Gradschoolmatch.com helps pair students, graduate programs

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Feb. 26, 2013

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(From left) Jordan Hamlin, an Oxford College graduate, T.J. Murphy, associate professor in Emory's Department of Pharmacology, and Brian Clark, who earned his master's degree in Emory's molecular and systems pharmacology program, have teamed to launch Gradschoolmatch.com. Photo by Katie Blue, Blue Prints Photography.

If frustration breeds innovation, count T.J. Murphy as inspired.  

As a graduate recruiter for Emory's doctoral program in Molecular and Systems Pharmacology, Murphy assumed the role of an academic matchmaker, responsible for locating prospective applicants who offered a good fit.  

But the search process left him with a nagging question: How to bring together promising young scholars with the graduate programs best suited for them?  

"Pharmacology is not a program that is typically taught at the undergraduate level, so it's the rare student who even knows the program exists, which is true of many graduate programs," explains Murphy, a research biologist and associate professor in Emory's Department of Pharmacology.  

"I knew students were out there, and I could convince them to apply to the program — if only I could find them," he says.  

Simplifying the grad school search

Murphy recalls a complicated, inefficient process: Programs paid money to purchase mailing lists, looking for students, for instance, who had recently taken their GREs (Graduate Record Exams). But by that time, those prospective students had usually already chosen a graduate program.  

And students were often spending a significant amount of money to cast a wide net, applying to multiple schools — at $50-$75 per application — in an effort to pinpoint the best programs.  

The researcher within him pressed for a solution. And now, he's partnered with one of his former master's degree students — Emory graduate Brian Clark — to create a tool that he believes offers just that.  

Meet Gradschoolmatch.com, an interactive platform that helps students and graduate programs find each other.  

"It's kind of modeled after the dating websites, with a custom search engine that makes it easier to match programs and students with similar interests," Murphy says of the self-funded venture. "It's structured to work like a clearinghouse and covers every field."  

Staying connected is a just click away  

The website, which debuted in January, allows students and graduate programs to create searchable profiles based upon their own interests and needs, explains Murphy, who has an equity interest in the venture.

Prospective students can post biographies, research interests, career plans and academic profiles for free. Users can "bookmark" a graduate program profile to signal that they're interested in learning more or send private messages to recruiters.  

But to discover what programs are interested in them, they have to pay a subscription fee of about $30. Narrowing the field of focus for graduate school can also be a money saver for students, who may be able to avoid the cost of multiple application fees.  This fee is a way to ensure programs are dealing with serious prospects, and not people creating spoof accounts.  

Graduate programs may subscribe for $195 a year, which allows them to search for students by location or academic interests, tracking prospects and making contact. Schools can also use the site to help locate prospective interns and research assistants.  

For recruiters, that's a bargain, Murphy says. "They might be spending thousands of dollars otherwise. There's no other place we're aware of where a program can find a student like this, offering this kind of connectivity in simple, one-click ways to let them know you're out there."  

Grad schools, students can browse profiles  

Gradschoolmatch.com currently offers a searchable database of some 40,000 graduate programs. "We call them our seed programs,'' Murphy says. "We want directors of those seed programs — or recruiters — to eventually adopt their profile and provide more information."  

Students, he adds, are signing up daily. "They just find us," he says. "We know they're already on the site bookmarking all kinds of programs and kicking emails to those programs alerting them that someone is interested."  

Clark, a 2010 graduate in Emory's molecular and systems pharmacology program, had previously worked with Murphy in a research setting. After he graduated, Murphy asked Clark if he would be interested in developing his idea.  

The idea hit home to Clark. As an undergraduate, he'd played baseball at the University of Alabama and recalls being recruited by several colleges. "That didn't happen for graduate school," he says. "I remember thinking, ‘Why didn't anyone reach out to me?' What I found out was that no one was doing that."  

He also remembers just how difficult it had been to search for graduate programs and likes the idea of simplifying the process: "Every (college) website is different, each program has its own look and feel. A lot of the time you feel like you're comparing apples to oranges. You might know what you want, but it's not very efficient to find it," Clark says.  

"What we want to do is give students and programs consistent information and make it easier for each student to compare apples to apples."