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Admitted Students Open Houses/Invitation Weekends


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I know it's early, and if this is the wrong place for this feel free to remove it. I was wondering if anyone who has been admitted had started to get invites to open houses, and how you're deciding about which ones to attend. Is it better to go to each invitation weekend (since the price is being reimbursed) and make a decision after, or only go to the one you're most sure you want to go to? Also, what sorts of questions are good to ask at these events? And dress code? 

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I really, really encourage everyone to go to as many recruitment weekends as they are able to (financially, of course).  It's also a great networking opportunity-- a chance to meet other faculty and graduate students whom you will run into later on at conferences.  I still run into my other program POI and keep in touch with one of his graduate students.  It's also really fun to visit other campuses and the area, particularly if you're not likely to visit it for any particular reason.

Visiting the other program also assured me that I still made the right decision to attend my current program though it was surprisingly wonderful and made my decision even tougher.

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Go to as many recruitments you can, for any program that is a contender. I will say this--if you know you're going to decline a program's offer, don't go to recruitment. They spend a good deal of $ wining and dining people who they're hoping to convince to attend the program.  I think it's only fair that people who go to recruitment go with an open mind. Others may disagree with me, but I think it's in bad taste to use these events as a networking opportunity when a department you already know you'll refuse is covering the expense, though I agree with TMP that you should definitely attend if you haven't made up your mind and network wherever you visit! I keep in contact with profs at departments I never got the chance to visit--you don't need recruitment events for that.

I'll step off my soap box now, and suggest that you dress in comfortable, weather-appropriate clothes that aren't sloppily put together--look nice but not like you're going to prom. You're going to be walking around a lot, so wear good shoes. I would bring one nicer outfit, all the recruitments I attended had either a nice dinner with faculty and students or a night where grad students hit the town.

There is a FABULOUS list on the English forum that covers every conceivable question you should ask while visiting a program. I'll try to find it and post a link here.

Recruitment made a huge difference for me. I was torn between two programs, pretty much thought I had decided then vacillated some more. There is no better way to get a feel for a department and how you fit in it than to physically see for yourself.

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I live abroad. Do you think recruitment weekends will cover expenses for students coming from abroad? I wouldn't mind investing in coming to the US for a one or two week period but my recruitment weekends are spaced so far apart (for example, one is is the first weekend of March and another is the first weekend of April) that I'm not sure I could swing it. I also think I'd be missing out on a lot of valuable information and am not really sure where I'm going to accept at this point. 

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6 hours ago, alain said:

I live abroad. Do you think recruitment weekends will cover expenses for students coming from abroad? I wouldn't mind investing in coming to the US for a one or two week period but my recruitment weekends are spaced so far apart (for example, one is is the first weekend of March and another is the first weekend of April) that I'm not sure I could swing it. I also think I'd be missing out on a lot of valuable information and am not really sure where I'm going to accept at this point. 

I'm not sure which schools' recruitments you're going to. The two I have gave me a set amount they're willing to reimburse. For ex: Northwestern is $300 for travel expenses and they provide lodging. However, they also have a skype option, so maybe see if your school will do that?

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6 hours ago, alain said:

I live abroad. Do you think recruitment weekends will cover expenses for students coming from abroad? I wouldn't mind investing in coming to the US for a one or two week period but my recruitment weekends are spaced so far apart (for example, one is is the first weekend of March and another is the first weekend of April) that I'm not sure I could swing it. I also think I'd be missing out on a lot of valuable information and am not really sure where I'm going to accept at this point. 

I know someone who was on a Fulbright in Greece during her PhD application season--Princeton actually flew her out from Athens just to do an interview (and then proceeded not to admit her)! So, at least, there are some schools that will reimburse an international flight. 

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Does anybody have any advice for those with limited vacation time? Is it considered acceptable to fly in Friday morning if the recruitment weekend starts on Friday  Thursday? Or to skip events to go to work (I work near one program I was admitted to)?

Edited by AfricanusCrowther
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25 minutes ago, AfricanusCrowther said:

Does anybody have any advice for those with limited vacation time? Is it considered acceptable to fly in Friday morning if the recruitment weekend starts on Friday? Or to skip events to go to work (I work near one program I was admitted to)?

Honestly, only you can make that decision.  Find out the schedule and talk with the DGS and POI how you can get the most out of the weekend.  For my program, I would say that you definitely need to be around for most part of the day on Friday.

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Has anyone got any advice on when to book travel for open house weekends? On one hand, I don't want to wait too long for travel prices to become astronomical. On the other hand my concern is that, in the event I'm admitted to more than one school, the open house weekends could coincide and I'll regret having booked so early. 

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@emiliajulia: I've already bought one ticket. I know it's early, but the ticket was ridiculously cheap. I'm giving precedence to whoever contacts me first, but that works for me because i'm not actually supposed to hear from one school until after my invitation weekends anyway. I do have one on 2/27 though and the price is already climbing. If the school is a top choice I'd recommend booking. If you're not sure about it then you could wait. Or by airline insurance? 

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On 2/4/2016 at 10:06 PM, hbnj said:

I know it's early, and if this is the wrong place for this feel free to remove it. I was wondering if anyone who has been admitted had started to get invites to open houses, and how you're deciding about which ones to attend. Is it better to go to each invitation weekend (since the price is being reimbursed) and make a decision after, or only go to the one you're most sure you want to go to?

Ok, I did not go to my weekends and it was OK. However, I got to participate in the organization of two of these events and I can see the benefits of it. I would suggest going to as many as you can. You will get a sense of the program, the "culture" among students (competitive, friendly, distanced, all of the above), the PI's styles, the campus, the town/city... and I could go on forever. 

When we organize it, incoming students have a balanced schedule between meeting professors, touring the campus and places in town, mingling with their fields, and sometimes attending classes. I think this is a great opportunity because you get to see "live" what's going on. If you are not sure you want to go to X school, maybe the campus visit will change your mind, depending on your reasons for not being sure. For example, I had one offer for a good school, great faculty, but little funding. It didn't matter how much I liked campus, I knew I could not go there because I needed full funding. Now, if you are uncertain because of something you might clarify during the weekend, go ahead!

On 2/4/2016 at 10:06 PM, hbnj said:

Also, what sorts of questions are good to ask at these events? And dress code? 

Good questions to ask:

1) Funding in general and for research/training (eg languages)/conferences. Also, don't be shy to ask about how these are taxed. Finally, be sure to know what fees you'd need to pay (eg sports and recreation).

2) Professional development: teacher training, job market training, writing centers, grant writing, graduate student events, professionalization outside academia, digital scholarship, etc. Also, I would find it interesting to hear what PIs have to say about any of these. Do they train you to be an academic? Are they open about your interests?

3) Governance. I cannot find a better word, sorry. But one thing I came to discover is that each department works differently and each PI relates differently to his/her students. How do faculty make decisions about the program? How they advocate for your interests before the Dean? What regulations oversee exams, coursework, requirements, etc? These are questions you will not imagine when applying. Yet, I think that knowing that a department allows a graduate representative into their meetings might work differently than one that does not (mine does not, and it is fine). 

 

Hope it helps!!! And I can't wait to meet those of you who are coming to our weekend! (BTW, I host my field's party which is legendary). 

 

AP

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On 2/5/2016 at 10:04 PM, emiliajulia said:

Has anyone got any advice on when to book travel for open house weekends? On one hand, I don't want to wait too long for travel prices to become astronomical. On the other hand my concern is that, in the event I'm admitted to more than one school, the open house weekends could coincide and I'll regret having booked so early. 

Don't book until you are admitted.  Departments can work with each other if you have overlapping visits.  You will be given sufficient amount of money for travel.  You will (usually) be able to stay with graduate students.  For most part, you will be fed.

 

1 hour ago, AP said:

3) Governance. I cannot find a better word, sorry. But one thing I came to discover is that each department works differently and each PI relates differently to his/her students. How do faculty make decisions about the program? How they advocate for your interests before the Dean? What regulations oversee exams, coursework, requirements, etc? These are questions you will not imagine when applying. Yet, I think that knowing that a department allows a graduate representative into their meetings might work differently than one that does not (mine does not, and it is fine). 

You will be best served to ask such questions to graduate students who are going to be much more honest about these things than the faculty.  Graduate students will offer a more consensus view of the department's relationship to the University and the Graduate School.  If you want to ask someone who isn't a grad student, then the graduate coordinator is actually the best person of everyone you will meet to answer those questions because s/he deals with the administrative side of the program.  The DGS mostly focus on the interpersonal relationships and has really little power to effect change with the higher ups.  There are varying degrees in which the faculty are committed to their advisees, other graduate students, and the program as a whole.  It is definitely worth asking about their philosophy on graduate education and what they like and want to change about the graduate program.  If they mention "changes," then listen because those ideas will come in form of direct advising (some form of defiance  you might say :)).

But I wouldn't go in the nitty gritty of the bureaucracy (as in regulations) at this point because, frankly, bureaucracy sucks no matter where you wind up.  And nobody likes it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing you can learn from these recruitment events is at least a general sense of funding.  I went to two, and while I loved both programs, I was hugely influenced by the fact that Tulane paid for my airfare and hotel.  While I liked the other school a lot, they only reimbursed to the tune of less than $200.  To me it felt indicative of how flush with cash the department was, and later opportunities for funding (like travel, pay increases, etc.).  They are important things.  Even the best paid grad students aren't paid well, but even a little bit more cash, can be the difference between research travel without getting tons of grants, etc.

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I had the same experience. Most programs put several admits in a hotel room, but Davis gave each person attending recruitment their own and even reimbursed my travel costs (when I only lived 2 hours away). Not that this was the deciding factor, of course. The general mood of grad students is a good thing to look for as well. Some programs have a "some people get way more money and others struggle" vibe. Also, some places were hyper-competitive because not everyone comes in with funding or enough funding. This totally affects collegiality and department culture. Other places have plenty of money but for some reason the department culture inspires fierce and sometimes nasty competition, which isn't my style so I avoided those places. I was surprised at how honest grad students tended to be, and how negative things came up even during recruitment when everyone is trying to woo the shit out of you. Made me think, how much worse is it once you're attending?

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I'd  second ashiepoo72's recommendation to seek out the general mood of grad students.  In particular, it's important to talk to grad students beyond the ones volunteering for events -- those are often early in the program and cherry-picked for the task. To get a real sense of how the whole program is going to work, it's really important to talk to students at all stages of the program and seek out some that aren't selected to participate. I did this with some top schools as an admit (Princeton, Berkeley, Chicago), and I was somewhat stunned by the differences of opinion and experience.

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On February 19, 2016 at 11:52 AM, ashiepoo72 said:

I was surprised at how honest grad students tended to be, and how negative things came up even during recruitment when everyone is trying to woo the shit out of you. Made me think, how much worse is it once you're attending?

^This is precisely why I have decided to go to each school I am genuinely considering. There are just too many factors to consider, and I wouldn't feel comfortable accepting an offer without getting a feel for the programs. 

Edited by johnnycomelately
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Graduate students are happy to be honest because, well, they know that the PhD is tough.  They do want to support people who want to give it a shot but offer plenty of warnings.  We all know that there are opportunities beyond the PhD that pays far more than what graduate students make.  So why be unhappy and make $15,000 when you could be making $75,000 elsewhere instead?

Listen carefully to graduate students-- ask them point-blank how they're being funded in order to finish.  Some will be ashamed to admit to taking out loans because we ALL know that we aren't supposed to be paying for a humanities PhD and will not admit anything.  Ask them good questions about their expenses (there is a huge difference between having a car and not, having kids and not, and having a roommate and not!).   If you hear a lot of students talking about fellowships/grants, then you know the department has a good track record (though just pay attention to their fields-- some fields are better funded than others).

Ask grad students which faculty members they love and why.  Ask them who to avoid for seminars and why (believe me, we are opinionated in this as it's already torturous to sit for 2 1/2-3 hours).  Ask them what they like about the city and recommend some favorite venues/restaurants/etc.  If they seem "meh," ask them where they lived before (I lived in big cities before coming to my PhD program so I don't have the *best* view of my current city ;)).  Get to know them. 

Yeah, definitely ask about their teaching responsibilities and the undergrads they work with.  There is nothing like being a TA that will rouse conflicted feelings out of them....

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I recommend emailing the graduate coordinator and asking what the dress code is. I've been to a few recently for geology programs, which I think tend to be more on the casual side; I wore business casual for the interview day (dark dress pants, button down, sweater and flats) and felt comfortable. A good amount wore business casual, a few guys wore khakis/polos, and one person wore a suit - they stood out a bit, but to be honest, no one really cares so long as your clothes are clean.

I'd also suggest bringing casual clothes (nice jeans, sweater/blouse) if you know you will be socializing with the current grad students in the evening, and good walking shoes since you may be invited on a campus tour.

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On 2/23/2016 at 4:16 PM, displayname said:

I'd  second ashiepoo72's recommendation to seek out the general mood of grad students.  In particular, it's important to talk to grad students beyond the ones volunteering for events -- those are often early in the program and cherry-picked for the task. To get a real sense of how the whole program is going to work, it's really important to talk to students at all stages of the program and seek out some that aren't selected to participate. I did this with some top schools as an admit (Princeton, Berkeley, Chicago), and I was somewhat stunned by the differences of opinion and experience.

Now I am curious since I am considering some of these schools. Do you mind sharing what you found stunning? 

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Hi Storia,

I PM'ed you, but I thought I should copy part of my reply for everyone.

The first reason you should seek out students beyond Visit Day events is that anyone is bound to be more candid when they are not at official department events, in front of faculty and other students.  The visit days are, after all, intended to convince you to go to the institution. So, talking to people on the phone or off-campus on coffee often elicits different perspectives.  Even about the great things, students can't share (I'm not going to say in front of other faculty that I think my adviser is the most committed one in the department, even though he is).

The other reason is that oftentimes, students participating in visit day are in the first few years of the program.  They can tell you a lot about coursework, advising, even quals -- but they are unlikely to be able to say much about the job market, funding for final years, dissertation advising, etc.  Dissertation advising, research, funding, etc. can be very different than advising, research, and funding is in early-grad school -- so you want to talk to people at all stages.  It's best to contact several students of your adviser's and/or in your field, and make sure to talk to those on the job market and/or prepping for it -- that will be you in a few years, after all!

The more people you talk to, the better - and the more varied perspectives you hear, the more complete picture of a department you'll have.

 

 

 

 

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I should also add that the faculty members, bound by the Council of Graduate Studies rules, are not to share your name or information with current students without your explicit permission.  Current students will know as far as fields and number of incoming students but nothing more.  If you would like the POI's current students to be in touch with you first, ASK!  Otherwise, ask your POI for their contact information and be in touch with them.

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