Congratulations! Your efforts paid off and you got admitted.
Now is the time for you and the admission committee/the Program to
switch the roles. You will be choosing and they will be telling you
how good they are. Treat the process of making choices as an
all-important one, the choice you make will define your life for at
least next five-six years. If you have an opportunity to visit
schools do so if not don't feel upset, most of the information can
be found on the internet and by e-mail.
Here I will be talking about post-admission visits to
Taking a trip to the schools under consideration will be a valuable
experience for you. Most schools arrange such 2-4 days trips
(usually from mid-March till mid-April) for all admitted students
together. The school provides travel allowance of $200-500, thus it
makes sense to visit 2-4 schools to cover all your travel expenses
and get an idea of differences between universities and programs.
The school visit will help you to learn more about the "feel" of the
school, speak with current students, meet faculty members, discuss
their research and possible research projects you might get involved
School visits is a great way to learn more about the school. You
will get a sense on how you might fit in with this program and this
campus. Sitting in the library stacks, watching interactions across
the quadrangle, reading the school newspaper, and overhearing
student conversations are all nonobtrusive means to gauging the
ephemeral "quality of social life." You should leave the school with
a much better sense of the school's intellectual and social climate.
The interviews with the faculty members are optional, but I would
highly advise you to go through them. You have already been admitted
so you have nothing to loose. On the other hand talking with your
possible prospective advisors will help you understand whether you
are interested in working with them or not. During the interviews
follow all those standard rules about eye contact, self-confident
presentation, and so forth. Know the some specifics about the
research in which you are interested and be prepared with
intelligent questions to ask. These post-admission interviews are
generally informal and more resemble a mutual question-and-answer
If you had a chance to visit schools use the insights you gained
during your visit. If not ask the secretary of find on the internet
e-mails of current graduate students and ask them questions. Not all
them will respond but many will and this will give some interesting
and valuable insider information.
When comparing different programs I would suggest you consider the
University's and Program's rating
That is obviously important. The better the program, the better the
faculty members and the higher level of the graduate students.
Faculty Members working in your chosen area
Importance of this aspect often gets underestimated. If you are
unsure in what field you would like to work, then you probably do
not need to bother about that. On the other hand if you have already
decided that you want to work in the field of Theoretical Condensed
Matter, for example, check how many professors at this university
work in this field, how old they are (don't count those over 60-65),
whether they take new students. Make sure that there are at least 2
professors (better 3-5) which you consider as your possible
Location and Climate
This might seem of little importance at first but think of that in
the example of Russia. Would you choose to study and work with the
top researchers in the field at the university X in Samara or Ryazan
or Novorossiisk or whatever or would you rather work with less
famous people in Moscow or St. Peterburg? Although American cities
does not differ in living conditions, cultural attractions, etc as
much as Russian do, it is still true that live in the coastal,
Mid-Western, Southern and Northern states is quite different. I have
been in most states in US and my personal opinion is that the best
states to live are costal. As a general rule mid-American states are
more traditional, conservative and costal states are more diverse
Also, do check for the climate, the month by month temperatures can
be found for all major cities in US.
The importance of this factor tends to be overestimated by Russian
students, I guess, this is mostly to our financial hardship here.
Overall once you get financial support and it is said to continue
during your period of studies, which is what you generally get if
you get admitted, the exact amount of support does not matter that
much. Universities will give you enough money to cover all your
basic needs, thus I would suggest you not to prioritize this factor.
You might consider whether you will receive Scholarship, TA or RA,
though this is usually given only for the first year and then you
will get RA. In some universities for some professors in theory
(because they have less money than those in experiment) you might be
required to teach (be TA) during all your period of studies, you
might want to check on that with secretary or current graduate
You might want to consider whether some of your friends are already
at this university, maybe your current lab has collaboration with
the lab at the university under consideration, etc.
Contact Your Recommenders
The people who have recommended you would love to hear from you. Why
don't you call, visit, or write them a letter? Tell them where you
got admitted, which program you have finally chosen, and how the
whole thing went.
Thank People who Helped you in the Application Process
Remember those people who have proofread and critiqued your
application materials, those who helped you to write your statement
and recommendations, those who said good word about you to the
admission committee members, etc. Thank them, tell them where you
got admitted, which offer you have accepted. They have been helping
you and they will be pleased to hear from you.