The 2022 Visit Day took place on February 25, 2022. Materials for those who attended are here.
If you’re given the opportunity to visit a department and you’re seriously considering attending their program, it is probably worthwhile to take the time to visit. You will be spending 2 or 5 years somewhere, so going in totally blind or based solely on a website may be brash. A visit gives you an opportunity to see the town and campus, speak to professors, and meet current students and other prospective students. Each one of these things will directly impact your graduate experience, so a visit can be an extremely informative experience. It offers a quick way to compare how different departments feel, and sometimes you can’t get a great read on a place until you’ve been there.
UNC STOR hosts an accepted student visit day each year. If you are accepted before that day, you will be given information about the opportunity to join the formal visit day. Students can visit at other times, but the official visit day is recommended as it’s easier to gather more professors in an official capacity rather than on an ad hoc basis.
Speak to professors and students
Professors have a depth of knowledge about the field as a whole, and can show you by example how to succeed. They often impress with the casualness of their mastery of a subject, yet retain modesty about what we don’t know. Conversations with professors can inspire you and introduce you to new ideas and perspectives that can sometimes shift your view in an instant.
While current graduate students lack the experience and knowledge of professors, we have a fresh enthusiasm about the field, and can tell you about the experience of actually going through the program. Students can tell you about the best places to go in the area, how to avoid common pitfalls, and may even be able to help you find housing. It’s also useful to build a network of people you can talk to even before you get to campus.
Ask a lot of questions
Everyone has different interests, and departments can’t possibly know everything about each student based only on their application, so they may not be aware of some of your concerns. But once you’ve already been accepted, departments will do what they can to get you to join their program. To reiterate, if they’ve accepted you, they want you. Departments will not mind answering your questions (and if they do, that may give you an interesting peek into how that department operates), and should be able to find people who can appropriately and honestly answer your questions. If there are things departments aren’t talking about but that matter to you, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t ask about it. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, you’ll be spending a lot of time in this program, and even little things can begin to grate with repeated exposure. It’s better for everyone involved if matriculated students are happy to be there and excited to contribute to the life and scholarship of the department, so don’t be shy about doing your due diligence ahead of time. Please try to have some patience with people answering your questions, though, as they usually have many other things on their plate.
Choosing between programs
If you’ve gotten into multiple programs, first of all, congratulations! Now you may have a tough choice in front of you. Many professors advise finding a place where you believe you’ll be able to find an advisor who can teach you how to do great research. Your advisor will help determine what it is that you’ll be working on, and how you’ll be spending many of the hours in your program. It should be noted that even though you’ll only be advised by one or maybe two professors, a program that has multiple potential advisors for you gives you more flexibility, and you are more likely to continue to get exposure (through classes or lectures) to interesting ideas outside the purview of your specific research interests, which may pay dividends later in your research career. While the biggest factor for choosing a program should be finding an advisor who you can work with on a research topic that interests you, there are many other considerations that may need to be factored in. Financial aid, location, departmental atmosphere, and student outcomes are all common concerns for students choosing between programs. There is no canonical formula for picking which factors matter to you, nor how to weigh them against one another. Not to sound overly dramatic, but spending multiple years of your life is a serious commitment. Sometimes we need to make decisions under uncertainty, and this is a case where you have to do some soul searching and figure out what you really want in a graduate program, which can mean considering what it is you want out of life.
Videos about UNC STOR
Here are some videos that Murph compiled about our department and life in Chapel Hill!
Favorite Food Places:
While we did not compile a video on this, one of the best things about this area is the nature! Here are just a few of the trails and hiking in this area. There are also some amazing hikes within an hour’s drive.
UNC also has a number of videos about student life and campus. While these videos are mostly made for undergraduate students, they highlight many resources and fun things on and around campus. Please reach out to your graduate student mentor for more information about what sorts of things see graduate student participation, and what things are usually only utilized by undergraduates.