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Can I get into a good mathematics graduate program?

  1. May 14, 2012 #1
    I just finished my second year of mathematics undergraduate program from a well known institution in India(Indian Statistical Institute).Next year I will be applying for mathematics graduate programs in US.
    My overall percentage is 90 which translates to 3.6 in GPA and my average in mathematics courses is 93 which is 3.7 in GPA. I have not done any research till now.But I will be attending a summer research program this year.
    I am interested in topology.So I will be considering schools like Stony Brook,Cornell,Texas A&M,Columbia etc.
    What do you think of my chances?(Of course provided I get good recommendations)
    How well should I do in subject gre?
    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2012 #2
    I have heard for international students, it is more crucial to do very well on the subject GRE, although some schools don't care as much about it. For an international student, speaking as someone who hasn't been on a committee but had fairly direct contact with them before, I'd say you should aim to get above the 80th percentile, and as an international, probably in the 90s if possible.

    If any of this is a concern, note that many places in the UK, Canada, etc, obviously won't require this test.

    A 3.7+ GPA is definitely important in mathematics. Perhaps your institute is harsher than some places in the US, so I don't think this will be a problem.

    My main questions: how do you fare against your peers applying from your school? Do you have substantial rapport with some professors at your university, enough that they really want your application to succeed? And perhaps very crucially: has your school sent people of comparable qualification to schools like the ones you named? Also, have you done substantial coursework related to your interests (remember, a good number of students will come in with a master's degree level of work at a school like Columbia).

    I would say that if you stand out in terms of the initiative you took among your peers to make substantial progress preparing for research level stuff, have good letters, and do about as well as I stated in the subject GRE, if you apply to a lot of schools in that range you stated, and you've taken a few courses in differential/algebraic topology and a few related areas, you'll probably get into at least one. Lacking any single one of these makes it substantially more likely you should be considering the somewhat less competitive ones on your list.
  4. May 15, 2012 #3
    Thanks for your reply!
    I would like to mention few things to help you understand my situation.

    1)My rank is quite good in my batch(top 3 and there is a IMO medalist in our batch) and the marks I got is considered very good in our institution.But unfortunately I am not quite good at creating rapport with professors.But I will try my best from now onwards.Regarding recco letters do you think it is important to take a letter from a prof with huge research experience or a very good recco from someone with mediocre research experience can serve equally well?

    2)Our institute has regularly sent 1-2 students every year to top us universities including princeton,harvard,chicago etc. But most of them were IMO medalists,so I don't know if that was the reason behind their selection.

    3)Our bachelor program is 3 years.So we do not have the scope to take the same number of courses as us students even though courses offered are quite
    rigorous.In my fifth semester I will take differential geometry and topology and in sixth semester I am planning to take differential geometry-II/differential topology and algebraic geometry.Unfortunately I wont have the scope to do a more specialized course in topology in my undergraduate program.In summer I will attend a summer research program which will also send transcript to universities. There I will be able to do more advanced topics such as morse theory.So that is one possible way for me to make up for the loss.

    Do you think the given background is sufficient for the universities I mentioned(even Assuming I do extremely well in subject gre)?Also can you please suggest some less competitive universities with good faculty in my area of interest(topology,geometry,dynamics)?

    Thank you for your patience!
  5. May 15, 2012 #4

    I'm not from India, but I've heard that ISI sends a lot of students to American universities. There's a webpage where they include the placement of their recent students and I noticed that there were quite a few at NYU's Courant Institute. They have a research group on dynamical systems, if I'm not mistaken.

    Try to contact these ISI alumni and ask them for their take on this. They will have first-hand experience in moving (by that I mean applying for PhDs from there, not necessarily adapting to the culture) from ISI/India to the States. Try to contact the people from CMI as well. A large number of their math alumni end up in the USA.

    You should also look into Canadian universities as well, for they are less competitive than their USA counterparts and also offer funding. If you can't get into a PhD program directly, you can apply to an MSc and still receive funding for that. If you perform well and can find an advisor, you can skip the 2nd year of the MSc and move straight to the PhD.

    Note that I can't offer any more information than the above, for I haven't started college yet and my knowledge doesn't go beyond that.
  6. May 16, 2012 #5
    I think with that summer research program and those classes, plus a good GPA and test scores, judging by the fact that a few very talented mathematics students with top notch awards like IMO medals regularly make the very most competitive schools like Harvard/MIT/etc, I'd say it is pretty likely you will get accepted to one of the schools on your list, assuming it is a reasonably large list of schools similar to the ones you mention.

    You could throw in a few on the very competitive end if you like, and throw in a few other very strong schools that are somewhat less insanely competitive to get admission to (you'll probably make just as good a decision with this as I think I can give you advice on, to be honest), and then maybe some safeties. Right now, you seem to have a sane idea of what schools to apply to.

    Topology, geometry, dynamics - there are definitely plenty of schools out there that could probably be enjoyable experiences for you.
  7. May 16, 2012 #6


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    if students with better records than yours get into HaRVARD, THEN you will still have a lot of other schools to aspire to. Are there any students with records similar to yours, or to what you can reasonably expect, that have obtained admission to good schools? if so, why not you?
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