That's right: the main concern of our grad students (or at least those who comment here) is that we tell them the truth. Here's some samplings from the comments:
- "I think the best thing that my advisor does for me is to read drafts of my work carefully and tell me when something isn't working. I know some people whose advisors seem worried about hurting their feelings and so hold back."
- "If we had a more honest conversation about the quality of my work, perhaps, and we had it out loud with me in the room, I could have known whether I was doing poor work or whether my director was being unreasonable. That might have saved me hours of weeping and wailing and wondering if I should drop out."
- "I think the best thing for advisors to do is to have a conversation with their advisees, up front, and discuss expectations and working styles. I did this with my current advisor – I was paranoid after being burned badly by my last one – and it’s made all the difference in the world…"
Of course, that's not the only concern. Some want more direct guidance:
- "Please don't assume that we know how you feel about our work. If it's unclear, the chances good are that we're worrying about it."
- "I'm not sure if i would have responded well to her being more drill sargeant-y, but i think it might have helped to have more concrete deadlines (perhaps even institutional ones)..."
- "I do wish faculty were more involved in our grad careers. I hear lip service paid to the idea that graduate study is a form of apprenticeship. […] I would value the chance to see, or just discuss, how my adviser does research, for example."
- "Something has got to be done about the professors everybody knows are horrible to graduate students. […] Either keep graduate students away from them or make a concerted effort to provide additional means of support for the students who have to work with these professors."
- "There should be a system to help those with PhDs get other relevant non-professorial jobs. It's hard to leave graduate school (with its low but guaranteed paycheck) for unemployment. Make the transition easier, and the graduate students may actually finish."
In the spirit of fairness, I'm going to ask profs to also limit themselves to one bite of the apple apiece for now. If it looks like there's interest in certain topics, I'll do a more open post later, and we can all -- profs and students alike -- comment to our hearts' content.
Please be thoughtful and constructive. But also, as requested by the grad students themselves, be honest.