“The Right Match”: How Gradschoolmatch Launched One Student’s Career

The Right Match (Diverse Issues in Higher Education, September 8, 2016).

Student who found perfect match in her new graduate program.
Source: Diverse Issues in Higher Education

“The first time Alyssa Rodriguez applied to graduate school, she ended up being waitlisted. But when no spot opened up, she began work as an associate scientist at a small biopharmaceutical company in San Diego.

“My original plan was to work in [the] industry for at least two years and then apply to graduate school again,” says Rodriguez, who graduated from the University of San Diego in 2015 with a degree in biochemistry. Once I had accepted the fact that I would not be starting graduate school in fall 2015, I started my graduate school research once again that summer.”

Only this time around, Rodriguez discovered and ultimately decided to use GradSchoolMatch.com – a new website that seeks to match prospective grad school students with graduate schools.

It only took a day before Rodriguez started to see results.

“The next day, I checked my profile and was very surprised to see that I had already received messages from various graduate school program directors,” Rodriguez says. “I was in such shock that I shared the news with my mom that programs were interested in my profile.”

Rodriguez says what surprised her the most was that she could clearly see that the messages were “not spam and that truly there were assistant deans and directors on the other end of the message.”

One of those messages came from Beth Bowman, assistant director of graduate programs in biomedical sciences at Vanderbilt University.

Bowman considers GradSchoolMatch.com a “fantastic avenue for graduate programs to get to know individual candidates in the global applicant pool.”

“This sort of individual communication not only allows programs to showcase what they have to offer, but also allows a program to individualize their communication to a specific student,” Bowman says. “Personal recruiting is the best avenue to bring students to any program and GradSchoolMatch makes this ideal recruiting strategy a reality.”

Asked if the website was simply a nice thing to have or a necessity to attract and engage candidates, Bowman says: “I think more and more, this site is getting close to being a necessity for graduate program recruiting for any program interested in getting to know their applicants.

“These days, there are so many programs on the site that a student may miss out on a program that doesn’t have a presence here.”

Bowman says the website – which is free to students – helps facilitate the diversity of candidates as well.

“In my mind, this site helps to promote diversity of candidates in the program simply by being a free site and avenue for programs and candidates to get to know each other,” Bowman says. “This helps to remove any cost barrier that is typically present in a graduate program application process.”

Bowman says the website has helped Vanderbilt by increasing the number of candidates that the school can communicate with during the application process. “We are pleased to be able to pick the candidates that fit our program best,” Bowman says.

Inside the site

GradSchoolMatch.com was started by T.J. Murphy, an associate professor of pharmacology at Emory University.

He says that the website has around 400,000 user profiles and that the number is growing daily. About 30 percent of the student users are underrepresented minorities and about 20 percent are from overseas, he says.

The students come from a range of academic disciplines and specializations, Murphy says.”

Please click here to read the complete article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education (September 8, 2016).


Gradschoolmatch News Feed to Better Connect Students and Programs

Previously on Gradschoolmatch, users could log in, find what they are looking for and even communicate, but never had a sense of the constant, ongoing interaction between other students and the programs elsewhere on our platform.

With new updates to the Gradschoolmatch.com, including an interactive news feed, the dynamic nature of the interactions between programs and student prospects is more visible and engaging.

We’re excited to offer the first iteration of our infinitely scrolling news feed, similar to those that could be found on many popular social networking sites. When a student or program administrator logs into their Gradschoolmatch profile, on their home page they will see a continues feed that updates as the site is used by others.

Students will be able to see when other students on Gradschoolmatch bookmark a program, when a program bookmarks a student, and when a student or program updates their profile. The news feed has already become another node on Gradschoolmatch where active exploration occurs. Whether you are a student or director, the news feed can point you to users who are active and engaged.

Users can filter their news feed by academic field; for example, students can see all activity on Gradschoolmatch.com, or only look at activity from students and programs in a specific field that interests them, whether its Architecture or Engineering or something else.

Take a look at the new and improved news feed feature on Gradschoolmatch!

gradschoolmatch news feed


Make sure to fill out your profile as completely as possible to ensure that you’re getting the best, most relevant matches. In the upper left corner of your student profile, you’ll be able to see your percentage of profile completion; the more information, the better your matches! When you make an update to your profile, other prospective students on Gradschoolmatch will be able to see your updates and view your profile.

profile completion gradschoolmatch news feed

Check out the “Things to Do” section of your profile on the top right to view your matches, search for programs, and take a look at the programs you’ve bookmarked. Don’t forget to read more articles on the Gradschoolmatch blog for tips and tricks on navigating the application process and succeeding in grad school!

gradschoolmatch news feed

Like the look and feel of our news feed? Get started searching for and matching with over 30,000 graduate programs on Gradschoolmatch today!


How To Recruit The Best Grad School Candidates On A Budget

Does your program want to recruit the best grad school students, but lacks the financial resources to do so? Specialized graduate programs often face the challenge of limited marketing budgets, a need to recruit nationally or even worldwide, and don’t have the infrastructure in place to reach the right audience of prospective students.

MBA programs typically do an excellent job of fostering relationships with students and bringing in a wide pool of applicants. However, MBA programs often have access to funds that smaller, more niche masters programs don’t have available.

How can resource-strapped masters programs recruit the best grad school students on a budget?

Focus on Precision, Not Scale

Many graduate programs seek to bring in hundreds of applicants, despite a small number of actual spots available. By attracting a large number of applicants and only selecting a handful, the program appears to be more selective, and therefore more appealing to students looking for a top program.

While scale hypothetically allows programs to choose from the best and brightest, focusing on scale is not the most cost-effective way to recruit the best students.

Programs with big budgets spend significant time and money on tools like Google AdWords to cast a wide net and bring awareness to as many students as possible. This practice is costly, and doesn’t necessarily yield the most qualified, interested applicants.

By honing focus on the right students, programs will spend less time and resources sifting through hundreds of applicants, and will have a smaller, more targeted pool of pre-qualified candidates from which to choose.

Boost Alumni Involvement

Alumni are not only a great source from which to gain donations, but they’re an excellent resource to assist in your program’s recruiting efforts, in which success is relationship driven. Use your program alumni to your advantage; have your alumni use their personal and professional networks to recruit on your program’s behalf.

Seek donations from program alumni specifically for recruiting and scholarships to help welcome the next generations of students to their alma mater. It’s proven that satisfied former students give back to their universities and programs; Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business received donations from an impressive 67% of their MBA alumni in 2010, showing an extremely high level of alumni participation and engagement.

Not just business schools receive a large volume of alumni donations; of U.S News’ 2014 report of colleges and universities with the highest alumni donations, 8 of the top 10 were small liberal arts schools.

Alumni can also bring in job opportunities for current program students. With more and more prospective graduate students concerned about post-grad job placement, encouraging an active alumni community on your campus can help self-promote your program’s offerings.

Utilize Resources That Provide the Most Value for the Money

While it’s almost impossible to effectively recruit prospective students for free, there are a variety of ways to meet and engage students that provides the most bang for your buck.

Many small graduate programs participate in a variety of interactive conferences and workshops to find applicants and engage with a niche group of prospective students. While travel costs can often add up, these conferences provide an efficient way to meet a variety of interested potential applicants at one time.

While we admit that it’s a shameless plug, Gradschoolmatch.com is a great way to vet students to determine those to seek out and begin a conversation with.

Our platform appeals to those programs that seek a large volume of applicants; with over 227,000 students registered on Gradschoolmatch, it’s easy to find the students that your program is looking for.

However, if your program is looking for very specific students that fit a set of criteria, it’s easy to search for students by GPA, graduate year, and field of academic interest, thus eliminating students who don’t fit the bill.

Our platform is also very affordable; compared with Google AdWords, where the cost of keywords for programs in some fields can reach upwards of $30 per click, Gradschoolmatch offers highly targeted matching with students that you personally pre-qualify. Gradschoolmatch allows a higher level of control in the recruiting process, leading to better applicants and greater return-on-investment for your program.

Like this article? Sign up for Gradschoolmatch blog updates, and visit us at Gradschoolmatch.com to start recruiting the best and brightest future graduate students.


How Valuable is Work Experience Before Grad School?

As we showed in a recent article, only 16% of graduate students immediately continue their education by enrolling in an advanced degree program straight out of their baccalaueate. Why do recent graduates shy away from a graduate education and go to work right out of school?

Many recent bachelor’s earners simply need a breather after four years of undergraduate work. Others are unsure of what path they want to take in graduate school, and aren’t willing to front the costs until more certain. A great reason for recent undergrads to delay an advanced degree is the desire to gain work experience due to the many personal and financial benefits that often result.

While work experience is not always required to apply to or succeed in postgraduate education, prospective students often underestimate how important it is when competing for increasingly more coveted seats in graduate school.


Why Does Work Experience Before Grad School Matter?

While not all master’s programs require work experience in order to be considered, it often gives candidates applying to competitive programs a serious edge.

For example, if you plan on getting your MBA, you can bank on needing work experience prior to applying. While most full-time programs prefer candidates to come in with 1-2 years of experience, students entering top-tier business schools have on average at least 3 years of work experience. At the Wharton School of Business, whose MBA program is ranked 3rd in the nation, students enter the program with a whopping 5-6 years of prior work experience.

In MBA programs, as well as many other master’s and Ph.D. programs, work experience is a differentiating factor in the admissions process. Program admissions directors use work experiences as a way to measure an applicant’s motivation for the field of study, and ensure they aren’t someone just experimenting with an idea that seems interesting.

Savvy applicants understand that program recruiters are looking for highly qualified candidates with work experience that sets them apart from the pack. Relevant work experience is also valuable to graduate programs because it adds depth and enriches the learning environment; if you don’t have any, you’re at a disadvantage because you are competing with peers who are more attractive in the admissions race.

Take it from Robert Farrington, a renowned expert on personal finance and college. His advice?

“Getting an MBA [is about] combining the degree with work experience. That’s what makes it extremely valuable. When I went to grad school, I was the youngest in my class. While this was amazing from a networking and learning perspective, I couldn’t contribute as much as others.”


Make It Count- Personal and Financial Benefits to Working Before Graduate School

It’s no secret that graduate school can be expensive. For an average 1-2 year master’s program, you’re looking to get set back between $30-40k.

Additionally, time in grad school is opportunity cost to earn a salary. In order to be able to more comfortably pay for a graduate education when the time is right, consider working for a few years to financially support yourself when you won’t have a steady income as a student.

After working and gaining experience,  you’ll also be in a better position to compete for scholarships when you do apply for graduate programs.

Don’t forget- many employers will pay for a master’s degree after a certain amount of time spent with the company, especially if more schooling beefs up a skillset that will make you a better asset to the company. While you might be itching to stay in school and get your master’s, consider how great it would be to have it completely paid for by your employer just a few years down the road.


The Bottom Line of Gaining Work Experience Before Grad School

While you might not take your dream job directly following undergrad, working for a few years, being accepted to a stronger graduate program, and excelling in your graduate education can lead to more lucrative job opportunities down the road.

Remember, those who possess a master’s degree are likely to earn much more income in their lifetime than their bachelor’s degree counterparts…and those with doctorates even more. Think about what you can do with a bit of work experience and admission into a top-tier graduate program because of it!

Like this article? Sign up for Gradschoolmatch blog updates, and visit us at Gradschoolmatch.com to start matching with graduate programs for free.


Does University Pedigree Matter?

Most prospective graduate students have the same concerns when applying to programs. Will I be able to afford graduate school? What types of jobs can I find post graduation? Will this program ultimately propel my career?

When choosing which graduate programs to apply to, many students focus on university pedigree as a major factor in their decision-making process. Through references stemming from popular culture, as well as societal notions and norms that having a degree from a top university makes you more likely to succeed and get a great job, more and more students are becoming concerned with attending the best, highest ranked schools possible.

The Impact of Rankings on Application Decisions

University and program rankings have a large impact on student perceptions; most notably, the U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of Best Graduate Schools holds a lot of weight in the eyes of prospective graduate students.

According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, an improvement of one place in the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings leads to a 1 percent increase in the number of applications a university receives. While this statistically represents a small impact, the larger implications on both graduate schools and prospective applicants is significant.

Dr. Don Martin, a former admissions dean at schools including Columbia and Northwestern, says that students are relying too heavily on rankings to make their decision, and not enough on what they are actually looking to get out of the program they choose.

“Sometimes a student chooses a graduate program based solely on the name of the institution,” Dr. Martin said. “The student does not conduct any additional research whatsoever. It is little wonder than individuals who choose their graduate program this way are often unhappily surprised and severely disappointed.”

When Does University Pedigree Matter?

The importance of graduate program rankings and perceived university pedigree is especially evident amongst law schools. The U.S News annual ranking of the nation’s top law schools is considered to be the single most influential factor in prospective students choosing and applying to law schools. However, the data from the report shouldn’t be the deciding factor when students are applying.

Edward Poll, a nationally acclaimed law firm management consultant, believes students who don’t attend the top schools still end up at good law firms. “Law school is important. Which one you go to is important. But other than the top 10, it really doesn’t matter,” Poll said. He also states the importance of getting solid experience, as well as gaining insight from a mentor, in order to land a job.

MBA programs are also heavily influenced by ranking systems. Businessweek is the ranking authority for MBA programs nationwide; a good ranking has the potential to increase the number of applicants to the program, allowing for increased selectivity and yield. From this stems a variety of other desirable benefits, such as the caliber of companies that recruit from the program, as well as the amount of money donated by alumni.

Students are increasingly attracted to MBA programs that can provide strong networking and career opportunities, and therefore place a lot of emphasis on choosing highly ranked programs.

The Bottom Line

Prospective graduate and Ph.D. students are placing too much weight on university pedigree and program rankings, and not enough emphasis on the programs that will provide them with the best career opportunities in their chosen field. Financial considerations should also be top-of-mind for students laden with undergraduate debt.

“The old advice to go to the highest ranked law school is far more questionable now,” says University of Cincinnati law professor Paul Caron. “Students need to factor in the financial side of things. Law school tuition and debt loads, combined with fewer job prospects, make this more important than ever.”

Students should be viewing the graduate school application process from a more holistic approach to choose the program that is right for them personally and financially. While U.S. News & World Report rankings, in addition to other ranking platforms, do hold weight to some employers, critics still believe students should make the decision that is best for them.

Says Greg Brandes, Dean of Faculty at Concord Law School: “You’re relying on the [ratings] authors to weigh the factors that will affect your decision, and their criteria might not be yours.”

Like this article? Sign up for Gradschoolmatch blog updates, and visit us at Gradschoolmatch.com to start recruiting the best and brightest future graduate students.


Graduate School Timeline Infographic

If your program is marketing on campuses, you’re missing most of the people who are thinking about graduate school.  Since two-thirds of Gradschoolmatch’s users graduated prior to 2014, it is a better resource than you might imagine. They’re thinking about coming back to school….and you can find and influence them on Gradschoolmatch.

Check out our graduate school timeline infographic to better understand how, when, and why students are going to graduate school.

Grad School (2)


Like this article? Sign up for Gradschoolmatch blog updates, and visit us at Gradschoolmatch.com to start recruiting the best and brightest future graduate students.



Gradschoolmatch Survey

In order to better serve and understand both prospective graduate students and graduate program administrators on our site, Gradschoolmatch is conducting a survey of current graduate students.

Michelle Giddens, an intern serving as our newest member of the Gradschoolmatch team and a current 5th year Neuroscience Ph.D. student at Emory University, has been working hard to develop and implement this survey.

Michelle got involved with Gradschoolmatch because of her passion for helping prospective graduate students in their program search.

As a double major in biology and psychology, Michelle decided to pursue her interest in research and the brain through a cognitive psychology graduate program.  As a student in her Senior year of college, Michelle was overwhelmed and confused by the process of finding and applying to graduate school. During the interview process, Michelle spent a lot of time of talking to students and faculty about their daily activities and the nature of their work and she realized that her interests were much more aligned with a biological approach to studying the brain. With this revelation, Michelle decided to turn down her offers from the cognitive psychology programs and instead build her resume with work in the field of neuroscience while she prepared to apply to neuroscience graduate programs. Michelle used what she learned from her previous application experience to seek out the right schools, ultimately deciding on Emory University for her Ph.D. program.

Read some of Michelle’s tips from what she learned during the application process, as well as more about the Gradschoolmatch survey and the benefits it will provide for our users.


How did you get involved with Gradschoolmatch?

I met TJ Murphy, one of the co-founders of Gradschoolmatch, through the department of Pharmacology at Emory. I contacted TJ about Gradschoolmatch because I have so much advice that I would give my prospective graduate student self. I want to make sure that prospective graduate students can learn from the collective experience that current graduate students have, so they too can look back and be happy with the program they chose.


What is the most valuable lesson you learned from the grad school application process?

To be open minded to a lot of different possibilities. A coworker had recommended Emory to me when I was looking for neuroscience programs. I had never heard of Emory and was not too keen on moving to the south. However, the application was free and the breadth of faculty was unmatched so I applied. Thankfully I fell into the right program because I took a few risks, and I have been quite happy in both my program and Atlanta since!


What is some advice you would give to prospective graduate students?

Contact students and faculty! Had I interacted with actual cognitive psychology students/faculty before applying to graduate school, I would have realized that my interests were more aligned with Neuroscience. Though I learned a lot from my experience working as a technician in a neuroscience lab, I might have saved myself a few years in deciding what I wanted to do if I had more interaction with students and faculty.


Describe your main goals for the Gradschoolmatch survey.

This survey is a tool that will help Gradschoolmatch figure out what prospective graduate students need to be successful in their program search. I can tell you my story and maybe gather up the experience of my friends, but whatwe really need is an accurate perspective into the thought process of all graduate students. We want to know if the majority of students had trouble choosing their program. We want to know how many people ended up in a program that is a good fit and how many look back and realize that they would do things differently if they could. What we really want to know is what can be done to help students find their best graduate school match?

If we can get answers to these questions from the students themselves, Gradschoolmatch can help to make the graduate program search less confusing, and hopefully result in much happier and more successful students.

Look out for a blog post later this summer detailing some of the results from our survey, as well as how we are continuing to improve the graduate program search for both students and administrators here at Gradschoolmatch.com.

Like this article? Sign up for Gradschoolmatch blog updates, and visit us at Gradschoolmatch.com to start matching with graduate programs for free.