2020 Applicant Profile

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:15 pm

2020 Applicant Profile

Post by internationalting » Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:25 pm

Last edited by internationalting on Sat Dec 21, 2019 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:22 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profile

Post by gemach » Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:43 pm

I don't know how much I have to help here -- I have never sat on an admissions committee! However, I have this to contribute: I'm an international student who has received offers this round from multiple universities on your list. (Yeah, things have gone pretty well for me.)

I have roughly your scores on GRE + mGRE. I do not have your background -- I could not pass Harvard quals right now. (I have a *strong* background but generally know 80% of the things they expect for each topic, but not the last 20%. One of them, though, I've never taken a proper course in, so that would be a fair bit of work.) Two things that I suspect helped: I have done original research in maths -- a year-long thesis, which didn't quite get me anything publishable but got very very close. (That's the plan for my new few months of spare time!) As a result, that letter of reference was, I think, exceptionally strong, and I linked my work wherever I could in the application. (My other two letters were strong -- one based on a research project, one on coursework by someone who's a bit of a mentor -- but probably not quite as good.) All of my letters were from people who did PhDs and postdocs in the US at strong schools.

My read on things: you've done enough research that you can say, with evidence, that you like it and can do it. Most US students, from my understanding, have never spent e.g. six weeks working on a particular question while making no progress. (Joy of joys. I've done this twice; the second one I actually figured it out! Still was a pretty frustrating six weeks.) You also have, as you say, a very strong background. All of this is great.

However, the selection process is pretty random. A good friend of mine, who imo is a stronger mathematician than I am, did not get into one of the top universities that I did. (They've got into some awesome ones, though, but just to say that there's a lot of variance.) While obviously things have gone well for me, the (US background) researchers I talked to were very strong on not relying on getting into a top uni for me. I am not Terry Tao, I am not a shoo-in, and at the end of the day, there are 400 people applying for 12 spots at a lot of these places. More than 12 of those are going to be excellent.

Definitely think about how your interests fit with the uni you're applying to. What areas of maths are you interested in? Are there people at those unis who do what you want to do? Some of the ones on your list are ones I did *not* apply to because there were not enough potential supervisors in my field. Also, consider applying to some unis one step down in prestige that still have the name recognition you want. You don't want to put all your eggs in this highly nerve-wracking basket. (I'm thinking UCLA, Yale, Brown, Cornell...) Good luck! Maybe I'll see you in the US in a couple of years :)

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2020 Applicant Profile

Post by Geraldhat » Sat Mar 02, 2019 4:55 pm

can someone please help me? I cant make picture appear in my signature? can someone make three pictures into one so i can have pic in my profile, I tried many times but best it came to is only link.. no pic.

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Joined: Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:42 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profile

Post by greedynripig » Mon Apr 29, 2019 7:02 pm

You will have to apply to find out; that is the best way. I'd recommend finding a topic you want to work on and a good mentor. Building a shiny profile isn't as respectful as doing something in mathematics that is your own. Most of these schools want good students who would become leaders in their fields. They're interested in future Godels, not just those with fancy diplomas. Can you show them that with the strength of your ideas? If you have the money, I would reach out to respective admissions directors and visit them. You can get a lot of insight about the process this way.

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Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2019 11:59 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profile

Post by moonbears » Wed Jun 19, 2019 2:41 am

Just posting my two cents here.

Your application looks great, and you've got some very impressive stats, course-work, and by the sounds of it strong letters; however, I wouldn't solely apply to the "top 10" schools - even if you're as strong as you claim. I honestly don't think it matters where you go that much as long as you're in a top 50 program, get a good advisor, work hard, and publish papers during your PhD. It's become apparent that top schools are more likely to burn students out, or shoo them away unless you're at the very tippy-top at a school like Harvard or Princeton (which is very unlikely). Even if you're a literal genius, you'd be surprised by the difficulty of the programs. Here's an interesting link https://web.math.princeton.edu/generals/tao_terence

The tl;dr is that Terry Tao didn't take his quals seriously and almost flunked them at Princeton. They said his harmonic analysis was unsatisfactory, which is surprising because when I was in his class he seemed to be quite good at all things Analysis. Also last time I checked he was, in fact, one of the best harmonic analysts in the world.

I would focus more on finding a place with a healthy work-life balance, one in which you think you'll be a good student and get lots of attention. It's super easy to get excited when you get into a top school and just go, but sometimes it can be beneficial to go to a less-well known school and just kick-ass.

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