Open houses are an opportunity for students to get to know faculty and an institution better, they are usually open anywhere from Dec-March and you can sign up for them on the schools website. I strongly encourage anyone to attend if they are interested in a program, it really helps to solidify or even change your mind on a certain program.
If you were like me you wonder, what should I wear? How should I look? What should I do and what should I prep for?
I was really lost when it came to knowing the protocol or what to really expect from an open house. I did however know that it was a good way to meet faculty, ask questions, learn about the program and to “see if it was a good fit for me” the default answer I was always given when asked about open houses.
I only applied to two schools this round of applications due to my constraints on moving, GWU and UMD. My husband is a neurology resident and this had made it almost impossible to move.
GWU-George Washington University located in Foggy bottom ranks #39 according to U.S News and World Report which ranks a variety of things including school. A lot of the appeal of GWU is the reputation that follows the name. The school itself is prestigious and you can rest assured that most people have heard of GWU or at least have some idea that it’s in Washington, D.C.
The day itinerary consisted of sitting in for half of the first years class lecture that morning followed by a Q & A with the admissions board and then a tour of their clinic and a private session where you could ask more questions. It was great to see the first year class and to actual see how diverse their program is. The professor was great and the students seemed very engaged and happy, sometimes that always strikes you as positive.
So if you’re like me, you have a list of things you need to know in order to feel somewhat prepared and less anxious about the whole thing, in no particular order:
- OMG what should I wear?
- Who will be there ?
- Should I practice an introduction?
- What questions should I ask?
- What information should I know?
- Who should I talk to?
- How do I make my interest in the school known?
1. OMG What should I wear?
The story of my life, google?
The answer is really simple, keep it business casual. After having visited several different open houses I can say you should dress to impress. Maybe its my own judgements but I always seem to notice the other students who look well put together. I would suggest not wearing uncomfortable shoes, last year when touring Howard they took us on a long walk and I can imagine that wouldn’t have been comfortable. Also please restrain yourself from wearing perfume, you usually end up in a small room and I can see how that would be obnoxious, especially for someone like myself who is allergic to perfume.
I wore a button up dress shirt, slacks and some wedges, kept it light with the jewelry and makeup and wore my hair down.
2. Who will be there?
Faculty and other interested students and if you’re lucky the admissions board or at least someone who sits on the admission board. The other students always seem as nervous and unsure about the entire thing, I’ve met a few cool people at open houses and it’s always nice to strike up a conversation with someone while you wait around. Usually before the whole thing starts , wouldn’t suggest this during the open house, that would be rude.
What always surprises me is all the students who travel from far away to come to a school. Very cool.
3. Should I practice an introduction?
Yes. GWU and most open houses I’ve gone to either start or end or ask somewhere in the middle about you, your name, what interested you in speech and what interested you about their particular program.
So yes, practice, the first time I was caught off guard and felt kinda silly for mumbling on about something, now I have some sort of idea about what I want to say so I am less nervous.
GWU in particular was more intimidating than a lot of the open houses I attended, I noticed that they give you name tags and glance at them a lot during the process. When they take you to the smaller rooms in the clinic, for the second part of the questions, they all had a packet and it seemed that when you asked questions or made conversation they would write something down by your name. I think it’s also a way for them to get to know their applicants. It a great way for them to get to know you and for you to make an impression.
4. What questions should I ask?
I would suggest bringing a small notebook or paper and pen and noting down some things during their presentation. Every school usually goes through sections, talks about their program and anything unique about their school.
GWU open house, the three times I’ve gone, usually hands out a copy of their courses and goes through sections about funding, the length of their program, their clinics etc and ask if anyone ha any questions in between these.
I did learn that they expanded their program this year and that they will be taking double the amount of students that they did last year.They are hiring all new faculty and have adjusted their funding which is super exciting.
It’s important to have a general list of questions that you want to know from all programs like:
- How does funding work?
- How many students do they fund from their incoming class?
- Are there any GA’s available, if so how do students get those? For GWU in particular they are based on merit and you apply for those when you apply for the school whereas UMD there are GA’s on the campus in other departments that you could potential apply for.
- What is the student to faculty ratio?
- Do they offer opportunities to do research? If that is something that interested you
- Is there a thesis option?
- Do they have an in-house clinic and how do their externships work?
- What is their PRAXIS passing rate, CFY and employment after graduate rates?
- What makes your school program unique, or what draws the student to choosing this program over others? -one of my favorite questions
Asking questions is a great way to distinguish yourself and to seem really interested and knowledgeable about what you’re talking about. Most of the information for any program is really available online so its good to take a look and make sure you know about their program.
5. What information should I know?
You should do research before attending any open house. GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND. Find out who their faculty is , what they do , what do they do research in, where are they from?
More than likely these faculty members will come by and either talk or say hi or sit in on your questions sessions. It would also be important to identify with someone who does research in something you’re interested in. A lot of schools welcome you to come talk to faculty after the open house, get to know them or pull them aside to ask a few questions.
What interested me the most in GWU was that they actually have 8 clinics that students rotate in. Apparently its one of few or the only clinic in the country that offers this. It’s a unique experience for students because they get to see and experience a lot of different cases and scenarios they might not experience at another school. Also because GWU is in DC you get exposed a variety of cultures and people. The diversity of the population really make it a selling point and a great program to be a part of.
6.Who should I talk to?
Everyone that you have an opportunity to talk to. It may seem like you don’t want to be a brown noser but its your only chance to really get to talk to someone from the school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask someone if you can email them later if you have any other questions. The faculty at GWU was amazing, they were so open to questions about anything really, even including living in the area, the city and the people and favorite places for lunch.
GWU had two different session for questions, one with everyone and then they split us up into people who were interested in the post-bacc and those who were interested in becoming first year students. This was more intimate and really was all about asking questions.
7.How do I make my interest in the school known?
Pull them aside or wait until the open house is done to tell them or if you’re like me send them a thank you email and tell them how that school is your first choice.
After my open house last season I found myself at the door of one of the faculty at UMD and asked about opportunities to do research as a volunteer. Most faculty will ask you to email them or if they don’t have an opportunity might know about another faculty member, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Most faculty seem receptive to an introduction, questions and follow-up emails. They can also help steer you in the right direction if you have any other questions.
My Tips for GWU open house:
- Arrive early and don’t drive. The parking and traffic in foggy bottom is crazy, it’s almost impossible to find parking, the campus is also very metro accessible if you want to metro.
- Have an intro ready and make sure you have some good questions prepared.
- Know about the program specifics, funding, research and any faculty that interested you
- Be prepared for awkward silences and for people to write things down after you talk. They really want the students to be engaged and ask questions, if you don’t have any or no one does they will sit there in silence and stare at you.
- Know the faculty-its been different the few times I’ve gone. GOOGLE them.
- They’ve always had a nice array of snacks and water which was very nice.