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deshypothequiez

Preparing for interview w/o a schedule?

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So I was invited to an in-person interview visit that'll consist of a dinner, a full day of meetings, and then morning activities. When I received the invitation, I asked the DGS (who sent the email) if there would be a schedule ready beforehand, so I would be better prepared. He basically said not to expect one but did indicate that he wanted to make sure I was able to meet my POI. I'm planning on following up again a week before the visit and have been doing tons of research on my POI, but in the hopefully off chance that I show up with no concrete knowledge of my schedule, what would be the best way to prepare w/o having to memorize every faculty member and current student's CV?

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No need to memorize anyone's CV even if you did know the schedule ahead of time. Be able to describe your interests and plans, and come prepared with some questions for them: ask about their research and teaching; for faculty, ask how many students they have, if they collaborate with them, what their former students are doing now. For students, ask how they like the program, if the funding is sufficient. Just have a conversation. If you want to get fancier, ask students what is one thing they would change. Ask both students and faculty how often they meet with each other; ask students how available faculty is (especially your POI). Ask about the graduation rate and placement rates (what do people do post-PhD). You really don't need to know too much about the people themselves to have these conversations. 

Also, instead of a schedule, ask if they know (roughly) who you'll meet with. That might be easier for the school to answer, and is more important to you anyway. 

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In addition to what fuzzy said, if they don't/aren't able to tell you who you might meet with, read up / prepare for the people who are most related to your field of research. If you show up at an interview and don't quite know all of the details** of the person way outside your field, people won't really care, since they'd know you didn't get a schedule and this person is way out of your area. But if you show up to an interview, meet your POI's collaborator or someone who might be on your committee and don't know anything about them despite working in a very closely related field, it might be a problem!

** I don't literally mean all of the details. As fuzzy said, no need to memorize their CVs or anything. But just be aware of their work and interests. When you meet a prof there that does work similar to yours, hopefully you would already know that upon introduction rather than being surprised that you share interests! 

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Wanted to ask some follow-up questions about this. I totally realize that I'm probably overthinking this, but who of us is not overthinking things?

  1. The dinner looks like it's organized by the admissions office rather than the department (e.g. the admissions office reached out to confirm travel dates/hotel, etc). Would it be out of place to ask them about dress code?
  2. I want to write back to the department to ask if they have a better idea of the schedule or at least who I'll be meeting. The DGS has been my main contact thus far, but he did mention (and copy) my POI as someone he wants to make sure I talk to. I reached out to my POI individually but he didn't respond. Should I email the DGS with POI CC'd or just DGS w/o POI on the email?

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1. Ask the question. It's a good question to ask.

2. Ask the DGS (only) if they have a better idea now of who you might meet with. Ask the POI (only) again about potentially meeting while you're at the visit.

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@deshypothequiez, I totally understand wanting to prepare (and over-prepare). As has already been said, you really don't need to know who you're meeting with in advance. I have legitimately interviewed for academic jobs where I didn't receive a list of everyone I'd be meeting with in advance. Don't pester the DGS unnecessarily, especially for a list of names that shouldn't really change how you prepare for this.

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