Tips for Finding the Perfect (Grad School) Match

Graduation season is once again upon us. As students all across the country complete their senior year in high school and head off to college, thousands of college students are turning their thoughts to their own post-graduate plans. For many, an advanced degree may be on the horizon.

While we hear much about undergraduate college tours and a variety of other ways parents and counselors help their high school students find the right fit for college, we don't hear as much about graduate school resources.

Over the years, I've had a number of college students ask me if I have any advice to share about how to pick out the right grad program, so I thought it's a good time to share my top three tips for finding the right graduate school.

1. Create Campus Connections

Research from the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals shows that grad schools that do more to engage students have more success in enrolling them. As a result, many schools are making it easier for you to create a connection with them. For example, the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia State University has even built a direct inquiry page. This special features allows prospective students to have a connection to faculty without hassles. So don't be intimidated. Reach out to a professor, the dean and/or the director of grad school admissions directly through email and phone. See if they take the time to get to know you and use the interactions to help gauge if the school could be a possible fit.

2. Make-a-Match

Students thinking about graduate school should also consider using a free service such as Gradschoolmatch; it uses a one-of-a-kind process similar to online dating. The service allows students to reach out to interested program administrators and then start a two-way conversation. It also uses an algorithm that matches students with graduate programs. Grad schools can also highlight their academic fields, rankings, stipends, scholarships, application deadlines and other details. The founders say it's the online version of a graduate school fair.

3. Toot That Horn!

If you are applying for an intense science or medical program, highlight the research you have conducted as an undergrad. Grad student Alyssa Rodriguez got into Vanderbilt's biomedical sciences program after her first attempts to get admitted anywhere were unsuccessful. "On the second try, I did have work experience, which looked good. But what really made the difference was the ability to highlight the amount and variety of my research work on my online profile...I feel that was easily overlooked in the traditional application process."

Whatever your intended field, these days so many digital tools and resources exist for you to create a stellar portfolio of your work; look for one that is right for you.

Have you tried any of these tips or perhaps created some top tips of your own? What has worked for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.