University of Pittsburgh

Winter in Pittsburgh

Show Your Stuff

In some places, you can hardly tell that winter arrives—the palm trees in Southern California stay green, and the air is balmy.  In Pittsburgh, winter arrives when the trees have lost all their leaves and stand up gray against the opal sky.  But there’s much to take the sting out of February, the cruelest month—the month that applications are due! 

Selling Yourself

Sending in your applications is like putting your best foot forward.  You’ve told them who you are, and now you wait to see whether who you are is who they need.  Waiting is only torture is you think about nothing else.  The key in Pittsburgh is to stay busy, even if there’s snow falling from the sky.

Luckily, an electronic application process can keep you from making too many hazardous trips to the post office, and the department secretaries, always accessible by email, can keep you informed about the admissions process.  But don’t forget that they are busy people—they like to be appreciated for the work they do.  Make your department’s graduate secretary into your friend, and you’ll suddenly find the world is an easier place to be. 

Planning a Visit

What happens if the waiting really gets to you?  Decide to do something about it!  Many schools and departments encourage you to visit campus before admissions decisions are made.  Who knows—perhaps your winning personality and down-to-earth manner will make the difference, and you’ll be the one selected for a whole new life!  Find out about your department’s policy, and figure out a way to make a visit.  Not only will you make a personal impression on faculty members, but you’ll also get the chance to meet other grad students face to face.  There may even be a free lunch as part of the deal. 

Plus, if you visit Pittsburgh in February, you’ll see the best and worst the city has to offer.  There’s no better time to get a realistic picture of life in your new home-to-be, cold, quiet, beautiful mornings give way to the excitement of a snowy day, often without that pesky multi-inch accumulation.  Winter in Pittsburgh often means lots of snow, but few headaches getting around.

And the sledding is legendary!  With so many neighborhoods tucked in and around the rolling hills, and green space galore, it’s a safe bet that there’s an absolutely thrilling and terrifying sledding hill down the street from your house. 

Tropics Close To Home

Pittsburgh also boasts another special treat in winter.  Pitt students get free admission to the Phipps Conservatory, a botanical paradise where it actually feels like summer in the Desert Room, and looks like a tropical paradise in the Thai Forest.  Chrysanthemums as big as your head grace the interior of this Victorian-style greenhouse.  If winter drives you mad, spending a day at Phipps, with its delicious café and warm, green embrace will make you feel rejuvenated.  And it’s only a few blocks from campus. 

Warm You Up

But if you’d rather revel in an icy wonderland, ice skating at PPG Plaza downtown or tramping through South Side during the Midwinter Soup Contest may be your bag.  The Soup Contest is like a warm hug in the middle of winter—merchants compete for prizes based on your votes for the best soup.  They want you to come and eat for free!  It’s enough to make you think you’re dreaming, by the time you get home, you’ll be full and ready for a nice fat nap.

And for the ultimate in grad student comfort, stop by Dozen Cupcakes in Lawrenceville for a warm cup of java and one of their outstanding cupcakes.  The Elvis is a particular favorite.  Enjoy...