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In addition to testing, preparing, and submitting the actual application, some schools (med, law, you know how it goes by now) will ask you to interview. The type of interview is really dependent on the program—sometimes you can do it over Skype or the phone. But for a lot of fancy-pants programs (especially med schools), you’ll oftentimes have to travel to the school in person.

Travelling to campus for your interview should be super exciting—you’ll get a feel for the place where you’ll potentially be spending the next few years. But it can also be very kind of stressful at the same time.

It can be difficult to balance these out-of-town trips with your regular school commitments, especially when you factor in the fact that you’ll probably have to spend a sizeable amount of time en route. Here’s what you should plan and consider before setting out.

Budget (and bond?)

Sometimes the schools you’re visiting will cover part of your travel and living expenses, but in case they don’t, make sure to be smart about how you use your money. If you have pals on the campus you’re visiting, see if you can crash with them. They can also swipe you into their dining hall or show you where to get cheap eats (which saves even more $$$).

In addition to saving money, having someone around who knows the campus is helpful. They can pick you up when you get to the city and show you where buildings are, which eases a little bit of stress. By hanging with your pals, you’re not only making your interview but also having an impromptu bonding sesh (but remember not to have too much fun).

If you’re going to be heading into the jungle alone, the sooner you figure out your travel arrangements the better—that way, you can save a bit on travel fare and a hotel room. Take into account how many schools you’ll actually have to visit in one trip and set up an ideal budget for each one based on how long you’ll be staying, when you will be there, etc.

Travel timing

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: The longer it takes to get to your intended destination, the cheaper it’ll probably be (so a bus is cheaper than a train, which is cheaper than a plane, which is cheaper than a personal jet). Taking the bus isn’t that much of a drag, since you can always sleep or do work in those few spare hours. Megabus has a $5 student discount, and signing up for BoltBus Rewards allows you to get a free ticket every eight trips. If you’re taking the train instead, Amtrak has a 15% student discount on select tickets.

No matter what mode of transportation you’re taking, try to buy your tix ASAP. You’re probably not going to find out about your interviews too far in advance, but you can at least try to find the best times available.

Balancing your burden

If you absolutely have to miss class, make sure it’ll be an easy one to make up. Avoid missing classes that factor attendance into your grade (or save your allotted number of allowed unexcused absences for interview season, instead of using your absences on days when you just feel too lazy to make the trek to class). When attendance isn’t a problem, the next thing to think about is which classes post lecture notes.

In that same vein, make sure you’re using your time wisely. Try to get work done in advance and to make use of travel and downtime as best you can. When all else fails, just go to your professor and explain the situation—these people are academics and probably won’t be too upset that you’re missing a class or two in order to pursue an even higher education.

Utilize good time management and budgeting skills to make everything outside of the interview itself flow as smoothly as possible. That way you can focus on what’s really important—acing that interview!

Have any tips for hacking the grad school interview? Have any interview horror stories? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Victoria Yang is a SEAS first-year and Spectrum staff writer. Thinking about grad school makes her stressed. Reach her at victoria.yang@columbiaspectator.com

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