Some people love the idea of a graduate school open house.
Or so I’m told.
I am not one of those people. If you rewind the tape back to an hour before I attended my first open house last year, you’d catch me giving myself a Blind Side style inspirational speech. It’s a lot of pressure! An Open House is the equivalent of a first date, except you want to get married and they don’t know your name yet.
At least that was the mindset I had a year ago. And then I went to the BU, BC, MSPP, Harvard, Adler and Columbia open houses. Here is what I took away.
5 RULES TO SURVIVING AN OPEN HOUSE
Rule #1: MAKE A FRIEND
The best advice I ever heard was this: make a friend when you walk in. Walk over to the bagels, mention something about cream cheese, and break that ice. As soon as you have one person to talk to, the room isn’t as big anymore. And those conversations may end up being the most valuable part of the day.
Rule #2: ASK A QUESTION
Ask anything. Even “Where are the bathrooms?” counts. Like #1, the point here is to get comfortable seeing what happens when you engage in this new environment. You want to find a place that encourages you to speak up- so test the waters a bit! This isn’t a museum. It’s a potential setting for the next phase of your life.
Rule #3: …BUT DON’T BE THAT GUY
The guy (or girl) who keeps talking to hear their own voice. You know him as the one who asks a ridiculously long-winded, specific question (or is it a summary of his resume?) that only applies to his exact situation. Other “that guy” markers: asking questions during group sessions that Google could easily answer or letting you know how far ahead he is in the application process.
The difference between #2 and #3 often comes down to timing. Ask the small questions offline, rather than in a group.
Rule #4: BE ON YOUR BETTER BEHAVIOR
Business casual is always a safe bet for clothes and humor. Put your cell on silent. Be respectful to the space around you by taking care of your trash (you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this). Don’t trash talk other programs. Don’t brag; you want friends, not admirers.
Rule #5: KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Keep an open mind walking in. At this point in life you’ve probably realized things aren’t always what they appear on the internet. So take in how the students act, how you feel asking questions, and what the campus space is like.
Maybe you’ll walk away knowing it is exactly what you want.
Maybe you’ll be exhausted and need more time to think.
Either is legitimate. Thumbs up to you for surviving an open house!
Meredith Dreman is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Prevention Science and Practice Program. She is passionate about psychology and reframing the perception of mental health. She loves stories, odd connections, strong coffee and Google Calendar.