“Selecting a tutor” is a hurdle for graduate students studying abroad

The world’s authoritative academic journal “Nature” recently published a survey data completed in 2019. After surveying more than 6,300 PhDs around the world, 24% of students said that if there is a chance to do it again, they would like to choose another tutor . In the large international student body around the world, graduate students (including master and doctoral students) occupy the main part, and graduate tutors play a vital role in this study. How to choose the right tutor in the postgraduate study abroad is also a perennial headache for many international students with further study ideas.

Academic achievement is not linked to teacher-student relationship

According to a survey conducted by “Nature” magazine, the option of “changing mentor” is higher than 20% of “changing major” and 8% of “not reading a Ph.D.”. In general, nearly a quarter of PhD students are not satisfied with their current tutors, and the 2017 data from Nature also showed similar results. In addition, 1/5 of the students believe that the relationship between themselves and their tutors is not conducive to their own development, and usually cannot get what they want or need from their tutors. Among them, the most lacking is one-to-one guidance time and employment assistance. .

In the process of graduate school, it is very important to accept the guidance of the tutor. Forty-nine percent of PhD students said that they spend less than one hour one-on-one with their supervisors every week, and most students need more guidance and attention. Many tutors have high academic achievements, but their own students do not have enough time and opportunities to establish close contact with their tutors. In an interview with the Global Times reporter, Yang, who used to study at a famous graduate school of social sciences on the East Coast of the United States, said that his graduate tutor at the time had a very high status in this field in the United States, but it is also for this reason that he There is very little time to manage student business, and most of the time is spent on meetings and events outside. “Only one afternoon a week can I make an appointment with him. At this time, there are about a dozen students who need to talk. It is good that everyone can take turns for 5 minutes.”

In addition to academics, career planning is also one of the most important factors for graduate students. However, only one-third of students are satisfied with the tutor’s help in this area. 60% of respondents in the Nature survey said that their academic planning is based on interest and homework done online, but these “self-reliant” students may lose some opportunities because they can only understand Make choices without realizing that there are other possibilities. There are two main reasons for the above situation. In addition to the tutor’s own research and teaching burden, most professors have contributed their entire careers to the academia, so they don’t know much about job opportunities outside the academia. Can’t give effective advice.

Be optimistic about your mentor before graduate school

In the “Nature” survey, 28% of international students are from Asia, and 40% of them are from China. According to data from the International Education Association for 2019-2020, China is still the largest exporter of international students, of which 36.8% are graduate students.

Choosing a mentor is actually the first step to prepare before studying for a Ph.D. Take Japan as an example. Because Japanese universities mainly adopt the principle of “professor management”, postgraduate (doctoral) supervisors have great decision-making power in recruiting students. It can even be said that if they are not accepted by supervisors, Japanese graduate schools will not Will easily accept individual applications from students. Conversely, if the tutor accepts and submits the admission application to the university through the tutor, the success rate will be very high. This situation is similar in graduate schools of higher education institutions in other regions.

Specifically, the following steps are required to apply for a master (doctoral) degree abroad and find a suitable tutor. First, look for the major you yearn for through the school’s official website. It should be noted that the division of the same major in different universities is also different. For example, journalism is often an independent discipline in China, but some overseas universities classify it as law, sociology, or literature.

Second, after finding the major you want to apply for, you need to select a suitable tutor. Normally, the official website of the university will have a relevant introduction of each teacher, such as professional title, personal resume, research direction, thesis situation, and contact information. A major is usually divided into many research directions, and each tutor’s specific research direction is different, so it often happens that tutors reject student applications on the grounds of different research directions. Therefore, it is particularly important to understand the research direction of the tutor and related papers. This not only means that the tutor can give specific guidance after enrollment, but also means that the student can obtain a higher success rate in the process of applying for the exam.

In addition, in addition to the academic background and achievements of the tutor, his personality, temperament, work habits, cultural background and the way he treats students are all important factors that need to be considered. A professor at a famous university on the west coast of the United States told the Global Times reporter: “Sometimes more important than the reputation of professors is whether they are willing to give their time generously for students.” Some tutors regard teaching and leading students as professors. The most important part of the work, and some think that their scientific research is more important; some tutors are very enthusiastic, which makes the work pressure and intensity of doctoral students very high, and some tutors are relatively relaxed; some are relatively strict. There is a sense of distance between teachers and students, while others are amiable, treating students as friends, and learning is entirely self-conscious; some are from the same country or similar cultural background as the students, while others have no similarities at all. Each of these different types has its own advantages and disadvantages. Students should carefully select teachers according to the type they like. You can collect this information by talking with the current students of the instructor, and exchanging emails between teachers and students, new and old students.

Clearly communicate your needs

Many Asian students are not only respectful to their teachers due to cultural reasons, but are also embarrassed to raise their demands and difficulties. If things go on like this, it will not only affect progress, but also deepen misunderstandings. In fact, as a student, you must learn to communicate your requirements and wishes with the teacher in a timely manner. Only by clearly telling the teacher what you want can you get the most effective support.

As for what “own wishes” are, students should first have a general plan for their future development at the graduate level or even before admission. Many schools require applicants to have their own research proposal (research proposal-al) when looking for students, and students who want to study for Ph.D. also need to have certain ideas on graduation thesis or design projects. Before the student is ready for the research plan, taking the liberty to contact the tutor may have negative effects. The school is a place for research and learning. Most tutors attach great importance to students’ learning attitude. The detailed and substantial research plan determines to a large extent whether students can be accepted by tutors. A Chinese student who had completed a PhD in Japan recalled to the Global Times reporter that during the first visit to the tutor, the most asked questions were how to conduct research after entering the school, what was the purpose of the research, and what kind of research was used. Methods and so on. Therefore, the research plan can be said to be an important “stepping stone.” Some students said that they sent a self-introduction e-mail to their favorite tutors during the application stage, and attached personal research plans, undergraduate schools, transcripts, etc. Because the research directions are relatively consistent, I soon received a reply email from the tutor. After that, after obtaining permission, the students made a special trip to the supervisor’s research room to introduce to the supervisor their research plans during the postgraduate period.

Finally, the most important thing for international students to relax their mindset is not to worry about their foreign language ability is not good enough. Because some Chinese students are not fluent in oral English, they often dare not express their opinions and ideas in front of their tutors. This can easily misunderstand the tutors as insufficient preparation or lack of sufficient research enthusiasm. In fact, the tutor will not refuse to accept the student because of the poor oral expression skills; on the contrary, if the student can show enough enthusiasm and attitude for learning and research, the tutor will still be willing to provide academic guidance even if the foreign language ability is insufficient.

Of course, although changing the selection of a mentor is not an easy task, it is not impossible. If it is really difficult to communicate with the mentor, or to a very unpleasant level, you can still choose to change the mentor. The Nature survey also mentioned that some students were subjected to human exploitation or even harassment during graduate school. In this case, it is still necessary to change tutors in order to successfully complete the book.