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I don't know where to apply for math grad schools!

  1. Nov 6, 2009 #1
    I was wondering if someone could help me decide what sort of math graduate schools I should be applying to. The following is basically all the information I can think of that could affect my application.

    I am a senior at one of those big state universities, and I am hoping to graduate this spring with a double major in physics and math. My 3.25 GPA isn't dazzling, but I have a 3.8-something math GPA, and took nearly every major math class at my school. Right now I'm taking real analysis, general relativity, graduate algebraic number theory and graduate complex analysis. I think I am doing well in all of them (for now). My physics grades aren't nearly as good (due to lack of interest and time, but that's really not a good excuse...). I am taking analysis as a reading course because the lecture conflicts with another class I need to take; I am doing really well in it and developed great enthusiasm for analysis (I still turn in all the homework and take the exams like the rest of the class).

    I've worked at a math camp as a counselor (graded and led a two-hour recitation every day), did a theoretical physics REU for one summer, and did an internship at a company doing applied math for the other two summers. None of these internships produced any publications (except for a poster at a conference). Right now I am working in an experimental physics lab (for a senior thesis; most of it is programming) and TAing a calc III class (grade HW + do one hour recitation a week + odd night review before an exam). Parts of the senior thesis might find themselves into a paper, but it will be after application deadlines.

    I placed first in the university's freshman math and physics contests, and this summer placed in the top six of the MAA Problem of the Month national finals contest (which is _nothing_ like the Putnam, so it's not actually a big achievement).

    I have three professors that are willing to write me a letter. I am sure all three will be good, but I don't know if any of them will be glowing. One of these professors taught a research seminar in which I solved a small problem (but as it turned out, it was just a corollarly of something already published), so hopefully he will write something nice for me.

    On the GRE math subject test I am in the 90%+ (don't remember exactly) percentile.

    I would really like to study something like complex analysis or operator theory, but I am not completely decided. It could be that I will change my mind and suddenly really like algebra! Right now I don't feel like I know enough to exactly decide in what area I want to end up in, so ideally I'd like to go to a big school with many options--but a school that just does analysis would be fine too.

    I know my GPA prevents me from applying to, say, Princeton, but I have no idea where I actually have a shot at getting in. I would really like to at least go to some nice University of (State), but all of these schools (Minnesota, North Carolina, Californias, etc.) are still quite good and seem to expect a very high GPA and maybe even a publication. How high should I be aiming?

    Also, I would be very thankful if anyone could tel me if I have a shot at any of the following schools: Purdue, U Indiana, UIUC, U Texas, Texas A&M, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCSD, University of Washigton in St. Louis, Washington University (in the state Washigton), Rutgers, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin. (Sorry for the long and ambitious list.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2009 #2
    Well, I have many friends from Purdue Math -- and I heard that the department had a minimum GPA requirement of (3.2 or sth) and that they are going to admit less this year because last year almost all the people they admitted ended up in the department. You could e-mail the graduate program head (Prof. Bell, I think) and confirm this.

    Your GRE Math is good, your letters sound decent (hopefully), but believe me the most important elements are GPA and Publications if any.

    Your list really seems ambitious, I'd slightly soften it by removing some top schools and adding some lower ranked ones.

    Of course researching about faculty is always a plus, your dream professor might be at a school that is not so picky in admitting.

    I'd say UIUC, Princeton, Purdue, Texas are quite ambitious, to maximize your chances you could try others as well. Good luck
  4. Nov 6, 2009 #3
    I don't think Purdue and Texas are too ambitious (judging solely by rankings) but UIUC is a big reach.
    I know I kind of like U Texas at Austin because of the algebraic geometry. I think NYU has a solid analysis program, you might as well give them a shot even though it's a reach.

    Do some research on the professors of various uni's and see what they've been up to.
  5. Nov 8, 2009 #4


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    You and I have credentials that are sort of switched around. I have the GPA (3.97; 4.0 in my math major). And I'm in 3 grad classes now like you. And I will have good letters of rec, including at least one awesome one. But you then also have that list of other stuff (math camp counselor, internship, REU, etc), and I don't really have anything like that. I just went to class and studied and did really well. I'm applying to similarly ranked schools (and even MIT, even though I'm sure I don't really have a chance there), but really I think I might rather be in your position. Because right now I'm sort of having trouble figuring out what to say to these people to stand out. "I'm really good at this stuff, I promise. See, here's my GPA!" Some schools require a CV; I have very little to put on mine.
  6. Nov 8, 2009 #5
    No school - none! - not even Harvard/MIT/Princeton - expects an undergrad math major to publish. An REU and some senior thesis, maybe, but not an actual publication.
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