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Programs Sudden Second Thoughts on Applying for Math PhD

  1. Nov 12, 2012 #1
    Today I received my mgre subject test scores and had a complete panic attack. I knew they weren't going to be phenomenal, but they were definitely worse than expected. I have a severe problem taking standardized tests, and I knew this long before I took the exam. I know I am more capable than what my score reflects, but now I am having serious reconsideration of applying to PhD programs for next fall. I did take the November test, but I honestly have no inclination of how I did on that.

    As background, I am a caucasian female at a top 15 school. I have taken in courses in calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, a full year of abstract algebra, real analysis, complex analysis, number theory, calculus of variations, pdes, measure and integration theory at the graduate level, algebraic topology at the graduate level, and riemannian geometry at the graduate level. I have completed an REU at a top ten school for math, and presented my research at three different conferences.

    For the last two years of undergrad, I have been pretty set on PhD programs, and since I am graduating with both a bachelors in chemical engineering and math, as well as a masters in math, PhD is really the only option for another degree in math. I felt pretty good about grad school, until I got my scores.

    I feel like there is a complete disagreement between my grade and research credentials and my stupid mgre scores. I am completely terrified that my scores will have schools second guessing my grades as well as other accomplishments. There is a part of me that is completely second guessing applying at all now, but I don't know what else to do with my life.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2012 #2


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    Let's keep it simple. If you don't apply, you won't have a chance at all to go to grad school, so if you want to go, then apply. There really isn't more to it than that.
  4. Nov 12, 2012 #3


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    How bad was your score? Perhaps you think it is worse than it is.
  5. Nov 19, 2012 #4
    you have put a lot of time and effort into your studies and research. the time and effort required to apply is small in comparison.

    there are lots of schools out there that would be happy to have you. there are many, many people who have issues with those tests, and admissions committees know that.

    good luck!
  6. Nov 21, 2012 #5


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    don't be silly. those scores have nothing to do with your other accomplishments. grad school admissions people are not that stupid. you might go back and review the things you missed on the test though.
  7. Nov 21, 2012 #6
    I'm not sure about the math GRE, but the physics GRE shows a very important gender bias towards females, it's a fact that apparently grad school committees are starting to take note of:
    The (physics) GRE seems to favor male testtakers and I'm pretty sure there's a similar trend in math.
    if you have a good record in all other aspects, I'm sure graduate committees will take your GRE with a grain of salt. If you're applying to mainly high tier schools you might want to add a few more middle tier schools as a backup if you haven't already. With achievements like those I don't think your chances are bad. You've got nothing to lose other than a few hundred bucks.

    I think I did pretty badly on the subject GRE myself and I don't have anywhere near that amount of achievements, but I'm still throwing my application in the way of 8-9 middle and low tier schools, better than spending a whole lifetime thinking "what if...".
  8. Nov 21, 2012 #7
    The question I always ask myself is this: what would I do if I applied to every graduate school for math in the country but only got admitted to the school with the absolute worst ranking? Would I still decide to accept the admittance and pursue math? I think asking yourself questions such as this will help you determine exactly how much you really want to pursue mathematics for a living. If your answer is no, you may want to reevaluate what you really want to do with your life. There are plenty of schools that will accept applicants with horrible subject GRE scores, and there are even a few schools that will accept applicants with no subject GRE score at all. If your desire to pursue mathematics is truly genuine, you will accept an offer wherever you can get one!
  9. Nov 21, 2012 #8
    It's also true that most people who hold tenure in academia come from top institutions. I'm guessing not going to one of those makes it harder to succeed later down the line.
  10. Nov 21, 2012 #9
    Someone I know didn't do that well on the subject GRE and got into UC San Diego, which is pretty highly ranked (was rejected from many other places, but a lot of them were in the top 10 and so on).

    Everyone should feel bad about grad school by default. Anyone wanting to get a PhD in math is either insane or doesn't know what they are getting into or both. Personally, I think I was both.
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