We are quickly approaching the phase of the admissions process where many of us will be visiting prospective graduate schools. The purpose of this thread is to gain ideas of how to make the most of this process. I have several questions, and hopefully these will spark some discussion that others find useful.
1 - How many professors are you contacting beforehand to arrange a chat with (if any)?
2 - Are you contacting current graduate students of prospective advisors? Or do you plan to just talk to those that are around the department as you bump into them?
3 - What questions do you intend to ask during these conversations in order to gauge the fit of the department?
The last question has several obvious answers. For example, one might ask how many graduate students fail to graduate on time, what are current trends in the research environment of the department, inside information regarding which professors are particularly good (or bad) advisors, and which may be available to take students in the next few years.
As for my answers to questions 1 and 2, I think I'll contact one to two professors at each school I visit, and will likely email one or two current graduate students in my area.
If you have different answers to these questions, or additional questions of your own, please add to the discussion!