Joining a new PhD program where you will be in the very first cohort is hard as fuck (AF)! And it’s hard for some of the following reasons – there are so fucking many. The MAIN disadvantage will be the lack of INTELLECTUAL capital. This affects everything!
- Departmental (Faculty and Staff) INEXPERIENCE can fuck you up – The Department might have no clue what running a PhD program means administratively, intellectually, or financially. This means extra time and missing important deadlines and information on what you need to successfully complete your PhD.
- They LACK INTELLECTUAL RESOURCES, i.e. not enough PhD faculty with experience to advise a PhD, not enough collaborations and projects from the department to build research. Academia succeeds – I believe – when people are true experts in their work, are aware of what others are doing, and when possible collaborations are endless and without restrictions. Your advisor might not have even successfully graduated a Masters Student, but they are expected to advise PhDs. These two can in no way be compared.
- FUNDING – The faculty and the department may have no knowledge (intellectual resources) and experience on getting funding for projects and for PhDs.
- ADMIN – Administrative staff may not understand the technicalities, requirements, and differences between PhD students and undergrads/ Masters’ students.
- UNDERGRADUATE CULTURE PERVADES – with that comes a lack of understanding of the needs of PhDs when it comes to research and mentoring. It’s not just about a dissertation but mentoring and teaching you about being an academic, hopefully running a department and a lab one day, not completing a fucking assignment.
- They SEE YOU AS A NUMBER – They may focus on your dissertation and getting you out instead of molding you as a great academic. Here I mean inexperienced faculty and admin might be rushing you to graduate to advertise numbers without care or concern about your needs, wants, or the specific needs for your program and career. They want numbers, while you want to be properly trained and marketable.
- They have LITTLE CONNECTIONS for getting you in a good position – What are their networks and reach to get you the job you want? If they just got this job, they do not have the reach and history to help you get that job you want. Their work may not as yet be mature.
- POLITICS – Fucking hell there will be politics! People will be fighting to have you as their PhD, but have or make no time to advise you because they will be trying to get their research going. Although they need a PhD for tenure, they will be focusing on their work first. You might be advising yourself, and YOU CANNOT ADVISE YOURSELF. You will burn out!
One plus of going to a brand-new program is that you may have more flexibility in doing exactly what you want. There might be some freedom. But this is not guaranteed. Faculty will try to claim you, your work, and/ or steer your work in their direction to support their research. And remember, if they are new faculty, they have to prove their worth for tenure, so beware of situations where Faculty might steal your work to accomplish this. They have the position of power, not you. Beware of the shitty Advisor. See here – https://lifeofaphd.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/intellectual-bandits-in-academia/ and https://lifeofaphd.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/when-your-advisor-doesnt-advise-you/
Secondly, because of the shit-storm you will be in, you will learn what you do not want, and you might have some skills from these experiences that you might not have had, had you not gone through this. This however is NOT a reason to choose such a program. You advisor and others can teach you this as they mentor you.
The stresses that you will undergo in this new program might not be worth it. I will even say, it is not worth it. A PhD program is hard enough, you do not want a department that cannot help you and who are adding stressors to you. Believe me, you do not. Do not do it. My advice, DO NOT CHOOSE TO BE IN THE FIRST (nor second) COHORT OF A NEW PhD PROGRAM.