How to make a list of grad schools?

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  • Thread starter TheKracken5
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  • #1
Hi all, so I am a junior studying mathematics/stats BS and I am trying to put together a list of grad schools to apply to but I don't know how many to apply to that would be reasonable. I really only want to apply to PhD programs because I am married with a child and I can't afford an expensive MS. I feel like my interests are pretty set (I used to have my interests all over the place). I want to study something in Biomathematics. I am very interest in computational neuroscience, biostatistics/epidemiology, statistical genetics ect. and I fear that if I apply to a PhD program this will make it really hard to switch fields. My goal job would be working along side scientists at a research hospital or lab, especially interested in neuroscience type studies using fmri and analyzing that Data.

Also is there a good way to figure out how hard certain grad schools are to get into? My current thinking is having 3 safety schools that I would like to go to, 3 that I feel like would be a good match and then a reach school or two. It's just that most schools other than the really competitive ones only have a few research professors in maybe one of the fields I am interesting in, and id rather not be locked in....But at a place like UCSF they have all of the fields I am interested in, but they are very hard to get into and if applying for a PhD you need to know what you want to study already...

Any advice is very appreciated.
 

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  • #2
Vanadium 50
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What did your advisor say when you asked him this?
 
  • #3
What did your advisor say when you asked him this?

My advisor basically just told me he went to Utah State for mathematical ecology and he liked the program and I should look into it, which I have and it is on my list.
I go to a small religious undergrad university and our advisors are really just for making sure you graduate on time (the church subsidizes the cost so they don't allow double majors or taking too long so they can accommodate as many people as they can). There are also no research opportunities here but I found a professor that might let me do individual study in Linear algebra.
 
  • #4
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The thing is, your advisor knows - or should know - something about your interests, strengths and weaknesses, and knows - or should know - the field: who is working on what. It is much easier for PF to start from your advisor and refine his advice than to make this up out of whole cloth.
 
  • #5
All that matters is if there is an advisor at the school who is competent and does stuff you're interested in. The rankings are nonsense for graduate school, as universities all have different specialties. My undergraduate institution had a middling ranking, but was best in the world or top tier for several baroque subfields. If you were interested in those subfields, going there would be infinitely better than going to Harvard or MIT for the same subject, assuming those schools even had a professional working in it.

Current school I'm at is not top 10, but none of the top 10 schools have faculty who work in my sub area, and my adviser is considered one of the best if not the best in this subject. I specifically came here to work with him.
 
  • #6
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One technique for solving the "multiple, exclusive interests" problem is to apply separately to different schools in each of the fields. Say you find a strong computational neuroscience program - apply to that as if that's your primary interest. Then find a strong biostatistics program and apply to that the same way. If you get into only one, the decision has been made for you. It's only if you get into both (or all in your case) that you really have a choice to stress about. And even then, you have the added assistance of being able to factor in the qualities of each program into your decision. You might also find that during the process, one particular path becomes much more appealing that then others.

There's no clear way to know precisely how difficult a particular program may be to get into. In those programs where there's only one person or a small group of people that are working on the thing that you want to do, you could have a stellar application and not get in simply because they're not accepting any new students into that group that year. Conversely, a popular program may seem like a challenge to get into, but if they're taking in a large number of students you might be competitive. Really, you have to do your research to figure things like this out. If possible visit your top choices and spend time speaking with people there and this can help you get an idea of how competitive you'll really be.
 

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