Questions to ask on Graduate Trips:
The following list of questions has been complied from graduate student
feedback over the years, and will offer a starting point for you as you
prepare for your visit.
FACULTY (Things to Observe: approachability, willingness to answer questions,
enthusiasm for work)
- Where do your graduate students find jobs/post-docs after grad school?
Do you take any active part in helping your students find jobs/post-docs
after graduate school?
- Typical length of graduate education in your group?
- How often are your students allowed to present at National Chemistry
- How long is a student typically a TA in your group?
- How many students do you typically take in your group/year?
- Tell me about the process of choosing a research advisor. (By
what date do I need to choose an advisor?)
- Do your provide monetary support for the summer months?
- Do you encourage and support students in applying for graduate
- Tell me about the size of your lab and how your lab
- Do you have regular group meetings, and if so, how
are they organized? Large or small subgroups?
- What % of entering Ph.D. candidates graduate within
6 years with a Ph.D.?
- Ask about funding…
- Publications-tell me about your students publications
(How many? In which journals?)
GRADUATE STUDENTS (Things to Observe: Do MOST of the students look
happy? Do the students have balance in their lives?)
- Tell me a little about your first year if graduate school. How many
hours are spent in class and/or studying? Is there collaboration or competition
among students in the classes? Are the professors helpful in answering
student questions? Tell me about the difficulty of the classes compared
to college classes. How many classes will I need to take?
- Are there entrance exams to pass? How many must be passed? If not
all are passed, do I have a chance to retake the exam or do I need
to take a class in the area of the exam?
- What are preliminary exams like? When are they taken? Are there cumulative exams
(written tests) to pass? HOW many must be passed and what is the time
frame for passing the exams?
- On what is the preliminary oral exam based?
(Original research proposal relating to research or totally independent
- Once prelims are passed, how many hours do you typically work/week?
What do you do outside of the lab? Do the graduate students have
some balance in their lives? Are there departmental events that
promote community building (i.e. annual picnics, softball, or bowling
- Do graduate students interact with each other well or is there
competition between research groups?
- How often are students allowed to present at National Chemistry
- How long is a student typically a TA (versus a research assistant)?
- What are the responsibilities of a TA? How many hours/week
are committed to this responsibility? Are there clear chains
of command in case of problems?
- What are the tuition/fees per year of graduate school?
Is the graduate school stipend enough to afford a decent
place to live, have fun, pay fees, etc.? Will I need
to take out a loan for basic living expenses?
- How is health insurance covered here? What type of premium
will I pay? Is the student health center any good?
- What do you do for fun? What types of cultural
experience are available in the area? Describe the "night life".
- Is housing affordable in the are surrounding the
university? Ask for typical rent for a 1 or 2 bedroom
apartment. Do most graduate students live with
a roommate? Is there a program through the department
that provides help in finding a roommate and/or
place to live?
- How safe is the are surrounding the university?
Is it necessary to use the campus escort service
after dark? What is the crime like in the city?
- Overall, what is the political environment of the
- Is there a graduate school union?
If you want to know about a specific professor
that you want to work with in the future,
here are some questions to ask graduate students:
- What is the reputation of the professor?
- What is the chain of command in his/her research
- How many years to receive a Ph.D. in his/her
- What is his/her relationship with students
in his/her group? (Formal/Informal?)