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Interested in pursuing a Mathematics career

  1. Oct 4, 2009 #1
    First a bit about myself...

    I'm almost graduating from the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) with a B.S. in Mathematics, minor in Business Administration (focus in Management). UAS is a small school, with an excellent Mathematics program for this size of school. However, since there are a limited amount of faculty/students, some of the classes that we'd all love to take/teach aren't offered. Also, core courses such as Real Analysis, Abstract Algebra, and Complex Variables are all smashed into one semester rather than a year long progression. Furthermore, they've had to omit Topology classes entirely (leaving me very VERY weak in this area).

    I'll be done with the degree in December (I'm so glad to be done with undergraduate work, I hate taking extra classes) and I'm considering taking about a year and a half off before I move on to graduate work. I desire greatly to get my Ph.D. in Mathematics with the hope that I'll land a job at an academic institute teaching eventually. At this point, my passion is teaching college, however, I haven't been around the research part of Mathematics much and I admit it does interest me.

    Anyway... while trying to figure out where I'm going for a graduate degree, I'm also trying to figure out whether or not to go for a Ph.D. straight away. I would like to keep my time in school relatively at a minimum, though I enjoy taking/going to math classes (I have a wife that wants to eventually have a family and settle down, which is difficult in grad school, from what I've heard). I know that my Bachelor's degree is weak in many areas, but I also know that I'm bright enough to be able to do it if I want to.

    So, once I actually decide on whether or not I want to get the Ph.D. or Master's first (strongly leaning towards the former)... I have to find a school to go to... and a particular area to focus in. I enjoy immensely Algebra and Analysis, leaning towards Analysis preferably Real, but I enjoy complex as well. But how do I go about finding a program that will suit my desires/needs? How do I find a program that I can even get into?

    My undergraduate GPA is low (3.06ish), mainly because of the fact that I was losing focus during freshman and sophomore years, but I know that when I take the GRE's, I'll be able to do fairly well on them. I have no language background for anything other than English either, which is also a detractment.

    Can you tell that I'm a bit lost? I'm a first generation college graduate at all , let alone grad school attendee, so no one that I know really has any idea what to tell me. Any advice at all?

    P.S. Sheesh, that got really long, sorry about that. Just got a lot of questions.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 4, 2009 #2
    I'm a first generation college graduate too, so I understand the lack of knowledge about how the whole thing 'works.' I'm not a grad student myself, so I can only give information I've taken from reading this site....

    Your gpa is going to be on the low end for grad school. It seems that a 3.0 is around the basement level you can have and see a PhD acceptance in math or physics.
    I've seen counter examples to that, but it seems that a sub-3.0 PhD acceptance is the definite exception.

    If I were you, I'd make sure that no part of my application gives the implication that I want to "keep my time in school relatively to a minimum."
    Coupling a low gpa with a desire to get out of school as fast as possible isn't going to help your application.

    Just remember that you're applying along side of people that have "prepared" for grad school since day one with extra curricular activities, honors awards, society membership, research, brown nosing, etc.
    When applying for a math PhD, you're applying with students who were intelligent enough to major in mathematics, and crazy enough to pursue a PhD in a field with relatively little monetary potential. So...basically the smartest students who also love the subject and WANT to work hard to learn it for no other reason than their love of the subject.

    I'm not trying to dissuade you from applying. I hope you apply, and I hope you're accepted. Before I thought about grad school, I honestly didn't know a thing about what was "required" in terms of grades and other application boosters. Obviously better grades meant better chance as a general rule, but that's about all I would have assumed.

    You may want to spend another year taking additional math courses and boosting your gpa, or at least focus on scoring high on the subject GRE and getting some very good letter of recommendations.

    Good luck!
    Also, I have a wife and three children, so I understand the role they have to play in your decisions. But there will be many students in the same position as you, so you won't be alone.
     
  4. Oct 4, 2009 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Troponin has some excellent advice. I'd encourage you to focus on the GREs, as a poor score there will not enable you to overcome other weak points in the application. You say you'll do well, but you also say that your classes have been rushed, some haven't been offered, and your GPA isn't in the 4.0 ballpark. Students often overestimate how well they will do.
     
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