Preparing for Grad School Visits

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Ding! A wild email notification appears.

Oh no! It’s a message from one of the grad schools you applied to!

You half-heartedly tap on the notification and close your eyes for a quick prayer to the grad school gods. Your heart wants the best, but you’re preparing for the worst.

Finally in a second of bravery, your eyes open and you skim through the message. YOU’VE BEEN ACCEPTED! CONGRATS! 🙂 A wave of excitement passes over you. The possibilities are endless! Until, you have a realization. A pause in the joy. Acceptance means it’s time to actually visit the grad schools and talk with your potential advisors! Ah, crap.

Not to fear my soon-to-be grad student, the hardest part is over. Visiting grad schools was actually an extremely fun experience for me. After all, I got a free trip to whatever city the school was in and got to socialize with people who were in the exact same situation as I am. Plus, for grad school visits there’s always a chance to get free food and alcohol!

Of course, your visit to your potential grad school is also very important. This is where you will really get a feel for if this university is where you want to spend the next 5+ years of your life. After all, this is your chance to see if the university fits the criteria of things you want in a grad school and a chance to ask your potential research advisors important questions about your future in their lab. You know, no pressure.

Anyway (!!), after a very long-winded introduction, below is a list of some advice I have to help you prepare for the grad visits to come! Hope it helps!

Remember. You’re the interviewer.

You’ve been accepted. You have nothing left to prove. Believe it or not, this school accepted you because they think you’d be a great asset to their department. Therefore, it’s their job to impress you. To make you want to spend 5+ years working weird hours with a (just barely) livable salary.

Of course, in the quest of winning you over, universities are going to pull out all the stops. Their going to put you in the nicest hotel they can afford and pair you up with the happier of the grad students. Therefore, though you should give a great first impression, it is your job to be critical and see through their free food and goodies in order to get the information you need.

Be the interviewer. Know what you’re looking for and the questions you want to ask. Then, keep this in the back of your mind at all times.

Finish your homework ahead of time.

Since it’s your job to be critical and observant at a grad school visit, it would be nice to not have an unfinished assignment looming over your head. I mean, it’s inevitable that a grad visit will arise at a crazy time in your undergrad semester. However, it’s not like these grad visits sneak up the week before. Plan ahead! Unfinished homework serves as a distraction from not only learning about the school you’re at, but also having fun! I mean, come on! You are in a new city, free of charge, with a bunch of 20-somethings. Finish that damn homework ahead of time.

Do your research.

Though you may not need to win the school over anymore, a good first impression is nevertheless important. And, nothing can kill a good first impression more than being unprepared. So, do your research. Research the requirements of the graduate program. Know which professors you want to work for. Look up what fields of study your potential advisors are interested in. Know how your funding situation is going to go.

Just research. After all, you’re going to be doing a lot of that soon enough.

Make lists.

I love lists. Lists are a nice way for you to not forget things; to not forget questions you want to ask or things you need to look out for. Therefore, I give you a list of things you should make a list of:

  • The dates of each visit to each grad school
  • Things they require you to bring for each visit
  • The professors you want to meet at each school
  • The criteria you want your grad school to meet
  • The amount of money you should be reimbursed if you had to buy travel out of pocket
  • Questions for your potential advisors
  • Questions for the grad students (both the happy and grumpy ones)
  • Questions about any admissions, registration or degree requirements you didn’t quite understand from the research step above.
  • Questions about things like stipends, assistantships, insurance, housing and other adult matters
  • [Insert your list here]

Announce your arrival.

Admittedly, this is an optional step. However, what I did when I finalized the dates for my visit was send a quick email to the professors I was interested in to let them know I was going to meet with them. (This is much less awkward than it sounds if you had already introduced yourself to them during the application process.) I felt this was a nice way to a) know if they would be in town or not and b) remind them who I was so I could save time on the introductions. Again, this is completely option, but it definitely can’t hurt.

Calm down.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Remember, you have been accepted already. This isn’t an interview. You don’t have to prove yourself. Hell, you don’t even need to be super nice to the other visiting students since they’re no longer competition. Just remember that the visit to your potential grad school is for your benefit. The worst that can happen is you get a free trip to a place that you decide may not be the best fit for you. Well, at least you won’t be miserable for the next 5 years. So, calm down and just have fun. Oh, and enjoy the free food. 🙂


Have a tip of your own or a question about anything here? Leave it in the comments below or reach out to me through any means listed in my contact page!

Also, for more fun advice that I personally looked at when I was going through this, check out: Not the Lab

Hope you enjoyed and good luck on the next step of your adventure! ❤

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