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I tried looking this up online and could not anything related to this, so figured asking here would make sense. Kind of related to this. Here is the story:

I live in US (not an International Student), and applied to few graduate programs in engineering (MSc program). Last week of January, I got an acceptance letter from my top choice with no funding currently available (my top choice because it has consistently been top 3 in its program for the last decade). Since this school was out of state I have never visited and I emailed the coordinator asking how to go about scheduling a visit. The reply said the department would invite selected students to campus for campus visit events.

Well, I wasn't invited for campus visit. So now I called the advisor and essentially stated "before making a decision I would like to visit the campus see how I fit in. What would be the best way, to make sure I get to talk to someone." I kind of emphasized I don't want to show up there unannounced and not be able to communicate to the faculty. The reply was that they had an event couple weeks ago, which was invite only and if I want to visit the campus I need to reach out to the faculty and schedule something with them on my own. This particular part kind of got me irritated. This advisor also stated no reimbursement will be available (this is okay as I am currently working but some sort of reimbursement helps, plus I live in west coast and school is in mid west which would be an expensive trip). Every other school I have been accepted, have stated that they encourage me to visit and to contact them if I want to visit and offered some sort of reimbursement.

This is the highest ranked school I have been admitted so far. Earlier, I would have loved to go here without question but am not so sure any more.

Am I just being overly sensitive here, or is this pretty common? I feel like why would you accept me so early, and not even be courteous enough to schedule a visit (wasn't even asked about campus tour)? Again, I'm not complaining about reimbursement, I can accept that. So now, should I contact each professor who I would be interested in working with or take this as cautionary sign on how life would be when I get there?

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I was accepted into multiple MS programs in math. None of them invited me for a reimbursed visit. When I applied for a PhD, every program gave me an all expenses paid tour. It has been my experience that if you are an MS student, you are not going to be cared for much. If you are a PhD student you will get much more in terms of "acceptance perks."

That being said, they should at least be willing to guide you to the proper resources for learning more about their school. If it was me, I would not accept the offer from your first choice. They do not sound easy to work with.

I would reach out to a few people that you want to work with at your first choice school. If they also blow you off, that would be a bad sign. A really bad sign. A degree from a middle of the ranking program is worth more than five blown years on trying to get an MS at a high rank institution and banging your head on the wall. My experience is that it is much better to go to a school where they care about you and you will be happy than to go to a school where they do not even know you and are totally unwilling to help you.

  • Interesting. It seems that things have changed in the past two or three decades in the USA. I've been accepted to several Ph.D. programs in both math and in physics in 3 different years (long story), and I don't recall ever hearing about visiting the department (paid or not), nor do I recall anyone else I knew in my several graduate school stints talking about this (unless it was someone whose undergraduate was from a college close by). But this was all during the 1980s . . . – Dave L Renfro May 9 '16 at 15:41
  • @DaveLRenfro: This might be an engineering thing. – aeismail Feb 7 '18 at 20:29
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Am I just being overly sensitive here, or is this pretty common?

This is extremely common in the U.S. In general, masters students are not invited to campus visits. For better or worse, masters students are seen as professionals who plan on entering or returning the professional world after 2 years, and not as life long academics.

Factor in that disrupting research for several days (for the visits) is expensive, and its easier to see why colleges (especially competitive ones), highly prioritize recruiting PhD students.

While I'm not sure why there is such a gulf between masters and PhD student experiences, I have some theories.

  • The ROI of training a PhD student is higher than a masters student simply because they will be in school much longer.

  • The university has skin in the game for PhDs. I've never seen a self-funded PhD. Either the professor or the university is paying tuition + a stipend.

There is no reason this should make you less excited about going to your top choice. Since the school is top ranked, they likely have to do less outreach to get qualified applicants, and you're seeing the logical ramifications of that.

You mention lower ranked school that seem more engaged with you - it may be worth your time to see if they can offer you tuition assistance or RA/TA positions to offset the cost.

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