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Need advice and tips for what to expect on Campus Visit


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Got invited by a potential grad school to visit. They have paid for airfare and hotel, so I'm assuming that I'm probably one a few serious applicants to visit? I've done an informal visit before to another program, but what should I expect this time, with it being setup through the school, and them paying my way.

More interviews with profs? Interviews with adcom? It's even been mentioned I'll be interviewed by some of their current PhD cohort.

Help me out here guys! What to expect, and what can I do to prepare?

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If they are flying you out and paying for your stay, it means they are seriously interested in you. No school spends money on a talent they do not like. So, consider this as their recruitment weekend, rather than interview weekend. Still, you do want to go prepared, show that you are their golden kid, and return home with confidence.

What to expect?

1. Interview with professors (anywhere from 3-6 professors)

- be prepared to discuss about your personal and academic history, research interest, and career goals. also ask questions like funding, graduate student placements, etc.

1. Interview/Interaction with current grad students

- use this opportunity to ask about professors, funding, the overall friendliness of the department, about living conditions in the town, social life, etc. don't act cocky in front of the grad students because i've heard that they can have a huge role in recommending you to the professors.

3. I don't think you will be interviewed by the adcomms (it doesn't happen in my program). It's quite rare that you will be interviewed by a whole panel of profs.

4. Dinner/Lunch with profs and/or current grad students.

- this is an excellent opportunity to shake off the formal attitude, and get to know profs and grad students without pressure. utilize this opportunity to 'measure' your POI and potential cohort.

5. Also expect a tour of the facilities, campus, town.

Now to prepare for the recruitment weekend, read papers published by profs whom you'll be interviewing with. You can search this forum and other sites to come up with questions to ask the profs and grad students. Also read about dress etiquette from these sites.

Don't panic. This is an excellent opportunity. Congrats on your achievement!

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They're going to feed you a very particular perspective and point of view during your visit; however, there are things you need to look at seriously while you are visiting and you need honest answers to these questions because, at least in my opinion, these would be very important for your graduate school experience and also for your future after grad school.

1) How cooperative are students with each other? **sometimes students in graduate programs become competitors as opposed to peers as they look at their future prospects. You, ideally, will want to be at a place where students are not overly competitive with each other and are fairly cooperative and friendly.**

2) How are relationships among faculty members? **it often happens that certain faculty members don't get along, don't like each other, and, in turn, they take it out on students of that other prof. You don't want to get caught into that sort of situation. You need to make sure that you go to a place where professors are, at a minimum, respectful of each other and ideally are friendly towards one another. Otherwise you could get caught in the nasty political nature of certain departments.**

3) How much funding does the department give for academic conferences? **Papers, papers, papers...you need to get them published, but you also need to go to those pesky conferences and present them. They can be expensive if you have to pay out of pocket, so how much money does the dept. set aside for conferences? Is there a certain cap on how much they will give you? Are there any limits on what conferences they will fund? etc....**

4) What is the cost of living in this particular city, and where do most grad students live? **Perhaps there is on campus housing, but in many instances there isn't. So where will you possibly be living and how much is it going to bust your budget?**

When I visited a couple of schools for my Master's program two years ago these were things that I was told to ask by my undergrad adviser. After finishing my official visit and talking to faculty and some grad students I stuck around, went into the graduate lounge and just started being pesky and asking the students who were there about their opinion about the program. It was wonderful to hear their opinion in addition to the opinions which were being presented to me and really helped me make the decision to go to that school.

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I went on one visit pre-admission, and two visits after admission- and found them very similar, but with a slight shift in focus: pre-admission, I was working to convince them they wanted me, after admission, they were working to convince me I wanted to go there.

Both had the usual interviews with profs, lunch with grad students, dinner with a professor schedule- but it may be different if you're solo or with a group of potentials.

Be prepared to talk about work you've done in a really detailed fashion- I had one prof who handed me a pad of paper and pen and wanted me to diagram everything I'd done for my undergraduate thesis..... Know the research of the prof's you're talking about- being able to ask one or two insightful questions can really help their opinion of you.

As was mentioned, remember that the grad students can have quite an impact on your admission- don't be too cocky. We had one that was like that visit our school... And he somehow didn't get in.

Current grad students are a great resource for asking those slightly touchy questions- do you like your boss, are they nice to work for, who in the dept. to avoid, etc- that's the type of question I get asked most often. That, and "do you like it here?"

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It's a great question to ask- make sure to follow it up with the "why" portion- do they like it there because of their PI? Despite their PI? etc.

Probe. I don't mind prospective students grilling me hard, it's what I would do in their situation. Just be careful to do it with at least some respectful distance/don't press them if they don't want to answer.

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When is the visit scheduled for? How does this compare to when the program typically announces admissions to the program?

The application deadline was 12/15, and my visit is scheduled 1/12-1/14. Pretty quick turn-around! According to the program administrator, the admission decisions are "If all goes as planned we should have decisions in mid-February".

Anyone care to let me PM them about a specific itenerary-related question about my trip?

And thank you for all the for the great questions! All very informative!

Edited by hedjuk
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  • 4 weeks later...

How did the visit go? Was it more like an interview? Or more like a recruitment weekend?

The visit went quite well. It was a very exhausting trip though! Got in late on Weds, interviewed all Thurs, and at the airport at 6Am the next morning. Definitely an interview wkend, but I was given plenty of opportunities to ask everyone questions. Met with 8 different profs, was given a tour of campus, and was provided lunch & dinner, as well as hotel & airfare.

  • Profs were all really friendly.
  • Students were nice, but somewhat wierd.
  • Campus was nice, but the dept building was pretty crappy.
  • Library awesome due to some remodeling a few years back.
  • Lower cost of living.
  • Students with conceal and carry liscenses can bring guns on campus. (Yah, that one scares me)

Sent all the students and the profs I met with a mailed "Thank You" card. Was told I should hear back during the week of 2/14. I don't walk away feeling positive or negative, which some of my friends/mentors have told me that is a bad sign. I guess I just don't have anything to compare it to, so I think after my other campus visits I'll be able put it in perspective much better.

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