Expectation setting


It is quite hard to understand what a successful first year or two of graduate school looks like. This document is intended to help you set a standard so that you are neither too hard on yourself, stressed out about meeting some imaginary expectation that you could not possibly achieve, nor too easy on yourself because you misunderstand how much hard work is required. On the other hand, if you're struggling to hit these expectations we should have a chat to figure out what's going on and find a way to help you! The goal is for you to succeed and these expectations are intended to be a useful guideline, not a source of stress.

Year one

In your first year you are taking classes and so you should have the following baseline expectations for yourself. You can easily go above and beyond them if it turns out to be too little but you should be happy and proud if you hit these expectations and not stressed out if you haven't done more.

Year Two

Year Three

Here the direction setting moves way more to your side! By now you should have a clear sense of what topic you'd like to focus on for the remainder of your PhD. You should have a well-developed toolbox and be ready to start exploiting it (though of course the learning doesn’t actually ever stop)! By this point you're setting the direction, not me. The only expectations at this point are:

Other advice

Some other useful pieces of advice that I like on expectations for graduate student behavior: Anant Sahai

How to be a good ML researcher by John Schulman: An Opinionated Guide on ML Research

Some good advice on how to balance explore and exploit by Michael Nielsen: Principles of Effective Research