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Inhospitality during visit == future rejection?

  1. Nov 23, 2015 #1
    Greetings PFers, I'm sorry but you may be in for a bit of a rant :)

    I must admit I had a very frustrating experience today when visiting a prospective graduate school, and I'm wondering whether their disinterest in me means that I will be rejected and therefore would be better off not applying.

    I set up a visit to my dream school several weeks ago, to happen today. It's a top school but my acceptance there would not be unreasonable. I go to a small school but did quite well (excellent letters from research supervisors at 3 different institutions, 5 publications in top journals, 11 conference talks, 4.0, etc.). I understand that visiting as a prospective graduate student, I should take nothing for granted.

    I set up a visit by filling out a form online, and didn't hear back from them for several weeks. Last Thursday, out of frustration I emailed someone to ask if I should set up my own visit, or if meetings with professors would be set up for me (as was said on the form I filled out). I finally got an e-mail saying that I was to meet with two professors.

    Jolly good. So yesterday, I drove for sixteen god-forsaken hours to get to this damn university. For the first meeting, I waited 45 minutes for the professor to show, and he never did. I stopped by periodically for the next 3 hours as I waited for my next meeting.

    For the next meeting, the professor was also late, but only by 20 minutes this time. After talking to him for about 5 minutes, he asked "When are we done?" I told him that he could kick me out whenever he wants... fortunately he kept talking for several minutes. He was really a great guy and his research was positively fascinating. At the end, he told me that he felt I would like another university (which is ranked not even in the top 100).

    After going through so much effort to make sure I was ready for this campus visit, I'm quite frustrated by how they treated me. That being said, I'm a prospective graduate student, there's no reason why they should even care about me, which I get, so I don't consider that a reason to not apply for that university. However, I'm wondering if their inhospitality is an indicator of a future rejection, and if I should therefore withdraw my application to save money.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2015 #2
    Did they all act like that?

    I mean, I'm only a Junior, but I'd like to at least offer the suggestion that it's easy to feel the way you feel if you were very emotionally invested in the visit and the professors there deal with prospective graduate students all the time, and thus didn't match your emotional investment in how they acted. Maybe it was just a bad day for the two of them. Maybe there are other advisers there you'd work better with.
  4. Nov 23, 2015 #3


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    That strikes me as considerably rude on their part to have made an appointment for you and then not have had anyone show up.

    Did you talk to any of the administrators in the department, or the graduate advisor? There should be a point contact person for you, regardless of who you are. Usually this is the person who set up the meeting for you.

    Did you email the professor that didn't show up with a "sorry I missed you" note? Is it possible this person was sick?

    One big thing to take from this though, is that if it really seemed to you like this school didn't have its act together, you might be better off not applying to them. Not because they won't accept you, but because this could very well forshadow day-to-day operations.

    If you arrange a meeting with a professor and he tells you that you might like another school, that's usually not a great sign that he's interested. Although, a lot can depend on the context. Some professors might just mention that as another option, because they know not every applicant is accepted.
  5. Nov 23, 2015 #4


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    If I may be honest: They most likely weren't merely not interested. It has nothing to do with your person, neither your attendance of this university. Just change your viewpoint for a second. They receive many of inquiries like yours (or similar through letters and so on) and they all are to the expense of their spare or research time. Ergo it annoys them. In addition they expect, probably for good reasons, that 9 out of 10 students showing up will never be seen again. All this is neither polite nor honorable. But it's daily business; their daily business.

    So I strongly recommend you not to take these admittedly sad experiences too serious. Again, I'm sure it wasn't meant against you. It was only due to their egocentric attitudes. I can tell you by own experiences that not all of your teachers will behave like this. There are surely others who are much more of the buddy kind. But that will last some years to be seen by you and depends on the time you will have attended the institute. Right now this time is zero so they don't "invest" in you. Not very nice, I know, but nothing you should bother a second.

    It lies in the nature of such visits that your personal view is a completely different one. They just haven't thought about this fact. I could tell you inside stories you wouldn't believe!

    Btw.: @staff: Wouldn't that be a nice thread: "Anecdotes about profs"? It would certainly help young people to lose a bit of their fear and show that scientific personal are just people, too.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  6. Nov 23, 2015 #5
    I highly doubt the professor who didn't show up was sick, as his office door was wide open. That's why I hung around for so long, I thought he was in the bathroom or something. Also, ironically, the graduate coordinator was the one who didn't show up :)

    I really appreciate your guys' input on this. I had never really thought of the fact that the professors must get visits like this all the time. I suppose if I were a professor, I would be profoundly annoyed that some squirrely girl from the University of NotImportant would want to take away my valuable research time. You're right that it probably wasn't a statement on my character, personality, or admissions chances. I think I'll still apply :)
  7. Nov 23, 2015 #6
    I waited until the late winter to start visiting schools, after I had applied and been accepted.

    Since they had seem my application and knew they wanted me, I was treated pretty well.

    I can't believe you were treated poorly if they knew you were a strong candidate. I'd chalk this up to ignorance on their part and apply anyway.
  8. Nov 24, 2015 #7
    I would not want to go to a school that treated me like that.
  9. Nov 24, 2015 #8


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    Stop putting yourself down. It's part of their job to deal with potential grad students. They may not like that particular aspect of their job, but that's no excuse to do what they did. The rude way you were treated is not a statement on your character but on theirs. A lot of people in academia are, to be blunt, jerks. If you end up going to this school, you may end up working with some of these people. It's a factor you should consider when deciding where you want to go.
  10. Nov 27, 2015 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    You were treated rudely, no question about it.

    Getting back to your question, yes, I think it is an indication about your chances for acceptance. First, if you were an exceptionally strong candidate, the department would likely have made more of an effort.

    Secondly, Choppy is absolutely right here:

    But most importantly, there is this thread. There you were told that it was a bad idea to visit a school just to get an "in" with admissions, and that it would be painfully obvious that that was your intent. Obviously we can't read minds, especially from a distance, but the way you were treated sounds like they were on to your plan. And, as predicted, it looks like it might have backfired.
  11. Nov 27, 2015 #10
    It's worth noting that that was a completely different school. This one I visited just for fun, as it was near some friends I was visiting over the holidays. Also, the department had no idea whether or not I was an exceptionally strong candidate - all they knew was my name and what school I am from.
  12. Nov 27, 2015 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Sorry. I was confused by "dream school" and "#1 choice" and incorrectly concluded they were the same place.
  13. Nov 27, 2015 #12
    Ah yes.. my #1 choice is actually realistic. Going to an Ivy League, not so much.
  14. Dec 4, 2015 #13


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    If this is true, then I would just chalk up this incident as bad luck, and move on. You're gonna get admitted to a decent grad school!
  15. Dec 4, 2015 #14


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    Did the professor that suggested you consider another school provide any reason? Did he attend that school? Follow up with him on that comment. He may know the general atmosphere of both schools and may be providing you with an inside track. He may actually know that most of his current fellow staff are not the best for a prospective grad student and steering you to better.
  16. Dec 4, 2015 #15
    Unless said Ivy is either Brown or Dartmouth, in which case it could be more realistic than it would otherwise look...
  17. Dec 4, 2015 #16

    Andy Resnick

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    I've followed your saga for a bit, here's my perspective (tenured physics faculty at a research-active institution):

    You should have spent your time meeting with other grad students, not the faculty. You could have asked the other grad students questions things like:

    "How does the candidacy exam process work- what are the exams, their pass rates, and expectations?"
    "How long does it take for a typical student to earn their PhD?"
    "Which faculty are actively publishing peer-reviewed papers?"
    "How many faculty have external research funding?"
    "How many faculty are currently looking for new students?"
    "Do faculty actively provide career advice/help/assistance, or are you left on your own to find a job?"
    "Do alumni provide a network for you to obtain postdocs/jobs?"
    etc. etc.
  18. Dec 4, 2015 #17


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    You could have also been confused by the identical driving distances, at least I'm confused by "I drove 16 hours" then the "it was just near some friends."

    Further, I don't see the point visiting a school you haven't applied to. That seems like a good way to waste everyones time.
  19. Dec 4, 2015 #18
    I'd say they were very busy men who knew nothing about you. So its just random behavior. They didn't feel like talking to a prospective student.

    The cost of applying is small, so what the heck.

    I have had math professors where I WAS a student treat me this way. A student is allowed to choose his thesis adviser. So they treated me like dirt to make sure that I wouldn't choose them. I had no idea what was going on at the time.
  20. Dec 4, 2015 #19


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    I honestly think it's a waste of time to visit grad schools before you are admitted. It really doesn't help you in admissions, so why not just wait and have them pay for you to visit? There are tons of resources online that can help you learn about each school.

    I actually never stepped foot on my school's campus before the open house and I think that made it even more exciting.

    Also, had this school received your application yet? I thought the deadlines were in mid-December. I think the committees for some of these schools don't meet until after the winter break but maybe there are some that do.
  21. Dec 4, 2015 #20
    I only visited because it wasn't inconvenient to do so. I was visiting a friend who lived only an hour away, and another university (to which I really want to go, and they really want me) which is also only an hour away. Since it was over break, I had plenty of time and decided to stop by. Also, Student100, I will be applying there, not sure why you said that.

    In addition, I did specify the other school in the opposite thread in one of the replies. It is not an Ivy.
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