied.
  7. What are your expectations for a graduate advisor?  In some cases, students don’t really know what to expect, but it is the way the answer is given that is helpful.
  8. What kind of support team do you have in place?  Should you accept this student, this gives you a chance to explain some of the implications of being a graduate student and why a support team needs to be in place.
  9. What is your writing ability/proficiency?  It is not unreasonable to ask for a sample.  You will be doing a great deal of writing with (and reading the writing of) this student.  If the writing is absolutely frightful, it is best to know that going in.
  10. What are your project management/time management abilities?  Ask for examples of what the student uses to keep on track (and if the student points to his/her head…bad sign; recommend signing up for!)

Taking the time you need not only to interview students but let the students know more about you so that they can make a wise decision, is time well invested.  Use these questions as a place to start your discussion.

And as a college or university faculty member, you have many opportunities for success and failure. If you would like additional tips, tools, and techniques that you can use to support your successes, then you will want to access the The Compendium of Productivity Tips for Professors a step by step guide that will help you have a successful year and a compelling career as an academic.