I start an Assistant Professor position in August at a USA university (ranked between 30th and 70th). I am already advertising the two PhD positions I got in the startup, and for one of the two I already have a list of good candidates, in particular I like a lot a specific candidate. Which one do you think the best move is? Asking the candidate to start in August with me (beginning of fall) or in January (beginning of spring)? Which are the pros or cons? I spoke with the graduate school coordinator and he said both options are possible, I have to choose. And also the candidate said he has no particular preference, he finishes the Master in June and he might do a short internship until December (or take a break and visit family) if he will have to start with me in January.

Note: I will hire the second PhD in August 2018, cause it comes from different funds, available only in August of each year, and the deadline for those is past.

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    Does a lot of students start in January? I started a Master in Sept. and a PhD in January. Both are nice, but the cohort effect of starting with other students (diff. labs) is nice, especially if your lab is small.
    – Emilie
    Apr 10, 2017 at 17:32
  • Mmm I do not know, I should call the University for that. My other fear is that I might lose him cause he might find another position in another school if I let him hang until January
    – Millemila
    Apr 10, 2017 at 18:17
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    I think the only difference is that if your student will start in January you would have more time to acclimatize yourself with the new environment and suchlikes. New environment sometimes is challenging experience in the beginning till u adjust and imagine to have a PhD student on top of that!
    – PsySp
    Apr 10, 2017 at 18:18
  • My other fear is that I might lose him cause he might find another position in another school if I let him hang until January — Sounds like you have multiple concerns, one of which you elaborated on in a comment. To make your question more complete, you should update your question to clarify all of your concerns related to when an optimal time to bring students on board would be.
    – Mad Jack
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:29
  • If you are in a place where there is a continuous stream of good students, then Nicole Ruggiano's answer below is good. Otherwise, if there is a good candidate, then you might want to grab him/her first. Apr 11, 2017 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


Often, your first semester in a faculty position flies by...especially if you are teaching (which you do not mention). You often meet with HR and administrators, learn where everything is on campus, and settle into your new home/hometown (I've started as a new faculty member at two different universities in my career). Consider that you might not have a lot of time to supervise and manage people during your first semester, which will waste your start-up funds. Waiting to hire the candidate in January will give you time to set up your program of research and have a full list of work for the candidate to work on when they start. Just a thought. Congrats on the job!

  • In certain circumstances, it could be quite helpful to do things this way. On the other hand, in some situations it can be a lifesaver to have a second pair of hands, for example to get certain equipment set up in working order quickly. Also, note that you have a strong candidate who wants to start in September, so that is a good reason for a September start. Perhaps you could move in June or July so you can hit the ground running when the semester starts. Apr 11, 2017 at 1:20
  • Very true. My research does not involve equipment and I have grad students (sometimes new ones), rather than full PhDs, so my experience might be very different. Apr 11, 2017 at 1:48

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