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School visit question


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I have a final school visit planned for next week, but at this point I found my absolute perfect fit and I've signed the paperwork and everything. The school I would be visiting is a very loose research fit and I definitely don't see the visit changing my mind at all. I really don't want to burn a bridge since academia can be a small community, but I would rather not take two unpaid days off work if the school is not even in the running, and I'd rather not waste their time either. 

I guess my question is, if I am honest with the PI that I have found a better fit and would rather not come, do you think I would burn bridges? Is there a way to do this and maintain good will or should I just suck it up and go?

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No, you will not burn bridges if you are honest now. In fact, they will appreciate it because it would be a waste of everyone's time if you went on the visit anyways and had no intention of going. Just tell them that you have already made a decision and that you will no longer be able to visit their school. Yes, they might be sad if they already booked your flight, but that is money already spent---if you attend a visit with no intention of going to their school, you'll cost them even more money.

My spouse works in an academic department as well and this is pretty common at all levels in academia. One time, there was a faculty candidate that their department really wanted to recruit and they had an entire week of events planned. Trips to the beach, real estate agent meetups, school tours for the candidates' children, dinners at the Chair's house etc.  One week before, everything was cancelled because another school made a better offer to the candidate and the candidate took that offer instead. It's just part of the "business". So, on the bright side, at least you're not a faculty candidate who they have already pulled out all the stops for. In comparison, cancelling a grad student visit would be a lot less work, if that makes you feel any better about letting them down.

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