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What are some perks of going to grad admissions fairs?


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I got my application fee waived for a school :) I really encourage you to bring your best face forward since the director of admissions might be on those booths. Mine was.

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My only experience with grad admission fairs are for Canadian programs so it might be a little different but I'll share my experience anyways! In Canada, there is an annual nation-wide undergraduate research conference for physics students and one of the events during this conference is a grad school fair. It is an event that lasts for an afternoon and basically every graduate physics program in Canada is represented (the fees that the schools pay to be at the fair help fund a big portion of the conference cost). Also, there are about a few dozen schools with graduate physics programs in Canada, so it's possible to fit them all into one room!


I found the experience extremely helpful. I attended the conference twice, in my last two years of undergrad and the grad fair was helpful both times. The first time, it was helpful to know what programs are out there, and what they specialize in. For example, in the Eastern "Maritime" parts of Canada, it turns out that the physics programs there are small so that they got together and divided up the subfields amongst each school. This results in there being only one viable choice in that region for each subfield (they did this so that with their limited resources, each school could be competitive in their chosen subfield instead of being mediocre at everything). 


Also, in the year I was applying to graduate school, it was very helpful to meet the people from that school. I am not sure how grad fairs in the US work, but at this Canadian conference grad fair, each booth was usually staffed by the Department's Director of Graduate Studies, one other professors, and one or two current grad students from that program. It's a good way to introduce yourself to the DGS and also get to meet some professors and students. It's basically like a mini visit weekend, but conducted in like 15 minutes! 


Finally, in the Canadian system, new grad students are almost hired directly by their supervisors, so it's a lot like a job fair too. Each school usually has brochures that generally describe their program and usually also an insert/leaflet that changes each year which describes specifically which professors/projects are looking for new students. Or you can talk to the prof there and find out!


Oh and also they give out a lot of free stuff :P


So, if the grad fair is something like the above, I'd say it's totally worth your time. I know the schools like the fair too (and they also attend the student talks at the conference to scout out the up and coming students!)

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I'm planning to attend an Idealist grad fair later this month. I already have at least 3 questions to pose to each school I want to visit, so there will be plenty to discuss!


Did any of you bring business cards (whether from your current employer or personally made) with you to share with the admissions' reps? Did you bring your own customized name tag?

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Oh I just remembered something -- I did also attend a grad fair that was very terrible and a big waste of time, so they are not all good! The big difference with the terrible grad fair was that it was not specific to my field. That is, instead of e.g. the University of X physics department booth, it was the University of X School of Graduate studies booth. So, then all you get to talk to are people who work in the Graduate Admissions office. They are all very nice people but not very helpful because 1) they won't know anything about your program's specific admission requirements and 2) since it's so general, you aren't going to get much more than what you can learn from the school website. So, make sure you will get to meet professors and/or students from the exact program you are applying to, not just random representatives from the school!


As for business cards, no I didn't bring any to the grad fairs. It might depend on field, but in my field, I think you have to be pretty exceptional for a school to specifically recruit you to join their program (and if you are that special, they will put in the effort to find you, no cards needed!). I do think business cards are useful for post-grad school jobs and I plan on creating some for me once I reach candidacy (within this school year).

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