What to Expect from Grad School Visits



By Madeleine Chalifoux, 2018-19 SCS Student Advising Leader:

Once you begin to receive acceptances from grad school, spring semester of your senior year can quickly become a busy time. The timeline looks something like this:

  1. Grad school applications for Ph.D. programs in chemical engineering, chemistry, or other related fields are often due at varying times from early to late December.
  2. Then, schools being offering acceptances on a rolling clock beginning anywhere from the end of December until March.
  3. Once accepted, schools will invite all prospective students to visit for a weekend, where prospective students have the opportunity to meet with faculty and interact with current students while learning about the program and getting a feel for the campus. These visits usually take place sometime between late January and late March and typically last from Thursday through Sunday. Fortunately, there is no need to worry about finances because students are generally reimbursed for all travel and lodging expenses associated with the visit weekend!
  4. Finally, the national acceptance deadline is usually sometime in mid-April. Students must confirm which graduate school they would like to attend before this deadline.

After committing to visiting a school (or hopefully several schools) where you have been accepted, it can become difficult to keep up with undergraduate course work since attending a visit generally necessitates missing at least two days of classes (Thursday and Friday). In order to make this transition between travel and school as easy as possible, it is a good idea to plan ahead by scheduling a light course load for the spring semester of senior year. In doing so, also try to schedule important classes and labs on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, whenever possible. However, if your particular course schedule does not permit for this kind of flexibility, make sure to reach out to your professors at the beginning of the semester and to continue to communicate your absences to them throughout its duration. In my experience, most professors are accommodating when it comes to grad school visits because they themselves have been in your exact same position! For this reason, professors can also act as great resources when you have questions about the graduate decision process, or about what kind of elements to look for in graduate programs.

So, what do these visits usually look like? They will be jammed packed with academic presentations, information sessions, and social outings, but should leave you will a better understanding of whether or not a particular program would be a good fit for you. These weekends usually start with a dinner hosted by current students on Thursday evening, and are followed by info sessions about the school’s program, professors’ presentations on their research, individual meetings with faculty, tours of campus and housing facilities, poster sessions, fun excursions to surrounding towns or attractions, and social events in the evenings. All of these events take place in some combination over Friday and Saturday. By Saturday night, the visits usually wrap up and students are free to catch their flight home on Sunday morning. All in all, the weekend always turns out to be a whirlwind of information and excitement but should help you leave with a better idea of whether or not a particular school is a good fit for you.

It’s an exciting time, so take advantage of it! But don’t forget to take a minute to reflect upon returning from each of these visits. Also, make sure to wait to make a final decision until you have gotten a chance to visit all of your top choices so that you can make an informed choice. The national deadline is always sometime mid-April, but until then, enjoy the experience and remember to stay diligent in your studies so that you don’t fall behind!


Congrats on getting into grad school! You should feel proud of all your hard work at Illinois!