In my experience, there are three different types of grad students. The interesting thing, is the outcome for each type. While there are students of each type that are successful, in my experience, not all types have the same odds of success.
- The Perfect. These are students who coast through school. Things have always worked for them. They never have problems. Everything has always worked. And everyone has always told them how wonderful they are. This means they don’t have coping strategies and are unable to deal when a problem arises.
Outcome: Most of these students end up dropping out of grad school the first time they come up against a problem or face criticism. Of course, the odd one makes it through and we envy that one.
- The Bullheaded. These are the students who never take no for an answer. They believe that they’re always right (even when they’re wrong). If there’s criticism, they don’t usually hear it. If they do hear it, they don’t listen. They’re not the type who are going to help you. When things go wrong, it’s never their fault.
Outcome: Fifty fifty on if they make it through. However they usually end up burning a lot of bridges on the way.
- The Average. Also known as the underdog or “failure” (not that they’re actually a failure), the one who’s come across problems over the years and surmounted them. They work hard for what they get. They’re got good coping skills and are good at persevering when times get tough.
Outcome: These students are generally successful as they’re willing to keep trying.
Okay, to be honest, I suppose I have to add in a fourth category. And that’s the group that should never have been allowed in in the first place. It’s unfortunately true that this happens. However, it’s obviously hard to identify all of these students ahead of time, since every year a few slip in. The outcome for these students? Well, that depends on their ability to stick around. Some will graduate just because they’ve either been there long enough that the department wants them done and out or they found a supervisor willing to give them a lot of help (or both). And the rest will end up not finishing.