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Graduate School is just the beginning

Touring the Campus

If you're still trying to choose a grad school, you should visit a few campuses if at all possible. Here are some guidelines for a successful graduate school campus tour.

When you arrive on campus, plan to do these things: go on a guided tour, visit with key individuals (making sure that you have an appointment ahead of time), and spend the night on campus. Such overnight visits are encouraged by many colleges to give a prospective student the feel of the institution. Ask someone in the admissions office if arrangements can be made for you to room with a student who has interests similar to your own, so he can give you insider information on the program you hope to enroll in.

This visit should include a chat with a financial officer, preferably someone who knows how much financial aid you might be able to receive as a grad student. Have information ready about your own financial situation, so you can talk about it with the official. This is your chance to make an impression, so that the official will have a face to go with the name on your application. Try to make this impression a good one. You want the officer to be well disposed toward you when it comes time to make decisions about handing out funds.

You'll also want to see the school itself, on a weekday when classes are in session and students are going about their campus business. That way you'll be able to talk with students and see your future professors in action. Campus organizations may be holding meetings, and you should check some of these out because you might want to be involved with them once you're enrolled at the school. Visit the cafeteria, the dormitory, the athletic facilities, the classrooms-every place on campus that might be of interest to you as a student. Ask questions during this tour. This is your chance to get to know the school.

Highlights of the graduate school campus tour should include:

Cafeteria. When you go to the cafeteria, taste the food. Find out what the meal plan includes. Observe whether the students who dine there are polite and friendly.

Touring the Campus Dormitory. When touring a dormitory, find out how much dormitory arrangements are going to cost you. Look at the locations of the bathrooms, the size of the rooms, and the location of the laundry. Find out if there are separate bills for energy, water, and cable television, and how much these bills usually run.

Athletic Centers. Learn if there's a fee to use the facilities. Find out what the hours are and the availability of specific sports. Is medical assistance offered on campus? Note the distance from dormitory and housing locations, the condition of the equipment, and the availability of personal trainers.

Library. At the library, ask about the number of computers available and whether they're free for student use. Ask if research assistance is available. Learn what the hours are. Notice what the noise levels are and what the minimum allowed levels are. Are the facilities comfortable? Are there areas for individual and group study?

Classrooms. When touring classrooms, find out the average class size. How far are the classrooms from the dormitories and housing, and how long does it take to make the trip? Do the students look tired or like they're enjoying their studies? Try to get a copy of the syllabus for a course you want to take.

Use your graduate school campus tour to acquire as much information as possible. This may well be where you'll spend the next several years of your life, so you want to make sure you'll be comfortable doing so.

Last Updated: 05/25/2014