I'm part of a first year PhD students most of whom either came straight from undergrad or master's (one student). Me and the other student are the oldest by age; a bit of an age gap between us and the younger members. I'm starting to notice the younger 'colleagues,' are exhibiting the type of undergrad-ish behaviour e.g. asking everyone or individually "did u read/or do the homework?" everytime, asking what they think of the assignment even before they have attempted the assignment yet, trying to get answers by texting/messaging people individually rather than asking for help and understanding the material.

The other older student started to notice this and raised concerns that their behaviour is "sophimoric and distruptive of people's time." Can tell that the other student was feeling annoyed and expressed needing a group discussion about their behaviours. How do people deal with this situation? I think the group discussion might be helpful to set boundaries and expectations but also don't want the discussion to evolve as just lecturing/chastising people. I think my colleague who suggested the discussion want this to be a constructive dialogue among everyone but some might not percieve it this way. What would be a good solution so that people can learn and be more mature from the group discussion?

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    Many many years ago, my father was in a business school that used the case study method. The proposed study groups based on where the students lived, and he was in a group from married student housing, so typically older. The study group discussed the cases, and did quite well, so that others wanted to attend the study sessions. When one did, the study group would turn to them and ask ‘well, what are your thoughts’ and then wait for a reply. Getting none, they would ask the visitor to leave. Time to stop their silly behavior now.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 21:26
  • When US students enter Study Abroads in countries where most student do compulsory military service before college, the difference in maturity can become a real issue. Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


I think you should raise your concerns with whoever is managing your PhD programme. I wouldn't name names, but the Profs might not be aware that this cohort needs some help with how to learn effectively at the PhD level.

The last couple of years have been difficult and very disrupted for undergraduate students, it seems to be that more people start grad school without all of the study skills that we would have expected a few years earlier. They would have started undergrad studies remotely while universities were in chaos and may have only had face-to-face learning or guidance for the last 12 months or so. (may explain 'sophomoric' behaviour)

They will probably appreciate some guidance. You as a more experienced learner can offer some gentle informal guidance, but I don't think its your role to be telling the cohort as a whole how to learn. On the other hand you may have insight that the Profs don't have so working with them on it may be the most productive step.


I see two aspects to this question:

  • a) your younger colleagues have an approach to grad school that you consider unwise
  • b) their behaviour is disruptive to you

While I understand the impulse to address a), any unsolicited advice from you in this regard will come off as patronising. I would not recommend a discussion where you explain to your labmates how they should spend their time.

However, point b) is interfering with your studies. What you describe in the post seems to be related to them interrupting you, and/or attempting to get homework solutions. I'd recommend starting to approach this as an interpersonal problem: figure out what boundaries you want to set, communicate them, and then enforce them. E.g. if they are disrupting you with a barrage of texts the day before the homework is due, tell them you don't respond to short-notice homework help requests and, if that doesn't work, mute them. (Look up "grey rock-ing"- essentially, once you've explained which requests you consider inappropriate, stop responding to those requests).

If this direct approach does not work, it's time to escalate to your PI and/or whoever runs your doctoral program. Explain that the behaviors of your cohort are disrupting your studies, and let them mediate whatever discussions ensue.

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