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oscarwildebeest

Visiting Departments

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At this point, I think most of us have heard some good news - if not, you know we've got our fingers crossed for you. For those of you who have got one or more acceptances under your belt - congratulations. The purpose of this thread is to discuss and plan for school visits. Here, you can network with other prospective students who are visiting your programs, think about which kinds of questions to ask and which sorts of things to be on the look-out for, stress about what to wear, and the rest. Hopefully, this will assist in exorcising some of the lingering anxiety from the acceptance process (which for most of us is still grinding on even if we do have some offers) and help everyone make the most of their visits.

So let's start with the basics: When are the visiting days for the departments you've been accepted to? Are you going to go? Which faculty are you hoping to meet? What are you interested in researching?

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Well, I just bought my first round of plane tickets, so I'll bite:

I'm going to Michigan's weekend, which'll be March 12-13-14. But I have to miss the last day and spend the day traveling to Berkeley, which'll be March 15-16.

I'm really counting on these visits because right now I'm torn between the two places. I'm really looking forward to meeting profs who work in my field (comparative Middle East, human rights, gender type of stuff) and see who I would most want to work with.

Then I'm going to Columbus for OSU weekend in late March. I'm not really seriously considering OSU anymore, but my parents live there and I'm going to use it as an excuse for a vacation (don't tell adcomms that!!!) But even if I attend Michigan, I will always be a buckeye fan at heart.

Those are the only places I've got into right now. I live in Montreal, so traveling is kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it's really worth visiting the place you're thinking of spending the next 7+ years of your life. Although I don't really know what to expect. Do current students like take you out hazing? Or do you spend the night in playing trivial pursuit?

What about you?

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Well, I just bought my first round of plane tickets, so I'll bite:

I'm going to Michigan's weekend, which'll be March 12-13-14. But I have to miss the last day and spend the day traveling to Berkeley, which'll be March 15-16.

I'm really counting on these visits because right now I'm torn between the two places. I'm really looking forward to meeting profs who work in my field (comparative Middle East, human rights, gender type of stuff) and see who I would most want to work with.

Then I'm going to Columbus for OSU weekend in late March. I'm not really seriously considering OSU anymore, but my parents live there and I'm going to use it as an excuse for a vacation (don't tell adcomms that!!!) But even if I attend Michigan, I will always be a buckeye fan at heart.

Those are the only places I've got into right now. I live in Montreal, so traveling is kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it's really worth visiting the place you're thinking of spending the next 7+ years of your life. Although I don't really know what to expect. Do current students like take you out hazing? Or do you spend the night in playing trivial pursuit?

What about you?

Hey rlayla,

I'm also in Montreal, and I plan to go to the Michigan visit. Would be funny to be on the same flight!

You can PM me for the details if you want :D

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I live in Montreal, so traveling is kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it's really worth visiting the place you're thinking of spending the next 7+ years of your life. Although I don't really know what to expect. Do current students like take you out hazing? Or do you spend the night in playing trivial pursuit?

What about you?

Ha! I totally agree. At this point I only have one option (though I'm expecting at least another two to drop), but I feel I should investigate before I sign away my soul to the academy, right? I mean, Duke looks terrific from all I've read and heard, but what if I get there and suddenly realize that I just can't live in North Carolina? Unlikely, but I'd definitely share your apprehensiveness about taking an offer without ever having seen the place. I also share your curiosity as to what, exactly, we'll be doing. The Duke e-mail indicated a nice dinner with the profs in the subfield, which sounds both pleasant and uncomfortable, thought it allowed me to justify making a coupe of nice additions to my "business cas" wardrobe. I mean, I know this is supposed to be low-key, but these folks have to know what they're asking for by telling undergrads to "dress comfortably." As for hazing, the worst I could fear is that they'll try to get me drunk and make me pledge my inebriated allegiances to Leo Strauss.

So yeah, they're visiting weekend is March 1- 3, I'm hitting that up, and I'm really hoping to meet some of their senior theorists. Duke is a nice but sort of unique fit for me because every one of their senior theorists does something - for most, a few somethings - that I find cool and related to my study. But no one does exactly what I want to do either. Though that's not so much a reflection on Duke as on my eclectic interests and kind of non-conventional approach to political theory... and short of a last-minute Chicago intervention, I think Duke is probably the best place to take my weird little projects. I think chatting up some of the theorists will give me a lot of insight into the kind of match the department will make.

I just... don't want to do anything embarrassing in front of my future classmates.

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two professors have mentioned in passing that i should come to yale's admit days (which apparently are 3/24-3/25) but i haven't gotten any info from the department. did anyone receive anything official?

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two professors have mentioned in passing that i should come to yale's admit days (which apparently are 3/24-3/25) but i haven't gotten any info from the department. did anyone receive anything official?

The same here for Yale..Professors mentioned about the visit day (3/24-25) but nothing official - no program, no e-mail about it, etc. I think Duke was very impressive about the organization of the visit day; they have dinners with the people (faculty-grads) in your subfield, individual meetings with faculty, presentations from grad students, etc. and not to mention that they are very generous in terms of reimbursing costs!

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I think it's really worth visiting the place you're thinking of spending the next 7+ years of your life. Although I don't really know what to expect. Do current students like take you out hazing? Or do you spend the night in playing trivial pursuit?

At my school, its basically the following. A couple arranged meetings with professors in your subfield, at which they will answer your questions and try to sell you on the school; a few optional group activities in the area for all the prospectives plus some profs, which are supposed to showcase the area and give you some time to bond and whatever; at night, individual parties organized by sufields, usually at a grad student house, that are pretty low key and mostly consist of grad students hanging out, drinking a little, and answering your questions.

There is somewhat of a selection effect in terms of which grad students actually go to these parties or show up at other events, so be wary about how you draw judgments about grad student life. You're more likely to meet people who are largely content and engaged with the department than people who are somewhat dissatisfied and distanced. And you're also perhaps a bit more likely to meet people with nothing better to do. :)

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Visit weekends are BS. Most professors don't care about you or your research interests but are going to give you the hard sell regardless. Moreover, if a department puts on a great visit it DOESN'T mean its a great department. You have to really dig deep during your time at each place to find out if it is the right environment to spend the next 5-7 years.

I didn't and wound up at a place I am quite unhappy with.

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Visit weekends are BS. Most professors don't care about you or your research interests but are going to give you the hard sell regardless. Moreover, if a department puts on a great visit it DOESN'T mean its a great department. You have to really dig deep during your time at each place to find out if it is the right environment to spend the next 5-7 years.

I didn't and wound up at a place I am quite unhappy with.

thoughts on a better way to get a good sense of a department?

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I actually got a very honest answer from this current student at Berkeley who emailed me congratulating me/offered to answer questions. I really appreciated that.

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Talk to as many grad students as possible and not just the enthusiastic ones.

Good advice.

Though it's my experience that some people are miserable as a vocation, and I'd be wary of passing on a good offer on account of its' being disparaged by the sort who wouldn't have been happy anywhere.

What might be more useful is to know what about your choice ended up disappointing you - inaccessible profs? cutthroat classmates? - so that those of us going to visits can be on guard.

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DONTDOIT I think your dislike of your department has shaped some of your views, but I do think that it's important for people know what they are getting in. However, I will have to respectfully disagree with you when you say that professors don't care. Most (not all) professors do care about the students and their research. Sure it's not the number one thing in their life, nor should it be. Part of learning to be an academic is learning to ride the bike without papa holding the back-seat, and you don't want to be cuddled or you will crash when you leave graduate school. Faculty do want a good cohort and they don't want to end up with graduates who won't be good participants in seminars/talks and who won't produce good research.

That being said, not every program is right for everyone. So when you visit departments speak to as many different people as possible, especially in your subfield. It is very important to do this (and I agree not just the super enthusiastic ones). The reason why is because two people can have very different experiences at the same program.

rlayla said above that a student emailed her, that would signal that they are the kind of the student the department wants you to see, and while often those graduates will also give you a lot of information (and usually honest about it), there may be others who have different experiences. Also the students that hated it and left are gone, so you already have a biased sample.

So what you can do is pay lots of attention to the interaction between graduate students and faculty, the interaction among graduate students, and especially talk to the students that work with the faculty you want to work with (as many as you can). Look and see if the faculty you would want to work with publish with their students, and how much those students produce. Also, ask about placement. Don't let the schools say, we placed X, person at Harvard, and be impressed. Ask how many students were on the market this year (which is a hard year and probably more like what the future holds for many of us) and how many got jobs?

In short, be prepared. Ask lots of questions to as many different people as you can, and above all be open minded. So many times people are all set in going to school X because of prestige or location, even if that is not the best department in their subfield (or sub-subfield) or even if the signs all show the place is a terrible place for graduate students (competitive, faculty don't care about grads, etc). So really try to find the department that is right for YOU.

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oscarwildebeest: So yeah, they're visiting weekend is March 1- 3, I'm hitting that up, and I'm really hoping to meet some of their senior theorists. Duke is a nice but sort of unique fit for me because every one of their senior theorists does something - for most, a few somethings - that I find cool and related to my study. But no one does exactly what I want to do either. Though that's not so much a reflection on Duke as on my eclectic interests and kind of non-conventional approach to political theory... and short of a last-minute Chicago intervention, I think Duke is probably the best place to take my weird little projects. I think chatting up some of the theorists will give me a lot of insight into the kind of match the department will make.

I just... don't want to do anything embarrassing in front of my future classmates.

I'm going out for the Duke open house also. And I also feel pretty certain I'll be headed there. Btw, has Gillespie contacted you yet?

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I'm going out for the Duke open house also. And I also feel pretty certain I'll be headed there. Btw, has Gillespie contacted you yet?

No, I haven't heard anything from Gillespie. Did he send you a message this weekend? On Saturday I got a really nice e-mail from Euben I'm supposed to call and chat with him about the program sometime. In the message he talked a little about his class and projects, and about how they related to my research interests. I was really impressed by the last part because it showed he had, at some point, read and thought about the work I discussed in my personal statement.

Anyway, it's cool to run into someone else who's going this weekend - especially since it seems likely we'll be classmates. What sort of theory stuff do you go in for?

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To Oscarwildebeest:

It sounds eerily similar to your tagline there--depending on what you mean by ontology. I'm a big fan of Heidegger--I did my honors thesis on him, in fact. But generally, I'm into postmodernism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism. I tend to be a bit skeptical of liberalism and modernism.

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To Oscarwildebeest:

It sounds eerily similar to your tagline there--depending on what you mean by ontology. I'm a big fan of Heidegger--I did my honors thesis on him, in fact. But generally, I'm into postmodernism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism. I tend to be a bit skeptical of liberalism and modernism.

It sounds like we're interested in a lot of the same topics - multiculturalism and environmentalism, certainly. And I'd have to say that I'm ambivalent at best towards "modernism", though the same is true of "postmodernism": I like Foucault quite a lot, and have a "take some, leave some" approach to folks like Derrida and Lyotard.

A longer way of phrasing my interest in ontology would be something like: "investigating the ways that certain social and political institutions both presuppose and give shape to specific understandings of moral worth and what it means to be human." Strangely enough for someone with my interests, I've yet to do any substantial reading from Heidegger. But I've been greatly influenced by Arendt and Taylor so the line back to Heidegger is certainly there. Unfortunately my school really lacks for 20th century theory, but I'm hoping I'll get to study Heidegger some as I do my grad work.

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I am visiting WUSTL March 21-22. I already know a lot about the department and there's about a 99% chance I am going, so this visit is pretty much for fun, and because they paid for everything.

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Is anyone visiting Michigan this weekend? Any other comparative folks?

Hey, I'll be at michigan this weekend, and I'm in comparative. What's your story, babaababo?

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Hey, I'll be at michigan this weekend, and I'm in comparative. What's your story, babaababo?

p.s. I grew up in c-bus. hope you liked your years there.

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