Which, suffice to say, is not the same thing as being accepted. But it’s ε-away.
Anywho. Yes everyone, recruiting season is once again upon us, and for better or worse that means everyone is putting their best foot forward. Universities are inviting promising candidates in an attempt to woo them, and promising candidates are dressing to the nines and researching potential advisors in an attempt to wow them.
It’s a game, and you have to know how to play it in order to win. Now there are countless sites out there to help prospective students figure out the rules of the game, but what about universities? In particular, as a member of a joint, cross-university program, there are a few points of discussion I wanted to enumerate.
1. Transportation. To me, this seems fairly basic: make some effort to coordinate the transportation of the prospective students. This can take one or more of the following forms:
- Pay for plane tickets. Expensive, but ohmygod awesome.
- Pay for transportation to and from the host airport. This can be a little difficult to coordinate if there are lots of students arriving at different times, but perhaps having one or two outlined shuttle schedules would be ideal (depending on the size of the program).
- If the program is too small to foot the transportation costs, at least do some of the legwork. Identify flights to take, bus schedules to pay attention to, train routes to consider, or even rental companies to investigate. Perhaps even chip in a few bucks to offset the costs.
Bottom line, take some of the edge off travel. This lets the students focus more on the reason why they came to visit in the first place: to determine how good a fit the program is for them, not whether or not they’ll have time to run from the airport terminal to the metro station for the one bus they need.
2. Logistics. This should almost go without saying, but make sure any hiccups in the schedule for the visitation weekend are smoothed out before said weekend kicks off. After all, if you intention is to woo the students, having awkward gaps in the schedule or having the prospectives entertain themselves for entire blocks of time is less than ideal.
Any solid visitation weekend has a few overarching goals: allow the prospectives to meet current students, introduce them to the requirements of the program, have them talk to faculty in their areas of research interest, and give them an opportunity to experience the city where they’ll be living. Consequently, booking the schedule solid isn’t ideal, but at the same time there is business that must be addressed.
The prospectives, therefore, should have blocks of time where they can meet with current students on an informal basis, and should also provide the opportunity to mingle with those students off the immediate campus in a more social setting. Concurrently, the prospectives should have the option of bowing out of gatherings that are strictly social.
My classmates and I had a discussion on this very topic: there was a social event scheduled in which the prospectives would be taken to a bar in Pittsburgh. Half of us were on board with this plan; the other half were skeptical. After all, the bar scene isn’t enticing to everyone. There should, instead, be a spectrum of social activities ranging from hors d’oeuvres in a restaurant to drinks at a bar, and the prospectives can determine for themselves which of these activities to attend.
3. Get your current students involved. I can’t think of a single group of people more in tune with the thoughts and concerns of prospective students than those who only just went through the process themselves as little as a year ago.
We’re a joint program between two universities, which almost by necessity creates a lot of potential logistical nightmares. We have a lot of brilliant people who work to smooth out these potential nightmares, but might I humbly suggest bringing students into the mix a little more.
This applies to any program: when establishing the program for the visitation weekend, it would be useful to have student input to ensure that problems are solved in a way that is consistent with the spirit of the program that drew the students to it in the first place. Particularly in my joint program, the “joint”ness of it was a huge advantage over other PhD programs. As such, it would be very easy to simplify the logistics by limiting the visiting students to the resources of one university or the other, but this goes against the spirit of “two universities, one program”.
If I could provide one piece of advice to universities: make the administrative aspects of the visit as straightforward and seamless as possible. That way, all the prospectives will come away with after the visit is a collection of memories of the details of the program itself. And if the program is worth its weight in salt, its qualities will speak for itself.
In Other News
I’m busy as crap right now. Holy jeebus.
- Wedding planning. Oh yeah, not time-consuming at all! But frankly, a lot of fun. Not joking even a little. Still, even fun stress is stress, and it does ultimately take a lot of time.
- Coursework. It’s on a roll for the semester. I’m writing a Hadoop implementation of Naive Bayes at the moment.
- Training. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again: half-marathon training! We’re currently gunning for the Pittsburgh Half in early May.
- Physical therapy. Unfortunately, my shoulders haven’t been entirely cooperative, so twice-a-week PT has been the pattern of late.
- Research. The paper’s been through a few drafts, and will probably go through a few more. I cannot describe how excited I’ll be when we submit this for publication.
Soooo yeah. I don’t know how frequently I’ll be able to post here…
…hence, clearly, the solution is to create MOAR BLOGS: BEHOLD, A RUNNING BLOG! I figure I post about it enough to warrant its own corner. I’ll put content there soon, especially now that our half marathon training is decidedly underway.
Whew. I feel like these cats are tougher than I am.