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I've been admitted as a grad student to a US university. There's a preevent for admitted students, which seems to be a weekend of introductions and minor social events (I don't have that much information yet).

Is it worth traveling from Europe to such an event? Do you have a feeling for how important these events are for building social relations with students/faculty?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

If by "admitted (accepted)" you really mean "those who accepted their offer," it's just a nice, welcoming gesture. During course work, you'll work so closely with and next to your future fellow students that you needn't worry about falling behind socially if you don't attend.

If people have been admitted but still weigh offers from different schools, it's a marketing event in which faculty and current students will try to present their program - and the campus it's on, and the city and state it's in - in their best light. While it would certainly be nice to get to know other prospects, it is probably more helpful to use such events to get a feel for how you might get along with professors and such, and if the city is too busy - or not busy enough - for your taste.

If you're not rich with extra time to spare, it's probably only necessary to fly in from Europe if it's case 2, and you have genuine questions or concerns. These can be nice events, but I'd think twice before flying for 6-10 hours each way on your own money - as long as you can't combine it with a longer vacation or so.

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Though if the grad school is willing to pay for foreign prospectives, it might be a nice trip. – Kimball Mar 5 at 15:59
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@Kimball: oh, sure - but that's a bit unlikely at the Ph.D. level, isn't it? – gnometorule Mar 5 at 16:00
    
Well, I thought so, but to my knowlege foreign prospectives aren't usually even invited to grad school open houses (at least in math). – Kimball Mar 5 at 16:07
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My school gives a flat sum of money for travel expenses. The folks coming by bus locally are very happy; the sum might be enough to cover airfare for people coming from the midwest; and the folks coming from the other coast or internationally will be out of pocket a bit. – RoboKaren Mar 5 at 19:16
    
@gnometorule, it's not impossible. My department flew a prospective PhD student from New Zealand to the eastern United States. She was visiting several schools (2-3 hrs apart) and asked each if they'd consider paying for part of her flight, making her only slightly more expensive than a local candidate. – Matt Mar 6 at 3:04

I definitely wouldn't go just to "build social relations". You can do that when you start school in the fall.

The reason to go is to help you decide whether you want to attend. If you're already decided, then going is not worth your time or money. If you're undecided and they're paying for travel, go. If you're undecided and you have to pay for travel, you must weigh the cost of airfare against the benefit of seeing the place firsthand and meeting people before you decide which school to attend.

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