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Am I screwed?

  1. Apr 24, 2012 #1
    So here's the story.

    I am a 20 years old student about to finish his B.Sc in Physics in Leipzig (I will get my degree this very semester), and the situation which I am facing right now is a bit troublesome for my future. Even though I am getting my bachelor in physics, I want to do my master in mathematics (I am planning on getting a graduate degree in mathematics rather than in physics). The mathematical knowledge is not the main problem, for I have taken classes on abstract algebra (as well as real analysis up to functional analysis) and my bachelor thesis is about algebraic topology and differential geometry applications to a concrete physics problem (my supervisor is a mathematical physicist).

    That said, though, when I applied to universities (only Europe) I got rejected from some and got accepted into others. I got accepted into the University of Cambridge to study the Tripos part III in Pure Mathematics, which was a really pleasant surprise, of course (my top choice I'd say). However, the financial conditions are too high for me. (I am currently living in Leipzig with only ~300€/month and the tuition for East German Universities is free.) I am not originally from Germany, and the only scholarship that my country awards to students to pursue a graduate degree overseas wasn't grant it to me (I think I bombed the interview for that, I was so nervous that even my hands were shaking a bit; and normally, the range of ages among the laureates is from 22 to 26).

    So now I am alone, facing a fee of 20k GBP -as my only option if I want to do a master in mathematics- which I will not be able to pay (needless to say that when I called the financial office in Cambridge, they told me that student loans for non-UK students are only given to undergrads) and if I stay in Leipzig, I won't be able to pursue a master in pure mathematics (but mathematical physics instead, with a 50% of physics... nevertheless, I have taken most of the grad mathematical physics classes already). The other places in Europe where I might be able to go (in France and other parts in Germany) won't give scholarships to master students; and the cities (Paris, Berlin, Bonn...) are way more expensive than Leipzig; so that might not be a good idea either.

    Some of the questions that arose to me are: do you think it would be sensible to spend the next year doing GREs and such (I could also visit a retired, really well known mathematician every now and then, which could give me some kind of 'mathematical mentoring'... not sure if US unis would like this(?)), and then apply to the US for graduate studies? Do you think I should try and apply for spring term? (not sure if a lot of unis in the states do this, but anyway, it would be hard to do that, since I am finishing exams in August) What do you imagine a mathematical dept. in the US would think about a student who took one year off doing maths without attending any university? Also... if you happen to be studying in the UK, do you know, per chance, any student loan for EU grad students?

    I am actually seeking for any kind of advice (I'll briefly go to one of my maths Prof. office and ask him advice too)... I am not the kind of person who asks for a lot of advices normally (and certainly help others whenever I can), but I would appreciate if anyone could comment on this.

    Thanks for reading,
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 24, 2012 #2
    If I may give you one piece of advice regarding the financial thing: contact the university. Seriously, just tell them about your financial situation, and that you're not sure about what options you have. Those people are much more likely to be able to help you than we are.

    The other questions are harder to answer, because you ask what would be 'sensible', and what other people would think. Personally, I think you appear to have quite a few options, and none of the options you presented seem 'insensible'.
  4. Apr 24, 2012 #3


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    That is very good advice. Cambridge university has its own funding schemes to support students with financial difficulties or other special needs. The contact details are on http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/admissions/
  5. Apr 24, 2012 #4
    @Hobin: Sounds good, you are probably totally right. Today when I contacted them, I didn't state my condition and the person with whom I was talking adviced me to contact different banks in Spain and ask for loans there (regarding my family situation, I don't think this is an option anymore, for they couldn't 'endorse' me for a loan); so I just kinda nodded and thanked her before hanging up. I guess I need to sleep on it and call them tomorrow with my ideas clearer. Plus, now that I remember, in the application, they asked me whether I would be able to fund the master myself, and I stated that if I weren't to be granted the Spanish scholarship, I wouldn't. And they still accepted me. (Still, this might not have anything to do on whether the university have the appropriate funding for me or not.)

    @AlephZero: Yeah, you guys are right; I'll call them tomorrow; and hopefully come back with some good news! (Even though I think that the website you linked is only for undergrads, I'll look into it right now –I might be wrong!)

    Thank you again!
  6. Apr 24, 2012 #5
    Let us know how things turn out! :smile:
  7. Apr 24, 2012 #6
    Hey man,

    I hope this works out just fine.

    In case it doesn't, have you looked into ALGANT? [okay, I just checked but apparently the selection for 2012 is over] What about Canadian MSc/PhD programs? One can enroll in the MSc, complete the first year and switch to the PhD program, provided they show sufficient progress and can find an advisor.

    If you'd rather not wait a year, you could also look into applying to India? (CMI, IMSc) How about a Master's by Research there or finding a paid research internship there/elsewhere? If you're applying to the States, you'll be competing with people who have mathematics degrees (although I doubt this should be too much of a problem because of your background!) and have done research on the subject, so this might help. (additional recommendation as well)
  8. Apr 24, 2012 #7
    Hey Mépris!
    I was thinking on sending you an e-mail one of these days, but I see that you wander PF more than I do!
    I have been thinking about it, and I don't particularly enjoy the idea of taking a year off (for I am really willing to do maths!); so hopefully I will be able to figure something out. (I might look into Canadian unis this weekend depending on how things pan out.)
    Also, I just talked to my parents a few minutes ago, and they seemed to be willing to pay (by asking for a loan from their bank) the 10k of tuition+college fees, so with the help of my grandparents and some summer job, I might even be able to survive one year self-funded –in case Cambridge can't help me given my situation...– but again, I feel very guilty for having my parents pay this amount of money for university. We'll see how it goes!
  9. Apr 27, 2012 #8
    So I've talked to them, and they said that this greatly depends on which college I get in. As I've seen, Darwin college (my second option) lets their students (only graduates) effectuate the payment of tuition+college fees in July; i.e. once the master has finished. This would be a great deal, for I would only need to pay my monthly rent + food (which, if I cook by myself as I'm doing now, I shouldn't pay more than 600-650€/month). To cover this amount of money, it would be enough if I could get a small loan from a Spanish bank myself.
    I also have to hear back from Bonn (which I will in two months or so); that wouldn't be a bad option either (even though it's slightly more expensive than Leipzig). That said, Cambridge still sounds more appealing at this instant.
  10. Apr 27, 2012 #9
    Why does the name of the university matter? What matters is the knowledge that enters your brain, you need to stop caring what other people think and start caring about numero uno.

    Rich kids who fail entrance exams then get silver spooned into oxbridge anyway through daddy's money will be better off to begin with as connections and positions are lavished on them but their careers won't progress very far beyond that as it becomes obvious they're shysters. If you are intelligent but can only afford to go to London South Bank you might have to bend over backwards for a faceless corporation just to start work at an entry level position, after a few years though you will have proven yourself and they will realise what an asset you are.
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