Your Guide to Grad School Visits

Share This:




Your Guide to Grad School Visits


Ben Perez, Contributing Writer 

You can learn a lot about a graduate program through online research, but nothing compares to an in-person visit. It’s a great way to see the campus, talk to faculty members, and hear from current graduate students before you commit to a program. In general, graduate school visits fall into two broad categories: preapplication visits and postacceptance visits.


Undergraduates attending the 2022 Physics Congress tour one of the labs at the University of Maryland, College Park. Photo courtesy of Donna Hammer.

Preapplication visits

These visits are a great way to explore schools before you apply. They aren’t always convenient, but you can learn a lot and eliminate schools that aren’t the right fit early. You usually have to arrange these visits yourself, although some undergraduate programs and conferences will take groups of students on grad school tours. It’s worth asking!

Before you go

  • Do your research on the program and write down your questions.
  • Identify three to five professors whose research interests you.
  • Reach out to the graduate student coordinator and possibly the admissions coordinator, administrative specialist, or chair about visiting. Ask how you should proceed, and follow up on any recommendations.
  • Email professors whose research interests you—introduce yourself and request a meeting or tour. No response? Follow up until you get one.
  • Set up a campus tour and time to chat with current graduate students.
  • Write down questions for everyone you’ll meet.

During the visit

  • Be punctual—it shows respect and responsibility.
  • Get to know the professors and let them get to know you.
  • Find out what the program is really like from current graduate students.
  • Wander around and enjoy!

When you get home

  • Send thank you emails to reinforce your newly established relationships and leave a good impression.
  • Write down your thoughts and key details. Can you see yourself thriving there? Would the program help you reach your goals? Do you want to apply?
  • If you apply, tell the faculty members you met—they may advocate for your acceptance.

Postacceptance visits

Grad schools want those they’ve accepted to say yes, so most will host visit weekends in early spring. They’ll often cover travel and lodging for accepted students coming from within the United States. If you get invited, go! Go even if you’ve already visited. Visit weekends are designed just for you and your prospective classmates, so they’re informative and fun. And you’ll have another chance to impress potential research advisors.
Before you go

  • RSVP. Do we even have to say it?
  • Plan your travel according to the guidelines you receive.
  • If you haven’t already, identify three to five professors whose research interests you. Let the department know you’d like to meet with them.
  • Come prepared with questions about the program and for potential research advisors.

During the visit

  • Be yourself. If you don’t feel accepted for who you are, that’s probably not the place for you.
  • Talk to people and ask tons of questions.
  • Have fun! (But not so much fun that you can’t get out of bed the next day.)

When you get home

  • Send thank you emails to everyone, especially the people whose labs you might want to join.
  • Evaluate your visit. Write down your impressions and talk with friends and mentors. Does it feel like a good match?

After your postacceptance visits, it’s decision time. What feels right? What excites you? Where do you feel comfortable? Consider what you want and what will help you thrive. Keep in mind that there aren’t bad choices, only choices. And then send in that acceptance form.


More from this department