Shopping for Grad School

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Pathways - Advice from Experienced Voices

Shopping for Grad School

Find the Best Opportunities for Graduate School in Physics or a Related Field 


Daniel Greenberg, product specialist at the American Institute of Physics

The author discusses with a student at the 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress in November 2012. Photo by Ken Cole.

Finding your ideal graduate program in the physical sciences can be a daunting task, but, created by the American Institute of Physics, can help.

The website has a long history. It grew out of AIP’s big (and we mean big!) book Graduate Programs in Physics, Astronomy, and Related Fields, which has been published annually since 1965. The “big book” of graduate programs is a common feature in most physics department student lounges around the country. The 2014 edition will be mailed to all SPS chapter advisors in October.

The goal of GradSchoolShopper: to be the online resource to help students of the physical sciences make informed decisions about graduate school. That means providing everything from admission rates and financial aid information to data about the specialties of individual faculty members in an easy-to-use format.

Other websites may offer basic information about a program. “They give it a high number,” as one University of Florida senior put it, “but what does that mean if there’s nobody there I’d want to work for?”, the online version of the “big book,” gives you a more comprehensive set of data about hundreds of graduate programs of interest to physics students.

Custom search functions let you find programs in nearly 50 distinct specialties within the physical sciences. Nanotechnology? Materials science? Astrophysics? It’s all there. These convenient features make searching for a grad school that much simpler, and more efficient.

“The most important thing for me was to be able to see very specific areas of specialization, what faculty do that doesn’t fit into a larger category,” Ian C. of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said about GradSchoolShopper.

Identifying the best fit for your graduate program is only the first step toward a fulfilling graduate school career. You may feel uncertain about how to submit the best application or what your career might look like once you earn that advanced degree. This is why also features a student resource section. Fresh content is continuously added, aimed specifically at helping students find their way into, through, and out of grad school. The site features interviews with faculty members and career physicists, advice from grad students who have been there before, and stories spotlighting noteworthy research done by grad students today (see the special feature "Imaging Science at RIT" on the following page).

Tune in to the GradSchoolShopper podcasts for tips that could help to make your graduate school experience a little smoother. “Relax, don’t panic,” Nicole Gugliucci, an astronomer on the CosmoQuest team will tell you. “Grad school can be very hard and exhausting, especially in the beginning, but it will get better.”

Countless undergrads have used AIP’s GradSchoolShopper products to find their way into graduate school and into diverse, rewarding careers in every area of the physical sciences and beyond. Now it’s your turn. This is one time when following the crowd is a good thing. //

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Pathways - Advice from Experienced Voices