There is no substitute for an in-person visit to a prospective graduate or professional study program. Some of the most important aspects of a program will not be evident from their websites, brochures, or admissions officers at a graduate school fair.
When you elect to check out a program in-person you’ll:
1.Get to know the “space.”
Not only will you get to see how campus is laid out, but you’ll be able to see what the area surrounding the school is like. Is it in close proximity to things you enjoy? What are the housing options like? What do the labs, studios and/or classroom facilities that you would be learning in look like? Overall, does it seem like the type of environment you will like to spend time in?
2.Meet the People.
If you plan to visit campus at a time when you can see it in full operation (i.e. it will typically be more active in fall and spring), you should have the chance to meet and talk with people associated with the graduate program. This would include program directors, faculty, and current graduate students.
Determining if a graduate or professional program is a good fit depends on whether or not you can see yourself interacting positively with the people who make up the program. This is especially important if your graduate or professional program will use a “cohort” model – meaning you will work with the same people throughout the duration of the program.
3.Check your Expectations.
You want to make sure that your expectations for a program are in line with reality. Will the professor you are hoping to work with still be at the institution when you’re planning to attend? Is the program you are looking into fully staffed and solidified with active alumni, or is it a new program that has recently launched, still working through accreditation? What will your life as a graduate student in this program look like (based on what you’ve learned from talking to current students)?
4.See Below the Surface.
Being on campus will give you the opportunity to notice small details that you wouldn’t be able to pick up on by browsing a website. Checking out posters, bulletin boards, and conversations happening around you will give you a sense for graduate student life in the department. You may learn some things about the student-faculty relationship, how assimilated graduate students are into the rest of campus, and how connected the program might be to employers in the community (important for when you are job searching!).
As you start to make your list of graduate or professional programs you’d like to consider, also pay attention to when these programs have open house events or preview days. This will save you the extra time needed to plan out an independent visit.
Finally, the majority of graduate and professional programs will require you to complete an entrance exam, similar to how you took the SAT or ACT when applying to UMBC. See below for what exam you might be expected to take:
Dental School: DAT (Dental Admission Test)
Business and Management Schools: GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)
Master’s and Doctoral Programs: GRE (Graduate Record Examination) *Most common graduate admissions exam*
Law School: LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
Medical School: MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)
Pharmacy School: PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)
The Grad School Campus Visit via idealist.org
Applying to Graduate Schools via UMBC Career Center
24 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Graduate Program by Mallory Ladd