How to Choose the RIGHT Graduate School

Right Graduate SchoolWe couldn’t do our national survey of current graduate students without asking our respondents to reflect on their grad school search experience and to give some advice to the next generation of grad students on how to choose the right graduate school.

Nearly half of our respondents indicate that knowing what they know now, they would change the way they researched grad schools. And while the majority of our sample is satisfied in their current grad program, a quarter of our respondents indicate they wish they had chosen a different grad school/program or decided not to pursue a graduate degree at all.

So with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, what do current graduate students recommend to prospective students for choosing the right graduate school?

Our respondents indicate that in addition to spending time researching program/school websites, the following three things are the most critical to choosing the BEST grad school for you:

  1. Contact program faculty/staff

82% of the current graduate students surveyed indicated that communicating directly with program administrators or program faculty would have improved their ability to make an informed decision about graduate school and prospective graduate programs. Grad students indicate these interactions were not only influential in deciding which programs to apply to but also affected their final decision of which program to attend.

  1. Contact current/former graduate students

While many prospective grad students consider communicating with program faculty far fewer reach out to current/former grad students at programs they are interested in. This is a mistake! Current and former graduate students may be the best resource for determining which faculty to consider working with, understanding the academic/social environment and even for getting tips/suggestions on how to make your application stand out!

This is likely why nearly 90% of our respondents indicated that communicating directly with current or former graduate students would have improved their ability to make an informed decision about graduate school and prospective graduate programs.

  1. Seek advice from academic professors/mentors

Lastly, our respondents suggest seeking advice from academic professors/mentors. Tapping into these resources would be a great way to learn about a program or a field you know little about. And while our respondents do recommend seeking advice from professors and/or mentors from your undergrad institution, less than a third of students found their Career Services Advisors and/or On-Campus Academic Advising Offices useful in their graduate school search.

We at Gradschoolmatch are not surprised by these responses! We have always seen the value in direct communication between prospective grad students and faculty, admins and students. That is why facilitating communication between student and program is at the core of what happens on

So get matchin!


Check out the other articles on our current graduate student survey:

Survey of Current Graduate Students

Graduate Student Survey – Demographics and Fields of Study

Students Don’t Apply to Many Graduate Programs

Getting Into Grad School – How to Improve Your Chances

Are Grad Students Happy?


Getting Into Grad School – How to Improve Your Chances

One of the most frequently asked questions of any prospective graduate student, is “How can I improve my chances for getting into grad school?” While there is no single answer to that question, our national survey of current graduate student offers one suggestion: wait to apply.

Respondents from our graduate student survey report taking an average of two years between graduating college and beginning their first graduate program. When divided across program type, the average number of gap years is slightly lower for Certificate and Doctoral students at 1.3 and 1.6 years respectively, whereas current Dual-degree and Masters students take an average of 2.5 and 2.8 years, respectively.

As can be seen in the figure, students with more gap years, the time between college and graduate school, had higher average acceptance rates. This effect can likely be attributed to the fact that students with multiple years out of college also have multiple years of work experience and a larger skillset in their field of interest, which is very important in the evaluation of applicants.

While at first glance this may seem discouraging for students planning to enter graduate school immediately after graduation, it should rather be seen as a learning opportunity. It is well known that graduate programs are looking for candidates committed to their choice of study and fully aware of, and prepared for the task ahead.

Although students with additional years of experience in their chosen field may have a leg up when it comes to skillset and proving a commitment to their chosen path, those who wish to start grad school right after the baccalaureate do have some options! If you are not planning to take a gap, be sure to use your college years wisely. In addition to taking and excelling in your relevant coursework, plan your extracurricular activities accordingly and in advance.

Gain useful skills while spending summers and holiday breaks getting your feet wet in your chosen field. For example, if you want to do research in graduate school, gain research experience as an undergrad. This can go a long way to showing graduate schools just how well informed and committed you are.

Work experiences help you become more knowledgeable about your prospective career path. Talk to current graduate students, faculty or professionals in your field. Educate yourself on the challenges and difficulties you might face in your journey. These additional experiences and thoughtfulness will not only help you ace your interview and with the dreaded task of writing your personal statement, but they will certainly improve your chances for getting into grad school!


Check out the other articles on our current graduate student survey:

Survey of Current Graduate Students

Graduate Student Survey – Demographics and Fields of Study

Students Don’t Apply to Many Graduate Programs

Are Grad Students Happy?

How to Choose the RIGHT Graduate School


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, 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, 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!


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)


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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

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