Sunday, November 21, 2010

Grad School Advice: The Beginning and The End

  1. Female Science Professor on what is appropriate in a prospective grad student's first letter asking "if I will be taking on new students in the next academic year." Her article is filled with very good advice; I want to excerpt here a particularly perceptive part:

    Of course, the questions that students really want answered aren't appropriate to ask, at least not to me directly: Am I a mean adviser or a nice adviser? Do I expect my students to work nights and weekends? Am I a control freak, or do I have a sink-or-swim advising philosophy? Will I scream at them if they don't run a spell checker before handing me a document, or will I merely sigh?

    To find out that kind of information, you will have to write to my current and recent graduate students—something I encourage potential applicants to do.

  2. McSweeny's has a fantastic FAQ on The "Snake Fight" Portion Of Your Thesis Defense. [Warning: It's from McSweeny's!]

    Q: Why do I have to do this?
    A: Snake fighting is one of the great traditions of higher education. It may seem somewhat antiquated and silly, like the robes we wear at graduation, but fighting a snake is an important part of the history and culture of every reputable university. Almost everyone with an advanced degree has gone through this process. Notable figures such as John Foster Dulles, Philip Roth, and Doris Kearns Goodwin (to name but a few) have all had to defeat at least one snake in single combat.

    Q: This whole snake thing is just a metaphor, right?
    A: I assure you, the snakes are very real.