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What sorts of questions are you guys planning to ask on your visits? I was thinking it might be good to hear what others are thinking about in case there are questions we haven't thought to ask. For example, here are a few of mine:

 - Where do grad students tend to live? What is typical to pay for a shared two-bedroom apartment?
 - Do incoming grad students tend to find apartments together?
 - Do I need a car?
 - Is health insurance included in the fellowship? Is there any sort of premium?
 - How much does the fellowship generally come to after federal, state, and city taxes?
 - Is Professor x planning on retiring soon? Are any professors going to be leaving soon?
 - What is the completion rate for the program?
 - Is it possible to complete a JD/PhD at a law school externally? Or can one only apply to the joint degree program at the school in question.

These are just a few, and obviously some are very specific to my interests, but I'd be interested in hearing from others!


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What do you guys do in your free time? Together?

Do you discuss what each of you works on a lot, or is it more solo? And if you do discuss, is there a lot of helping one another? Basically, on a scale from zero to MIT, how intensely competitive is the culture?

Are there any really cool places to read books around here? Are there any really cool places to buy cheap books around here? (I love used bookstores) (substitute with your favourite activity/item)

How's the weather usually?

How's the town? Is it worth leaving campus for? How much worth?

How accessible are the professors?

Do you have cookies?

What's the best thing about this university? What about the city?

How cheap can you get a decent, healthy meal around here?

What should I be most wary of?

Is there a lot of bigotry around here? (as a Middle Eastern who looks Middle Eastern, the US feels less safe every day, cf. Trump and Super Tuesday)

I'll see if I can think of more.

Edited by gughok
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In addition to what's been said:

  • How much do you pay in fees per semester? (some schools can be really expensive)
  • Is the department competitive? Cooperative? In between?
  • Are graduate students part of a union?
  • What is placement like? Not only if grads get jobs, but what kind of jobs? (this is the most important question you should ask)
  • If anyone has left the department recently, why did they leave?
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This is good. It makes me think of a few more of my own:

 - What are the undergraduates like for teaching?
 - What is the teaching load like during non-fellowship years?
 - How are the professors in terms of working as their TA?

I've also heard advice to seek out some of the older, perhaps jaded grad students to get a more gritty view of the school.

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Some questions about money matters which I think are quite important:

- How much is the net stipend, after deduction of all taxes? And what part of those deductions do you get in tax return?

- What sort of health insurance do you get? What is the usual co-pay for prescription drugs and doctor visits?

- If there are any semester fees to pay, do you need to pay them out of your stipend? And do these fees cover monthly bus passes? If not, how much does the transportation cost?

Another unrelated question: 

- If there is a particular professor you'd like to work with, how friendly/supportive/pleasant is s/he known to be? (I would also ask my current adviser about this)

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When talking with the faculty members I'm interested in working with, I make it a point to ask them what projects they're currently working on and what they think they'll be doing in the near future.

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