It’s time to move on

One of the hardest decisions for both the student and the Professor is to know when to end that relationship. There are so many dynamics in this complex relationship between student and mentor, or student and adviser.

When do I know that it is time to let a student go?

  1. When the trust factor breaks down completely between student and the adviser. Here is an example. I had gone for a 6 week research project to another country. I had talked with each one of my students in my research group about my expectations for their research during this very important summer time. I had mapped out research plans and goals for each one of them before I left and I indicated to them that business is as usual since it is easy to keep in touch via email and other means. For most of my students except one this worked very well. My emails always were promptly attended to and work was being done even in my absence. But for that one student it meant freedom. He never responded to my emails and when I returned back to my office I went to his office and my questions were met with a cold stare. Days later I found out that the student left on vacation for 6 weeks while I was on a research trip. Mind you, that this student was being paid through a Graduate Research Assistantship at that point. As you can imagine it only took a few days for him to leave my group and the University to never return again.
  2. Some cases are even harder. One of my students that I recruited from another country came with excellent credentials but soon after he landed in the United States he began to miss home and could not adapt to a new country and a new place. He failed in all of his courses and he made the decision to go back home. He still keeps in touch and a few years after he returned home, he took some time to adjust and then went to Europe to finish his degree. He is doing extremely. Wrong time at the wrong place.
  3. This situation is even harder. The student simply does not grasp the work required for a research project and complete it according to the expected standards of the community. despite training and mentoring the student simply is not a good fit. As an adviser try to find a landing place for the student rather than simply terminating them. After all you recruited this student.
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