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Recently I was in a large research conference mostly targeted at undergraduates, so there were people from many universities recruiting for summer programs, grad schools and academic societies.

It seemed like an excellent opportunity to make myself known, but I didn't have much success when interacting with them.

Most of the time I could have easily found on the internet all the information they gave me. When I tried to dig a little deeper (i.e. how much research experience do students accepted to your school have?) I got some very generic responses (i.e. We look at the whole package so it varies). I also attempted to talk a bit about my research interests in general to schools that seemed a good match, but that also went nowhere.

However, universities wouldn't spend so many resources if they didn't expect to gain something at these events, so I imagine I'm going about this the wrong way.

What should I speak about with university recruiters?

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    Their objective is to advertise more than recruit. – JoErNanO Nov 15 '15 at 17:15
  • They do go to recruit, but a recruiter/admissions officer isn't going to be able to delve into your research interests as well as program faculty can. They attended to advertise, build name recognition, and collect information from prospects for later followup. – Pete Nov 15 '15 at 18:27
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Go for all the administrative details. Things you don't want to ask a potential supervisor, (e.g. asking about money) and things not research related (which a potential supervisor might not know).

  • What is the official duration of a PhD?
    • what is the current average duration of a PhD?
  • What kind of living allowance/stipend is available?
    • How does that availability change if you go over time?
  • What is there exact process for applying?
    • Does this process change if you have already found a supervisor at the university who wants to take you on board?
  • How many PhD Students are at the university?
    • How many apply?
    • How many students in total? (i.e. what is the ratio)
  • What facilities do PhD student normally get?
    • is there separate reading areas in the library?
    • do you have a office? Shared office? Expected to use library?
  • How many supervisors are you required to have?
    • Some it is 1, others 2
    • Some it may be minimum 2 but normally 3
  • Who is the best person at the university to contact if I have more questions?
    • Is this the same person I would contact if I were currently enrolled as a student?
  • Can I have one of those cool free pens/USB sticks/mugs you are giving out?
    • thanks.

And if they can't answer, move on, you have better things to do. You can almost certainly get an answer to these via email later.

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The best way to do what you want (get your name out, learn about how to improve your application) is to contact faculty and administrators at the departments you're interested in, and to apply for undergraduate research opportunities.

If you want to make use of these recruiting events, you could ask more general things about the university. Student life might be a good place to start. You might also ask the recruiter if they can give you any contacts in the departments that you're interested in.

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