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Bubbala

PSA for interviewees: The current grad students you meet are probably evaluating you

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We recently had interview day at my program. After the day ended, we met with all the faculty members and were asked to briefly provide our thoughts and any potential red flags we noticed about applicants. Feedback included social awkwardness, being under dressed, saying judgmental things, asking great questions, being personable, having admitted to not being interested in research, being (un)able to coherently discuss their research interests, (not) being a good fit, etc.

No matter how casual your interactions with current graduate students may seem, remain professional; the faculty will likely ask for their input on you. The moment you step on campus, act as though you are being interviewed the entire time. If you are staying with a current grad student, the same advice follows. Don't say anything to anyone that you wouldn't say to a faculty member. I know of several instances where students or staff affiliated with a program told faculty about unfavorable things applicants said/did, which resulted in rejections (admitting to not liking research, fighting over where to sleep at a grad student's apartment, being mean to a secretary, etc).

Edited by Bubbala

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Each field is different probably---but faculty at my program have also asked me about my thoughts on prospectives too. Although very informally, not like a formal meeting as Bubbala describes. And, in my program, all the visiting students are already accepted, so it's not like it makes a difference in admission, but some faculty might want to know to decide which students to take etc.

So I just want to add that even for post-acceptance visits, it's important to always be professional and friendly. And even if the faculty never asks for our thoughts (not all faculty members ask the students), it's still very important. The grad students you are meeting with aren't just random people you'll encounter this one time only. If you attend the school, we will be your colleagues, your collaborators, maybe your TAs, your officemates, your friends etc. If you come off as arrogant or pretentious or offensive or otherwise, it will colour our impression of you when you arrive. And if you don't attend the school, then maybe you'll meet these same people again during conferences etc. My field is small enough that this will happen for sure! In fact, a bunch of grad student hosts from my visits are now postdocs are my institution!

Also, remember to be courteous, professional, etc. to everyone: faculty, current students, other prospectives, and especially the administrative staff! The admin/office staff are the best people in the department because they do all of the hard work to make everything run smoothly. No need to suck up to them, but often people treat support staff with less respect and it reflects poorly on them.

Finally, I wouldn't say that you should interact with current students in the exact same way as you interact with faculty, though. But maybe this is a difference in fields. Definitely be professional but you can probably be a little bit more friendly. When I meet prospective students, I am looking for future colleagues and friends. I'm evaluating them on the basis of "how well would they fit in with the current grad student cohort" not "are they smart enough to get into my program?". So, if you are too distant/professional with the current grad students in my program, it would reflect poorly on you as well. But I am pretty sure this is not necessarily universal---just providing my perspective.

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4 hours ago, JoePianist said:

In other words: Big Brother is watching you at interviews o_o 

I wouldn't say "Big Brother is watching you" so much as the fact that these graduate students are your future colleagues. If you are a graduate student, I'd think you'd appreciate that your advisors take your input into account--after all, you wouldn't want to work with someone who can't seem to get along with you.

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Even if not asked, I can assure you I will go tell the admissions committee if a visiting student is acting unprofessionally. And I usually get asked anyway. 

This isn't just something to keep in mind for visits, but for the rest of your career. Your behavior around colleagues will be remembered- positive and negative- and you'd be surprised at how quickly a reputation can build up, and spread through a network. 

As mentioned, these incoming students are colleagues we will all have to put up with for the next 1-7 years, and their actions will have direct effects on the reputation of our program and our degrees. 

That said, as TakeruK mentions, if you act guarded the entire time you're visiting including with grad students, this will probably set off red flags too. It's pretty easy to see when someone isn't being themselves, and that makes you wonder what their "real" attitude is going to be like once they're accepted and start in the program. 

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