95% of students apply to places with nice lawns and good football programs, and a MAJOR, but have zero idea of who will be teaching them. One of the top reasons that students transfer between colleges is because they realize that they’re in the wrong place.
You wouldn’t pick a car by saying: “I think I like Toyota.” You wouldn’t call up a car dealer and say: “I think I’d like something mid-sized and blue. I like your brand. Pick something that you sell that works for me.”
I’ve already written a piece at TaDa! on why knowing who teaches there, the professors is important to figuring out where you want to go to school. Read that first. Several of you contacted me and said that I didn’t give enough idea of where to do that research. So here’s my expanded set of ideas:
So how do you find out about the professors?
- Department Faculty List – For each school, look over the faculty. Don’t just look at the names and see if you can recognize one. Click on them. Read their bios. Are they doing something that you find interesting? If yes, learn more. Do they have a book, or a paper, or something that they tout in their bio? Find it. Read/view/listen to it. If one professor here or there excites you, find out if the others are good at that school, and now that school can move to your short list.
- TED Talks/Ted-X – Browse Ted Talks in your area of academic interest. Is someone featured in a Ted talk that you like? Find out more about them. If they’re a professor, where do they teach? If they’re not, read their bio and find out where they went to school. That may be a leader into a program that interests you.
- Academic papers – Academics publish a lot of papers on their work. So do graduate students. Look up by subject something that interests you: “Robots and cooking.” If a paper springs up that you like, find out who wrote it. Where do they teach or are they getting their masters? Here, you can often contact the scholar to ask questions about the paper. Dialogues form bridges that academics use in their normal “business,” so operating on that level is a plus for you if you can do it intelligently. Academia.edu, Google Scholar, Jstor, Questia, and others.
- Podcasts – Search for podcasts in your field of interest. Who is being interviewed? Follow them and learn more about where they teach and what they’re doing.
- Professional/Trade News & Journal Articles – There are a ton of professional trade magazines, blogs, etc. Look at the publications in your area of interest. Find out more about people doing leading edge work in things that interest you. Contact them politely by email and ask intelligent questions about their work, and about how someone might pursue academic study in that area. You don’t ask, you don’t get.
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