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back-to-back interviews doable?


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I was hoping to get some advice/opinions. I have two interviews currently scheduled so that one is Tuesday-Wednesday and the other is Thursday-Saturday, and I can't reschedule them. The first school is on the west coast and the second is on the east coast, so I would have to fly overnight on that Wednesday. It seems crazy to me to give up the opportunity to interview at both (you only get this chance once!), but most of the "real adults" I've talked to have thought I was a little crazy for thinking I could do both. I do prefer the second program, and they argue that I won't perform as well at the interviews because they think I'll be tired from the first set of interviews and the overnight flight. What do you guys think? Based on your experiences, is back-to-back interviews across the country doable? Should I give up the first interview and put all of my effort into the second (preferred) one, or should I give both schools a chance, even if this may affect my performance at the second interview?

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Doable? Yes. I've done some of those myself. Fun? No. Worth it? Not that you can ever really tell, but for me, definitely yes. 

You'll want to find ways of taking care of yourself. That may mean sleeping in if you can get your schedule to allow it, or paying to sit in the airport lounge if you have a long layover, paying a bit more for a taxi rather than schlepping in multiple buses/trains, or upgrading to a better seat that will allow you to sleep more comfortably on the plane (even if the school will only pay for a cheaper coach ticket). Also, it means making sure you have food (maybe energy bars) and that you actively ask for breaks when you need them, or make sure to work them into your schedule. You'll want to prep for both interviews ahead of time -- so no last-minute reading up on POIs, browsing websites, etc. No getting very drunk, be smart about going out late with local graduate students, things like that. 

For what it's worth, there is (good) advice out there that if you have multiple interviews, you don't want your preferred one first. You want to have a chance to get some experience with interviews first, so you're comfortable with the process by the time you get to the one you really want. I think that's very true, though obviously back-to-back interviews isn't ideal. But it's not like it's necessarily going to seal your fate. You'll just want to prep for both ahead of time, and be smart about it. You can rest after it's done.  

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I agree with fuzzy. I did a back-to-back visit during grad school applications but there was a day in between (first school Mon-Tues, fly to second school on Wed, second school Thurs-Fri). I recently visited 4 schools/departments in 4 days (2 schools each in 2 cities) as part of my "talk tour" for applying to postdocs. It was doable but not very fun. However, the discomfort was worth it for the visit and I would rather do it all in 1 trip than to take 2 trips (which means more time away from home).

Definitely take measures to take care of yourself. The schools were going to pay for me to take a train (6 hour ride, plus extra time to get to the station) but I opted to pay the difference for a flight instead (40 mins). When I had to get to the airport at 5am, I took an Uber/taxi instead of public transport. 

A few other tips to keep your energy levels high:

1. Let the schools know about your schedule. The first school needs to know when you have to leave for the airport and you don't need to have extra stress about whether you'll make the plane. If they know your schedule, they can ensure you get the important meetings done by Wed afternoon (also hey, if you haven't already asked, can you move the first school interviews to Mon-Tues instead of Tues-Wed?). The second school needs to know about your arriving flight so that they don't schedule something right in the morning in case of delays (it will be the season of bad weather on the east coast). 

2. As fuzzy suggested, bring energy bars and other treats you like. I keep mine in a messenger bag that I carry around so I can give myself an energy/sugar boost when needed. 

3. In many cases, your schedule will involve back-to-back meetings so that you are basically booked from 9am to 5pm! If this is the case, people often offer to walk you from one office to another. But, if it's all in the same building and you think you know the way, you can politely decline (and say you'd like to use the bathroom first). This gives you a minute to catch your breath and mentally prepare for the next one. If the next meeting is far away then maybe take up the offer to get walked to the next building, but then maybe excuse yourself to use the bathroom before knocking on the next prof's door, if needed.

4. Practice your introduction and your little spiel about your interests. You're going to feel like you're on "autopilot" at some point because of fatigue and how often you are repeating the same task. So, if you zone out a bit while speaking to a prof, you want to make sure whatever you default to saying is both useful and appropriate! Also, you may be nervous at the start of the conversation, so having something well practiced helps you start on a good note!

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Thanks @TakeruK! When I spoke with the program manager of the first school, she implied that they do not allow students to interview outside of the set interview dates, so I don't think switching to Monday-Tuesday will happen. Based on what you two have said so far though, it doesn't seem like it will be too much of an issue. At this point I'm mostly concerned about logistics, but everything will work out as it should in the end! Thanks again!

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