A few days ago I hosted a prospective grad student who ended up having a less-than-stellar visit.
I should start by saying that our department is doing things a little differently this year. In the past, they’ve admitted everyone they thought would fit into the department, based on how much money they had for TAs. However, this proved problematic in the end, because last year they had trouble finding spots in research labs for all of the admitted students. So this year, everyone who’s been admitted (and there are precious few) is accepted on condition that they work for a particular professor.
This grad student I was hosting would have been working for Dr. X, who, as I have posted before, is a real jerk. On the way home from the airport, she told me this, and also how excited she was to work with Dr. X, who does some very interesting work. I told her that some people had problems getting along with him, but also said I would not give her details until after she met with him and formed her own opinions. I advised her to meet with my friend Snapette, who had worked for Dr. X for a year before leaving his group.
When we reached MyU we still had some time before her first meeting, so we hung around some free food that had been placed in a common area. Snapette showed up shortly thereafter, and I introduced them. I told Snapette that if the prospective came to MyU, she’d been working for Dr. X, and asked if she would give her the low-down on this guy.
“Well,” said Snapette, “Before I even do that, there’s one thing you really ought to know about him…He turned in his resignation on Tuesday!!”
“WHAT??!!” We were both pretty surprised–the prospective because she hadn’t been told of this, and me because I hadn’t heard yet! (Only the organikers had heard the news at that point.) Turns out, the prospective grad’s trip had been planned 2 weeks in advance, and they figured they wouldn’t save any money by canceling it. But she really wished they had told her before she showed up! Needless to say I felt really bad for her.