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Some advice

An organized department should handle most of the preparation for you in terms of setting up meetings with faculty, having graduate students around whom you could talk with, etc. When I was a graduate student, I was asked to reach out to potential grads in my area and tell them they could email me questions or meet to chat with me.

You should not worry about reading articles by faculty. You can ask what they're working on, though. In terms of what you could ask faculty, you could politely ask whether the faculty you might like to work with on a dissertation are planning to be at that department in the medium-to-long term future. For example, I straight up asked the professor who ended up being my dissertation adviser whether he was planning on staying, since he had moved around a bunch. The fact that he didn't mind such a direct question and the fact that we got along well was one reason I chose my school. Just try to gauge whether you will get along with the people who might end up being on your committee. Then ask grad students who work with those people how it's going.

Advanced grad student

Reading articles by faculty and asking about them is probably unnecessary (of course, if you were wanting to read the articles anyway, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt!). But they don't generally expect it. Remember, the visit is designed for students who are deciding whether or not to attend their program. You have already been accepted; now it is their turn to be assessed.

In my experience, in one-on-one conversations with faculty, they tend to ask questions about your writing sample and your interests just to get to know you better, and they expect to answer questions from you about the program.

The sorts of things I recommend asking faculty:
- more details on placement rates specifically in your intended subfield/with their advisees
- details about funding and fellowship and other opportunities
- whether there are often opportunities for independent teaching and/or what teaching training students get
- questions about program regulations, and/or about coursework (e.g., are you interested in taking classes outside of philosophy? might be good to know if this is something people typically do, and if those classes can count towards your coursework requirements)
- questions aimed at preparing yourself, e.g., do they have reading recommendations for your summer before you start, or other questions about what they notice successful grad students doing

As for the question of whether to email grad students ahead of time, it might depend on the type of visit. Some programs arrange individual visits for admitted students, while others will have an 'admissions week' or 'preview week' kind of thing, where all accepted (and perhaps also waitlisted) students are invited to come for a week or long weekend of events. If your visit is the former, yes, you might consider emailing a grad student and asking to arrange a chat, OR asking the person coordinating your visit how you can arrange to talk to current grad students. If your visit is the latter, there will likely be built-in opportunities to meet with current grad students (such as luncheons and so on). But this is certainly something you can ask about - programs do expect prospective students to want to talk to current students to get a sense of what a program is like.

I think in general you can be a bit more candid with grad students than with faculty, but use your best judgment. Grad students are not as incentivized to 'sell' the program, but it doesn't mean they'll be perfectly forthcoming about e.g. climate issues. Talk to multiple grad students about your program questions, to try to get a more representative sample, and maybe even overlap some questions you ask faculty, too. Ask questions about the department culture. Are there a lot of events? Are those events well-attended? Who works in my subfield, and what subfield-specific events/opportunities are there? What are x, y, z faculty members like? What is this prospective advisor like to work with? What's the travel funding situation for conferences? How long do people normally take to finish? Etc. Ask questions about the city (you're signing up to potentially live there for 5+ years, after all). Where do people live, what grocery stores are there, do people need cars or use public transit, what is the social scene like, are there things to do besides bars, etc... It's hard to give a straightforward list of questions to ask because everyone will have different priorities. But these are some categories of things, in any case.


Following up on some advice
Do not ask a faculty if they plan on being around. If they are planning on leaving, then they are probably not telling their colleagues. And they will assume that you have heard some rumor which they will not want spread. Faculty moves are a big deal.

No longer a grad student, Gott sei Dank

I’m not sure exactly what kind of campus visits the OP intends, and can think of two construals: (1) interviews of long- or short-listed potential grad candidates (i.e., the school is interviewing you), or (2) invitations to visit campus after acceptance (i.e., you are interviewing them). When I was a grad student hopeful, I had both, though type 1 were always remote (back in the Skype days).

If we’re talking about type 2, I would recommend not worrying about a thing in terms of prep. *They* are out to woo *you*! Read faculty articles if you want, but there are no expectations except that you’ll get a free trip, good conversation, and respectful treatment (a rarity in academia, not to mention grad school). You’ll want to know if students are happy, if placement is good, how the quality and cost of living are in this area, and what initial impressions the faculty make. (FWIW, I support those who suggest asking faculty whether they plan to stick around at that institution for the duration of your studies.)

If we’re talking about type 1, then I imagine that asking informed questions about faculty work would help one to stand out from the pack. But I’m also unsure of how much time or opportunity there would be to engage in that kind of conversation.

Some advice

I strongly disagree with @advice, if you are already accepted into the program. You are presumably considering programs based on the professors who you might end up working with. If that's a determining factor for you, and you want to know, then ask.

If you are waitlisted, maybe you should be more sneaky about it.

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