Tuesday, February 10, 2009

To visit or not to visit?

From the mailbag, Elizabeth asks:

Here's a question: Let's say the best scenario happens and I get into, oh, three
programs. Or even just two. How common is it for admitted students to visit a
program after being accepted? I'm in MN, so something like U of MN would be
really easy to visit, but I'm a little worried about the cost of visiting
someplace like UMass. I already spent a fortune on apps., but I wonder about
going to a school without seeing it. This is speculative, of course (I still
haven't heard a peep from any of my schools . . . I'll start chewing on the
walls soon) but I'd be interested to know what other people's opinions are on
the value/importance of campus visits


My response would be, yes, if at all possible, visit the program. I did this last year and, without a doubt, it affected my decision(s). Sure, there were plenty of other factors at stake that could be determined on paper (funding, cost of living, reputation), but seeing a place and meeting people in person really helped me know if I would fit into the program. (My answer was complicated.) So, I say, never understimate the power of your gut instincts.

But some of you would disagree. Discuss!

17 comments:

Tatertot said...

I'd like to piggy-back off of this question to ask another. If you do go for a campus visit, what is the etiquette? Who is typically the appropriate person to contact, the director, a current student, etc? Are you usually able to sit in on a class, or meet with professors?

Thanks!

Jennifer/The Word Cellar said...

I'd like to piggyback as well, but with a slightly different slant. What about low-residency programs? I'm applying for the semester that begins with a residency this summer, which doesn't give me time to visit any of the programs while a residency is in session. Should I visit campus regardless? Would I be better served waiting until the following semester so I can observe a residency in session?

Nic D. said...

I was asked in my acceptance letter to visit the campus. THEN when I privately emailed asking when T.A.ships would be announced... the director reiterated again, "We'd love to have you visit." I just thought that was interesting? I think Ball State is eager to meet their peeps. It's a good thing tho.

Gustavo Llarull said...

Can't address low-res -- I know little about them. But when it comes to visiting res. programs... Well, it's worth every penny. You get a much better feel of the program. And, if you're kind and respectful when making requests, you'll basically get to sit in on classes, talk to faculty, director, and -- most important! -- current students. (I'd be very suspicious if a program didn't let me talk to students or sit in on a class). Visiting was crucial to me. Yeah, it's expensive, but you have a much clearer idea of what you're getting into. And, remember, you're investing 2-3 years of your life there. You'd better be sure it's the place where you want to be. I was pretty sure I wanted to come to UMass, but visiting (and talking on the phone with some faculty who weren't here when I visited) sealed the deal for me.

Whitney said...

You know, between everyone on this blog, I'm sure you could split the cost of a road-trip or hotel stay with someone!

Emily said...

I don't know if this is common to other programs, but when I got the phone call from Penn State (today! I'm still grinning!), I was told that they have a weekend in March where they invite all the accepted students to campus. AND they'll pay for my trip! So, absolutely, I'm going to visit.

sara e.g. said...

Emily--

What genre are you?

Oh, and congrats!

Melissa H. said...

I'd agree with Gustavo about being suspicious if a program isn't open about letting you ask questions and meet people in the program. I live in the Pacific Northwest and flew to Boston to visit Emerson, but they did not let me sit it on a class, and of the two student contacts they gave me, both worked in the admissions department but only one got back to me. Not a great impression!

Emily said...

Thanks, Sara. I'm in poetry.

farren said...

Alabama has also offered to house me and defray the cost of my airline travel, so I'm visiting March 4-8. I completely forgot to ask to sit in on a class! So thanks for that, guys.

corkeyb33 said...

wow, Farren, that's awesome! I'm thinking I definitely need to visit Lafayette... I've never been to the midwest and know I'll have major culture shock from Portland, OR.

farren said...

Corky--Yes, your entry yesterday perked me up, as Purdue is up there on my list, BECAUSE of Marianne Boruch...I have a friend who took a campus tour of Purdue a few years ago and found the campus utterly bewitching. Congratulations to you! And do take the opportunity to go to West Lafayette, IN...when else would you EVER go??

corkeyb33 said...

Good point Farren-- probably never!

Alison said...

I would most definitely visit. If the one school I applied to this year doesn't take me on (WVU -- it's right down the road, been there a million times), I'm planning to do some road tripping this summer to check out other programs.

One of my biggest deciding factors is city size. I'm looking for someplace fairly rural, like where I got my undergrad. So, whenever a new school pops up on my radar, I head to Google Maps to get an aerial view of the place. There better be some open spaces close by or that's one less road trip to go on and one less application to send out. =)

degoao said...

About Google maps...

I've actually been messing around with Google Street View, which actually has been pretty illuminating. Of course it doesn't replace a campus visit, but at least now I know what the streets of Nashville look like.

bravenewlady said...

I'm with Whitney on the road-trips and couch surfing.

For example: degoao, if you visited Nashville, i could show you around! Or at least tell you more about it.

Pam said...

I visited the public programs of the Warren Wilson residency in January. It was a great way for me to get a sense of whether I could hack the "academic" orientation of the program. I was able to chat with some students before the lectures and found out great things--mostly positive, all of them things that reinforced my decision to apply.

I also visited the campus and talked with someone in Admissions a year earlier. There were no professors available to meet at the time.

The program strikes me as right for me. I can't say that I received a super-warm reception, and I certainly didn't get a hard sell. I guess WW doesn't need it. But everyone was gracious and helpful and, it seemed, very candid.

I probably should be trying to get into a program in a town I hate instead of the wonderful, distracting Asheville!