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I'm currently an undergraduate, and I will finish my bachelors this coming spring. I've been looking at graduate programs, including one physical chemistry masters program in the Amsterdam. I found out that I'm visiting Amsterdam in less than a week, and I am now wondering if it would be appropriate for me to ask the program contact person if I can visit the campus and maybe talk to a professor or two about their research and the program.

I'm concerned because it is short notice, and I haven't started any application with the school. But, I would like to know if the school is a good fit. I don't live in Europe so this is my only opportunity to visit the campus in the foreseeable future.

Would it be appropriate for me to ask if I could visit the college/institute? Also, should I mention a few projects that caught my eye and ask to meet the professors in charge? If so, how would be the best way for me to phrase it?

Thank you for the input.

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Why not email the professor(s) directly? They won't bite! –  Moriarty Aug 7 at 11:42
    
Of course. Email profs or the departmental administrator. With the short notice, phoning the departmental main phone number may be better. –  RoboKaren Aug 7 at 12:35
    
You (@RoboKaren & @Moriarty) bring up a valid point. With the way their website is setup, it's difficult to know which project belong to which prof, but working the specific research area coordinator may be more fruitful than some general contact person. –  dustin Aug 7 at 12:42
    
@Moriarty - Profs don't bite, but we can also be very bad about responding to non-critical emails at the beginning of the semester. :) –  RoboKaren Aug 7 at 12:53

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This is totally appropriate and a great idea.

Simply send an email to the contact person (who may have a title like "graduate coordinator" or "graduate chair").

My name is Edna Farblefester and I'm a junior at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. I am interested in applying to your program next year. I will be in Amsterdam next week and was wondering if I might be able to meet with you or some of your colleagues to learn more about the program and some of the faculty's research.

They should certainly say yes unless there are some extenuating circumstances. Graduate programs are always eager to recruit students, especially in a case like this where it costs them nothing. They probably do these sort of meetings all the time, so it should not be much of an inconvenience for them, even on short notice.

They may also offer to set up a campus tour, arrange a meeting with one or more current grad students (very useful), and provide some information about living in Amsterdam.

If there are one or two professors whose research particularly interests you, you could send similar emails to them directly. (Mention that you are already getting in touch with the contact person, otherwise they will probably suggest that you do so.)

One final note: your phrasing "asking for a site visit" suggested at first that you were going to ask them to pay for the costs of your trip, which would be sort of an unreasonable request (it would be for them to offer if they wanted). Of course, that isn't what you meant, but you might just want to check your phrasing when you write your email.

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If you are going to be visiting the city anyways, there's nothing wrong with asking if you can visit the department. The worst-case scenario is that they will simply tell you, "no, it's not possible."

However, visiting the department and talking with staff and students there is often a good way to show your enthusiasm for applying to a particular program, and can help to set you apart from other applicants. I know that a student I supervised in research did something similar and ended up being admitted to the program (one of the few he was accepted to, in fact).

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