Students decide to go back to school for various reasons — from wanting to learn more to a chance for a higher salary — but how do you pick the right school for you? The wrong environment or program focus could ruin your chances of succeeding and cause you to become disinterested — quick.
However, it can also be frustrating from the other side.
Emory University Associate Professor T.J. Murphy, Ph.D., became disappointed by the recruiting process when he was asked to recruit students for the pharmacology department. There had to be a better way to recruit students who would be passionate about their chosen program. Murphy and one of his students, Brian Clark, founded Gradschoolmatch.com, a site that matches students with graduate programs based on their chosen criteria. Lead developer Jared Welch, who played baseball and was coached by Clark at Emory, joined shortly after.
They launched the beta version in 2013 with zero program subscribers and now, in version 2.0, Gradschoolmatch has hundreds of programs available and almost 400,000 student profiles.
Murphy talks to Hypepotamus about his revenue model and how he turned grad school recruiting into a dating-like service.
Why a graduate school matching program?
We believe graduate programs are the lifeblood of a university, so we help graduate programs find the best students while helping prospective students find the right fits for graduate school.
Gradschoolmatch’s one-of-a-kind messaging service allows prospective students to communicate directly with grad school faculty so they can get questions answered and start to build relationships. It uses algorithm that matches students with graduate programs. The system also allows programs to highlight their academic fields, rankings, stipends, scholarships, application deadlines and other details.
What’s your current funding status?
What problem are you solving?
Every year, over 1 million people have to reinvent how to apply to graduate school programs, hoping not to make a mistake. Meanwhile, most of the 50,000 programs out there struggle to get noticed by the types of people they’d most like to apply. The programs and the prospects are distributed all over the place. We bring programs and prospects together, making it easy for them to notice each other and get a sense of where they might belong. Programs can easily guide prospects while prospects can easily see the possibilities.
What’s GradSchoolMatch’s market impact?
People with graduate degrees, on average, are the most employable and highest paid workers in the economy. Graduate students are too often overlooked. Half of all baccalaureates eventually get a graduate degree. A third of all people enrolled in universities are in graduate programs. The best way to understand the impact is to imagine if every graduate student suddenly disappeared in a magic ‘poof’. Research, scholarship, and instruction at universities would grind to a halt. The schools would be decimated, and so too, would be the vast segments of the economy that are dependent upon these specialists and experts.
We charge universities a modest monthly subscription fee to use the website. Students use Gradschoolmatch for free.
How did you get the idea for it?
Actually, kind of sorta in a dream, but not exactly. As an Emory professor, I imagined getting on the internet to find prospects for his PhD program. Reversing the tables, so to speak, or at least making it bidirectional.
Although that sounds like a dating website, it is actually premised upon athletics recruiting. My son was starting to get some looks from college golf coaches, whereas Brian was a student at Emory. A college baseball coach recruits baseball players, not football players, and has a way to find the best. Graduate program faculty have the exact same need to find people with specialized talents and interests and can spot the best when they see them. Gradschoolmatch provides a way to find them precisely, and spot the good ones.
Who do you feel are your current competitors?
Nobody on the internet really offers both students and graduate programs what we offer. Graduate school advertising is mostly based on scale methods, pay per click, and hyper-low conversion rates. The scene is is dominated by business school programs and by for-profit universities. The vast majority of graduate programs don’t have the resources to play those games. Gradschoolmatch is intent casting; one-to-one marketing.
How does Atlanta weave into your story?
Georgia State University is our model client. Every one of their graduate programs has a profile on Gradschoolmatch, and most are using the app actively to recruit. We like to call GSU a sneaky good research university. GSU is almost under-appreciated locally, probably because of the big shadows cast by the behemoths Georgia Tech and Emory. But some really amazing things are going on at GSU’s graduate school space and the prospects they find on Gradschoolmatch are taking note.
They’re successfully attracting prospects from all over the country, and the world, across their full spectrum of graduate programs. A little bit here, a little bit there adds up to a big number. We’re happy for their success, and not only just because it proves our model works.
Atlanta in general is an attractive place for graduate students and is just a huge college town. For example, John Lewis’ 5th congressional district is #6 ranked district in terms of the amount of spending by universities within it. Institutions within the 5th Congressional District include Emory, Morehouse, GSU and Georgia Tech among others.
At that stratospheric ranking level, we’re looking at university spending is dominated by its research and healthcare activities. You can’t breath the words research and healthcare without talking about graduate students and people with advanced degrees.
Gradschoolmatch is also part of a growing edtech community in Atlanta, which includes firms like Campus Bubble, Hannon Hill, Student Bridge, and the recruiting firm InitialView, which has just set up an outpost in ATL.
Are you hiring right now?
We’re not exactly hiring right now, but we’re always interested in speaking to talented people to see if there’s a fit.