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Having Universities come to you


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I honestly have no clue how to search for something like this which would normally be my first approach.  I know a few people that found the schools they ended up going to for grad studies by registering in some particular forum or website, having their information online, and then certain schools if interested are allowed to contact these students to advertise their programs and see if the student has any questions.  Unfortunately I have no idea of where to find one of these, or what search terms to use, but has anyone ever heard of them?  It sounds perfect for finding schools that are good, but don't reach it into the billion top 50 lists of MIT's and Caltechs of the world.  It's sort of an outreach program I guess?


Any help would be appreciated.


If it helps I'm trying for either biophysics (tentative since all bio and physics is self-taught and shaky) or materials science (my background) in either bioengineering/mimicry of materials, or nanofabrication.  But honestly this would be a good enough resource for anyone that it'd be cool to know about things for other fields as well.



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This isn't how it works, especially in the physics field. Most physics schools, especially not the Caltechs and MITs of the world, are not going to actively recruit students in this manner (that is, personally inviting you to apply) because, well, they don't need to.


One common way that prospective students do get advertisements from graduate programs is through ETS. When you register for the GRE, you can check a box that makes it sound like you will get information about graduate programs that might be of interest to you. However, what really happens is that you get on a mailing list for a mostly spam. All of the "graduate school info" I got turned out to be spam advertising programs completely out of my field (e.g. MBA programs when I wrote the Physics GRE and indicated that I was interested in Physics programs).


Many publications aimed at students might also have information on graduate programs. I used to volunteer with a student publication that was mostly funded by Physics department paying us to take out a small ad in our issues and once a year, we compile a listing of Canadian physics programs, with stats like # of students, # of faculty, average funding, any minimum GPA listed etc. Basically, something similar to gradschoolshopper but only for Physics and only for Canadian schools (not a large amount so we did our own research).


Another way you can get info about schools are "Graduate School Fairs", which are like career fairs but each graduate program has a booth instead of a company. Unlike career fairs though, prospective students don't come with application materials (e.g. CVs etc.) -- it's not a place for the schools to get info about the students (that's what the application process is for), it's just a place for students to directly talk to a representative from a school they might be interested in. I am not sure if this happens in the US -- in Canada, it happens at our annual national undergraduate student-run physics conference.


Sometimes you might personally get invited to apply to a graduate program if someone at that program saw your work and was impressed. This might be a collaborator you worked with, or maybe your research supervisor introduced you to someone they know and said good things. Or, you might impress someone at a conference (or similar event) with a great presentation and research. 


In summary, it sounds like you are asking about an online resource where a student can put up their info and admissions people at schools can look through them and contact the ones that interest them. I am pretty sure that this doesn't exist -- the schools are busy enough dealing with the applications that they get and won't have time to actively look for more students. However, if you just want more info about schools that offer programs interesting to you, you should:


1. Do your own research. Talk to your advisors/mentors, look up school websites and read their faculty lists/research interests, read papers in your field and see where the interesting work comes from (arxiv.org is a great place to find pre-prints, especially in physics), etc.

2. http://www.gradschoolshopper.com/ could be a good starting point as well, if you aren't familiar with school names and want to quickly see (very basic) stats about each program.

3. Find out about any "grad school fairs" in your area and/or go to conferences in your field (this might be expensive without an advisor to support you though but maybe you can find a conference where you can present your work and convince/ask your advisor to send you).

4. Do your own research. I put this here again because the way the system is set up, the student really has to do all of the legwork in figuring out which schools are good fits for them. Not only that there are far more applicants than positions, but it's also in your own best interest to do this because only you will know what is a good fit for you!

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Thank you for the quick and very detailed response, it's helped me quite a bit.  I will start out by saying that while I do know some these sites exist the one I heard about was very specifically for biomedical programs (it's where my girlfriend found a few of the schools she applied to) whereas materials engineering is much closer to the physics side of things (well the solid state design part at least) so likely similar to physics, which is a big help. 


I've been doing searching by myself, but for the most part I keep finding either places that I wouldn't be able to go to (programs aren't accepting, no funding, etc), or really big name schools.  I didn't think of some of the tips you had though especially the gradschoolshopper.com, and graduate school fairs (which exist but aren't advertised at my school).


Thank you very much for your reply

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Glad to be helpful. Just curious though -- there aren't many PhD programs in (bio)Physics that do not offer full funding, so it's strange to hear that you "keep finding" them. I also just noticed that your location says "Edmonton". If you are looking at programs in the US, make sure you are looking at PhD programs, not terminal Masters program. Unlike Canada, American schools admit students directly from undergrad into 5-6 year PhD programs instead of doing a Masters first. These PhD programs are fully funded and you get a Masters "along the way" usually. Many big name schools won't even have Masters-only program and almost all Masters-only programs are unfunded. However, without formal training in undergraduate Physics, it might be pretty hard to find a physics PhD program that will accept you. 


I'm not sure if the US engineering programs are different though but I think the general case is that terminal Masters programs are not generally funded in the US.

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