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SOME MODEST ADVICE FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS
Stephen C. Stearns
Always Prepare for the Worst
Some of the greatest catastrophes in graduate education could have been avoided by a
little intelligent foresight. Be cynical. Assume that your proposed research might not
work, and that one of your faculty advisors might become unsupportive - or even hostile.
Plan for alternatives.
Nobody Cares About You
In fact, some professor care about you and some don't. Most probably do, but all are
busy, which means in practice they cannot care about you because they don't have the
time. You are on your own, and you had better get used to it. This has a lot of
implications. Here are two important ones:
1) You had better decide early on that you are in charge of your program. The degree
you get is yours to create. Your major professor can advise you and protect you to a
certain extent from bureaucratic and financial demons, but he should not tell you what to
do. That is up to you. If you need advice, ask for it: that's his job.
2) If you want to pick somebody's brains you'll have to go to him or her, because they
won't be coming to you.
You Must Know Why Your Work is Important