What is a Campus Visit like?

A faculty member I met on a recent visit put it best: a campus visit is basically the longest first date ever. You vacillate between deciding whether or not you like them and trying to figure out first whether they like you. You notice little quirks and wonder whether they’re tics or indicative of a deeper issue. You wonder whether the pretty face and generous demeanor they put forth is the real thing, or whether they just want you to sleep with them (or rather, sign away the next X-many years of your life to them). You want to get personal, but don’t want to pry. Sometimes you want to run home screaming, other times you can really get into the idea of being with them forever.

That said, the traditional advice about visits still stands: these things are marathons, not sprints. You will likely be shaking hands and “talking turkey” with upwards of 10 total strangers throughout the day, in addition to giving your job talk. You’ll be “on” from 9a-9p, and no matter what they tell you, every interaction is a potential opportunity for evaluation.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t be yourself. Just follow the three golden rules:

  • Do not gossip, even if your hosts are engaging freely.
  • Do not order more than one drink, even if your hosts do and you’re all having a grand time.
  • Do not try to dominate the conversation; remember to ask questions about other peoples’ work rather than going on endlessly about your own.

Typical Campus Visit Schedule

Most campus visits are three-day affairs that look something like this:

Day 1

Afternoon/Evening: Arrive on campus, get picked up by faculty member, go to dinner with one or two people, check into hotel

Day 2

8/9:00a Breakfast with 2 faculty members

10:00a Campus or City tour by faculty or grad student

11:00a Meeting with Dean/Associate Dean

12:00p Lunch with 3-4 grad students or faculty

1:00p-4:00p Meetings with other faculty members, department chair, search committee, and/or extra-departmental units relevant to the position, perhaps 30m-1hr of free time

4:30p Job Talk/Presentation

5:45p Reception (grad students and faculty)

7:00p Dinner with 3-5 faculty members and grad students

Day 3

8/9:00a Breakfast with 1-2 faculty members

10a—time of flight: More meetings with faculty/administrators

Afternoon: Faculty member drives you to airport

How to Prepare

  1. Before you first get a call inviting you for a campus visit, make sure you read these guidelines to get all relevant information about logistics and expectations.
  2. Obviously the job talk is the most crucial element that you can prepare for; see my handbook here.
  3. Once they send you a detailed itinerary, look up all the individuals you’ll be meeting with (and who will be escorting you), and make a mini cheat sheet that details each person’s full name, position and general research interests.
  4. Make sure you’ve got everything on the packing list, especially a small notebook and pen. It’s also particularly important that you wear comfortable shoes: you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
  5. Familiarize yourself with some common questions to ask the people you meet with:

Questions for faculty

  • what hours do you typically work?
  • what are typical teaching assignments for junior faculty (teaching load)?
  • do professors often teach during the summer?
  •  do senior professors seem to teach their specialties or a range of upper-div courses?
  • what kinds of service are expected? Do jr faculty serve on committees/advise projects?
  • where do most of the faculty live?
  • what is the department culture like?
  • what is the connection between school and city?
  • what is the tenure process like on average (expectations)? In the past few years, how many people have been denied tenure?
  • what are the most difficult aspects of the school?
  • where else did you consider working/why did you choose this school?
  • what is the cost of living? (if you have/plan on having children: are there good schools?)

Questions for the department chair (in addition to above questions for faculty)

  • what are the greatest needs to be filled by this position?
  • what kinds of initiatives are in the works/what’s next for the department and for the school?
  •  how is the department governed?

Questions for the Dean

  • what kinds of support/funding are available for jr faculty?
  • which colleges are most like yours?
  • what is your perception of the dept’s role in the institution?
  • what do you anticipate being the biggest challenge for a new faculty member here?

Questions for graduate students

  • what do you currently lack in terms of faculty support that you’d like to have?
  • tell me about the departmental culture
  • how do you see the role of jr faculty?
  • what do you think the greatest challenges of being a graduate student here are?

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