Mathematics Graduate School Admission

  • #1
I am hoping to apply to graduate schools in mathematics this fall, and I was wondering if anyone would know what types of schools will accept me.

I have a 3.7 GPA, 3.9 in math. The upper level math classes I have taken include a geometry class, two semester of real analysis, a topology class, a mathematical logic class, an abstract algebra class, a class in advanced linear algebra, two upper level courses in statistics, a number theory class, a complex analysis class and Galois Theory class.

I have also held research jobs each of the last three summers (2 at my school, and an REU). From one of my research projects I co-authored two papers which have now been published.
I also won a Goldwater Scholarship last year.
I attend a fairly small liberal arts college, though I did do the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics for one semester.

The problem is that I have low GRE scores. On the GRE verbal I got 400, and on the math subject GRE I only got in the 36th percentile. I'm most worried about how my low subject score will affect my acceptance into graduate school. I do not have time to retake the subject GRE, but it is still possible for me to retake the GRE general to improve my verbal score.
I was originally hoping to get into a top 50 school for math. Is is this a possibility for me?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
I think you might have some shot at grad school (I assume you are applying for PhD programs). Are you absolutely positive you won't be able to retake the subject GRE? For most schools, the subject GRE is such that a bad score can keep you out but a good score can't get you in. If you could retake it and get in the 50% range that could go a long way towards having a fighting chance to get into lower tier schools. The rest of your application seems good enough, and students from liberal arts colleges tend not to do as well on the subject GRE, so that might help a bit too. If you are a woman or underrepresented minority, that will help a lot. Remember, the biggest part of your application is your letters of recommendation. If you need to mitigate a bad test score, these need to be very strong, and make sure at least one of your letter writers is someone you did research with.
  • #3
Thanks for reply. I can't retake the subject GRE this year, but I am considering retaking it next year and possibly taking a year off before attending grad school. I think I am capable of getting around the 50% range or so.
I should be able to get good letters of recommendation from professors. Since I attend a smaller college I have gotten to know quite a few of the professors pretty well. I am not an underrepresented minority so that won't help me.
Do you think taking a year off before grad school in order to improve my GRE score will be worth it?
Another option for me would be continue as an undergraduate for a fifth year. The disadvantage with that is that since I attend a smaller school, there are no more upper level math classes for me to take.
  • #4
Your application looks to me to be very strong except for the GRE scores of course. Note that not all schools require the subject GRE, even good schools. For example UT-Austin, one of the top programs in the country doesn't require it (at least they didn't when I applied two years ago). So that's something to keep in mind. Shop around for the schools that don't require, as there are probably many. I also did very poorly on the subject GRE, but I got into a good school (in the lower end of top 50) which didn't require it. I personally think the test is not a good measure of how talented, hard-working, or even knowledgeable a student really is in math, but that's my opinion. Even with my poor subject exam score, I am doing just as well as my peers.

I even had to retake the general GRE because I had a bad test day. I took it around a week or two after the first test and ended up increasing my math score by about 200 points with no studying whatsoever (which to me is as good a testimony there is on the arbitrary usefulness of these tests). I didn't prepare for either exam, as I'm a little stubborn when it comes to the standardized tests. Of course, it greatly hurt my chances with schools that required the subject GRE, but I'm happy where I'm at.

So my final advice is to study for what you can for the general GRE to improve your scores, work hard on your total application package (including your essay, which is very important and allows you to talk about your weaknesses, strengths, goals, background, etc.), make sure your letters of recommendation get done on time (which is often the greatest challenge), and look at schools you like that don't require the subject GRE. But don't necessarily shy away from those that do require it. If you have another chance to take it, maybe do so, but I think it would be hard to increase your score within a small time frame on that test. Good luck!

Oh yea, I forgot to mention that I don't think it's a good idea to wait another year to apply. Just apply and see what happens. If it doesn't work out, then go from there.
  • #6
Hi ...

I am applying to graduate schools in Fall 2010 for Ph.D... Do you know a similar website for math applications as well? That website seemed very cool.

I just took GRE Math and it was really hard eventhough I am finishing my master's and I have been teaching Calculus etc.. for over two years; it was hard for me.

Do you think that having a Master's help me at all? I submitted my thesis work as a paper to a journal also... I'll re-take TOEFL (my english is bad) and GRE General, and my Master's GPA is 4.00/4.00 but my undergrad GPA is low... Is that an important factor?

I am aiming for Purdue, U of I, Northwestern, Vanderbilt.. and more school in mid-east.
How would you guys evaluate my chances?
  • #7
Graduate school admission is dependent on many factors - recommendation letters, journal publications, grades, and test scores (roughly in this order of importance). I don't think there's a sure answer. I am applying to an applied math program in Fall 2010.
  • #8
I am taking good letters from my prof's (Western Kentucky) and I am getting a letter from a professor at Purdue, with whom I had done research for a couple of months... My GPA is 4/4, I have a journal submission - so I guess that only leaves test scores for me. The serious drawback ( if I do well on the tests) is my undergrad GPA, how important do you think would that be?
  • #9
How the undergrad GPA is counted depends on the school where you did your master's. Some schools give mostly A's in their grad courses, so the grades tend to mean less than your grades from undergrad. You can probably tell if that's the case and the admissions committee probably knows this.
  • #10
In that case; a good subject test score goes a long way, since it shows that I have adequate understanding of basic undergrad knowledge...

I am not sure about other schools, but in mine, we have to fight to get A's... B's on the other hand are really commonplace
  • #11
I was wondering if this is true or not: One assistant professor at my university said that it is worth mentioning on a grad school application that you scored a 5 or 10 on the Putnam exam.
Even if this is false (which seems to me to be likely, but what do I know), how much weight does getting, say, a 30 (top 500) give to your application? How respected is scoring over a 20 on the exam? I want to make sure the degree of respect people have for the (very, very difficult) exam isn't being a bit inflated.

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