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How to organize your own campus visit?


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Hello all!


Since I can't make it any of the official campus visit dates that schools have set up for accepted students, I have to organize my own campus visits all across the country. I've set up the dates and transportation - now I just have to schedule meetings with professors and grad students. I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to go about this, considering that I don't know what to expect at a visit! 


In one situation, a professor has offered to meet with me around noon. Two other professors who cc'd one another on an email said they were also available to meet with me. I'm wondering if I should simply invite the three of them to have lunch - this would be great for getting to know how they interact, as well as for defusing any shyness on my part. But then I'd also like time to meet with them individually to ask about mentorship styles, etc. Is it too brazen to just email all three of them and suggest this?


Should I do the same with grad students - email all the people I'd like to meet with in a group message? Or should I schedule individual chats? I'm also wondering if I should meet with the Director of Graduate Studies, since I notice people have mentioned meeting with them in other posts. What are the benefits of meeting with the DGS, as opposed to just asking questions of profs/students?


Thanks for any advice!

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Usually these meetings are scheduled by a staff member in the department, not between professors and students directly because as you can imagine, it would be a ton of work to track everyone down!


I'm not 100% sure how to ask for help though. When I visited grad schools in 2010 (for Canadian MSc programs), I did not visit during official dates since I wanted to visit during my 2 week reading break (extended break since the Olympics were in town!) so I just emailed a professor at each school I was visiting and said that I would be in town -- would I be able to visit the department? In each case, the professor said they would be glad to host my visit and then set me up with their admin assistant (or the department assistant responsible for grad admits). 


But it might be a little forward for you to email one of these assistants directly and ask them to do work for you as they are likely super busy at this point! My suggestion would be to first reach out to the professor that has already agreed to meet you. You could say that you would like to meet a few other people (profs and students) too, and ask how they suggest you go about that. Hopefully that will lead to them asking an admin assistant to help you with scheduling the rest of your meetings. However, my (sub)field is pretty small -- almost all departments I visited in 2010 and 2012 have < 10 faculty members in the subfield so perhaps in larger departments, maybe getting help with scheduling is not the norm.


If you do schedule meetings yourself, I would do it individually for profs then group-email for grad students. Go in the order of people you would most like to meet and I would suggest you offer a specific time in your email (but invite them to suggest an alternate). That way, if they agree, they can just say yes to your time or "no, I would like X o'clock instead" and the whole exchange can be wrapped up in 3 emails (your first one, their response, your thank you). I find that when working with busy people (e.g. profs) it is much more efficient for both parties to suggest a specific time (but offer flexibility if necessary) so that they can just make a quick yes/no decision instead of a range of times, which usually means more planning is needed so the task might be deferred (and maybe forgotten).


Send the emails in order of people you would most like to meet because if your favourite prof can only make one specific time and you had another person scheduled, you don't want to have to go back and say "sorry need to move you!".


Once you have the profs scheduled, I would group-email many students, e.g. the ones who work for the prof(s) you are meeting and give them all a list of time slots still open and ask them to get back to you if they are interested in meeting with you.

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