8 "Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
[Later King Darius regretted he signed the document because it landed Daniel in the Lion's den.]
Over the years I been fortunate to work with some excellent undergraduates and Ph.D students on projects. However, there have been a few that I regret agreeing to work with. Problems can include a poor work ethic, disorganisation, a weak technical background, procrastination, ..... On reflection, I think there was a common dynamic whereby I originally took them on. Often they came to me in a rush that they had a form that had to be signed. There was some impending deadline for enrolment and if I could just sign it we can work out the details later. This is a mistake. This should be a warning sign. It can often signify disorganisation and also a focus on administrative procedures, rather than the much more important issue on the actual science of the project and what it would mean to work together.
I have found that getting prospective students to engage with my blog can be an effective filter. I ask them to read a few posts about relevant science and about my philosophy of supervision and write a few paragraphs in response. Do they agree or disagree? Why not? The effort they put into this response, their level of engagement, and their level of understanding can reveal quite a lot. Also, getting them to prepare an expectations document can be helpful.
So, don't just sign the form! Once it is signed it becomes much more complicated to "move on" a mediocre/difficult/frustrating student. Beginning faculty should take particular note.