Visiting Graduate Schools
If you've been asked to visit, congratulations!
Grad schools thought that you were cool enough to invite you to their campus.
This may mean that they will be flying you out to their school in hopes
that you will decide to accept their offer of admission, or you may
be interviewing for admission and/or funding. If you haven't been
asked to visit, but have decided to do so before you apply or in trying
to make up your mind, you have made a very smart choice! In either
case, it is important that you be prepared to make this trip worthwhile.
Start by investigating the department. Get
online and find out as much as you can about faculty, research, and the
university in general. If you run across a faculty member whose research
sounds interesting, get a copy of one of their articles/abstracts and read
it. Visiting students who can demonstrate that they have thought seriously
about the university (i.e. looking into faculty research interests) make
a really good impression, especially if they can engage in discussions about
faculty members' fields of specialty. Next, prepare a portfolio to
take with you. This should include several copies of your resume,
copies of any publications/abstracts you have authored/co-authored, student
projects of significance, and a few unofficial copies of your transcripts.
Also, you may wish to prepare a talk and inform the contact person for your
visit that you are willing to make a short presentation of your research should
any faculty member be interested in hearing it (include the title of your
presentation). When I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder,
I brought along my laptop with my presentation on Northridge faulting, which
I modified to tie it into current research at their department. This
allowed me to spotlight my work, while showing that I was attentive to the
research being done at CU Boulder. Unfortunately, I didn't get the
opportunity to show the whole thing, but you should always be prepared.
Finally, you should make sure you know in advance what your itenerary will
be for your visit, what you will be doing, and what kind of attire you should
pack (check the Weather Channel, too, to make sure you're prepared for snow,
rain, or heat).
While on the campus, take note of the building
where the department is located. Look at the facilities, the equipment.
Notice the people and their attitudes. How do they interact with each
other? Check out posters on the wall for an idea on the type of research
occuring in the department. Walk around campus. See what the
surrounding community is like.
Typically during visits, you can expect
to meet with many different people in the department: faculty, staff, other
graduate students, etc. Come prepared with questions to ask, and to
answer questions about yourself. I've listed a few sample questions
of each type below, but you should spend time tailoring your questions and
responses to your own personality/experiences.
- Questions to ask faculty members:
- How many graduate students do you supervise? What are they researching?
- What do you expect of your graduate students?
- What are the course requirements for graduate students?
- What are some of the resources (i.e. equipment, computers, access to
information, etc) that are offered to graduate students?
- Where do graduate students go after graduation (PhD programs, industry
jobs, academic institutions)?
- How long does it typically take a graduate student to complete their
education (i.e. 2 years to the MS, 6 years to PhD)?
- What sort of financial support is available to graduate students (if
you haven't been offered funding)
- Questions to ask graduate students:
- What has your experience been at this university?
- What is your advisor like?
- What have been some of your difficulties/challenges in your graduate
- What is life like in this town/city?
- Is it easy to find housing? What are typical costs?
- If you are a TA, please tell me about the kinds of courses you teach,
what the work load is like, etc.
- Does the department have a sense of community? Are graduate students
supportive of each other?
- What are courses like?
- Questions you may be asked and sample responses:
Remember that, while you are trying to make a good
impression, you should be yourself. Be honest about your goals and expectations
for your graduate education, and about what you bring as a potential graduate
student. And, have fun!
- Tell me about yourself. Mention your major/minor, the university
you attend, any current/past research experience, and any other relevant
- What are some of your research interests? Mention what you
are interested in, and how the research that is occuring at the university
relates to this interest.
- Why are you interested in coming to our university? You could mention
the type of research being conducted, specific people with whom you may wish
to work, reputation of the department, dedication to students, department
atmosphere, supportive faculty, location, etc.
- What are your career goals/future plans? Discuss what you'd like
to do after grad school, and how your graduate education will help you acheive
- What other universities are you looking at/have you applied to?
Mention which universities you are looking at, and what qualities
attract you to them.
This document was written by Arwen Vidal, for the CSUN NASA-PAIR
Last Updated: 04/21/2002