Brian Clark, a scholar-athlete, had been a standout baseball player in high school leading his team to a statewide championship with a batting average of .427.
Quite naturally, he got used to meeting with coaches and recruiters and ended up at the University of Alabama where he graduated magna cum laude in the field of biological sciences while competing as a student-athlete and varsity letterman.
He managed to maintain a commitment to both biology and baseball when he pursued a master’s degree in the graduate division of biological and biomedical sciences at Emory University. While conducting research in the Department of Cardiology he also served as an assistant baseball coach.
But it was his interest in pharmacology, not sports, that proved to be the foundation for his friendship with TJ Murphy, an associate professor at Emory’s School of Medicine who teaches in the Department of Pharmacology, which grew stronger when they started playing golf together.
While walking from green to green, they talked about how difficult it is to find students with interests and capabilities that would lead them to careers where they could investigate their interests such as how vascular smooth muscle and endothelial cells play a crucial role in vascular pathogenesis.
The two of them realized that their problem was not that there weren’t enough students in the world with their biological interests. The problem was how to find them.
“We turned into golf buddies,” Mr. Clark told Global Atlanta while describing the origin of their collaboration in 2014. “He spoke of his frustration in finding prospective students, the ones that he wanted.”
Unlike baseball recruiting, he said, it was difficult for the professor “to develop the relationships, the face-to-face meetings” of the sort that they wanted in the selection process.
As good scientists, they began to explore ways to solve the problem. Inevitably they thought of the analogy to on-line dating, and their email campaigns led them to a realization that there were frustrations on both ends of the recruiting spectrum.
The universities wanted broader nets to reach out to prospective students around the world, while students were equally frustrated in finding the right institution for their studies.
Their joint efforts led eventually to the creation of gradschoolmatch.com a platform for graduate programs to provide an efficient way for prospective graduate students and graduate programs to search, be discovered and connect.
From the prospective students’ perspective Gradschoolmatch enables them to learn about graduate programs they might never have heard of even with an extensive google search. And from the schools’ perspective, it introduces them to students seeking their offerings from all over the world.
The prospective students provide information about themselves by filling out their profiles online including their majors, grade point averages, work history and their future academic interests.
Once the student notifies the school that it is interested, the school may respond if it feels there is a good fit and schools have cited the added benefit that the service enables them to seek out students who may not have been aware of their existence.
“The graduate schools have had a hard time converting prospects to applicants and that’s where Gradschoolmatch come in,” Dr. Murphy said allowing them to follow up with a broader range of students.
Dr. Murphy and Mr. Clark have opened their “world headquarters” in downtown Decatur, but to extend their reach they partnered with the Atlanta-based Golden Key International Honour Society, which has more than 400 chapters at colleges and universities in eight countries including Australia, Canada, the Bahanas, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, in addition to the United States.
Membership into the society is offered to undergraduate and graduate students recognized to be among the top 15 percent of their class by grade point average.
“Students that want to go to graduate school generally come from a pool of accomplished students of this sort,” Dr. Murphy said, explaining that the honor society and other similar organizations have turned out to be ideal partners to fuel their enterprise.
The service offers direct links to 49,413 graduate programs while holding profiles of almost 400,000 prospective students, a number that grows daily.
While the graduate programs encompass a wide variety of fields, Dr. Murphy said that some programs were more active in their follow ups, and he cited the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University as having been particularly successful in this regard.
Gillian Barlow, Robinson College’s assistant director of Integrated Graduate Student Services – Financial Cluster, confirmed that the service has provided substantial benefit to the college’s established recruitment efforts. It also has enabled the college to expand its reach globally, and now attracts 40 percent of the financial clusters’ student body from overseas.
Overall, Robinson College has an enrollment, according to 2015 figures, of 7,805 students. Overseas student percentages are 3 percent for bachelor’s, 8 percent for master’s, 36 percent-plus for specialized master’s and 74 percent for doctoral degrees.
Georgia State’s College of Arts and Sciences has gone so far as to build a direct inquiry page on its website to Gradschoolmatch. To access the site, click here.
In addition to Georgia State University, graduate programs from over 100 other universities use Gradschoolmatch to guide and recruit prospects, including the Murphy Lab at Emory University, IE in Madrid, Spain, Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia, the University of Arizona, Columbia University, and many more.
There is no cost for students to use Grandschoolmatch, and the schools can select from a range of price points averaging $295 per month.