Help With Profile Improvement

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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1773520685
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:47 pm

Help With Profile Improvement

Post by 1773520685 » Fri May 15, 2020 12:47 pm

Hi all, I would really appreciate some advice on my profile, including evaluations, suggestions on how to improve, etc. I am about to graduate from a UK G5 school with a math major. My application this year went really badly and here was my profile:

Expecting First-class honor (GPA 3.93/4.0)
mGRE=90%/880
GRE=324
1 Individual Research required for all students (more like required coursework? But we were expected to do researches on the topic and produce a presentation), mine was on eigenstates of wave equations. I received a high score on it and was invited the next year to be a peer marker; 1 group research required for all students (similar to the previous one, except it's a group project and we were expected to produce a 40-page long article), my group did Modular Forms; 1 UROP during summer on Bieberbach's conjecture and its proof, produced a 10-page long reconstruction of the proof.

In terms of graduate courses, UK schools aren't really flexible. Here are some courses I took that has both undergrad and graduate students: Differential Geometry, Algebraic Topology, Algebraic Number Theory, Algebraic Curves, Galois Theory. Like I said these are not entirely grad-level courses. They are designed for both grad and undergrad school students.

My aim was Ph.D. in the top 20s, ranging from top schools like Princeton to great schools like Cornell, Brown, and NYU, and I failed completely. I will probably aim at these schools again when I apply again, but I definitely need to improve my profile by a lot. I think my biggest weakness is the lack of ACTUAL research experiences. My researches were all pretty loosely-organized, and I honestly did not do a lot. Also, I think my courses were weak, because they were not at grad level. I can probably increase my mGRE scores, but I still think my biggest problems are researches and courses. I will either go to NYU's master in mathematics or stay at my current school for master (it will be a one year master tho, and I'm afraid I can't improve much before my next application) next year. Please leave your thoughts and suggestions on my profile, as well as on where I should go for masters right now. THANK YOU!!!

bxbdhdj
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2020 2:00 pm

Re: Help With Profile Improvement

Post by bxbdhdj » Fri May 15, 2020 4:42 pm

Your courses and research experience looks perfectly fine to me. I know someone without any graduate courses getting into top 20 programs (top10 actually). But the most important factor in the whole grad application story is missing from your statement: how is your letter of recommendations along with these experiences? As far as I'm concerned that is the key factor to top 20 PhD programs. After all it is hard for undergraduate, or even master students to produce any practically nontrivial result from math researches. So all that matters are the letters come along with that. You should reflect on how well your letter writers know about you and how strong their letters are/might be. Remember that top 20 schools, especially the ones you mentioned above are incredibly selectively and sometimes the admission is somehow "random". No one will be confident that they can get into Brown, Cornell, NYU, not to mention Princeton.

If you know some professor in your home school (e.g. your former advisor or instructors) who has good connections and is willing to guide you and write a good letter for you, I would say staying in your home school is a good idea. Going to master programs means completely changing to a new, uncertain environment.

1773520685
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:47 pm

Re: Help With Profile Improvement

Post by 1773520685 » Fri May 15, 2020 5:29 pm

bxbdhdj wrote:
Fri May 15, 2020 4:42 pm
Your courses and research experience looks perfectly fine to me. I know someone without any graduate courses getting into top 20 programs (top10 actually). But the most important factor in the whole grad application story is missing from your statement: how is your letter of recommendations along with these experiences? As far as I'm concerned that is the key factor to top 20 PhD programs. After all it is hard for undergraduate, or even master students to produce any practically nontrivial result from math researches. So all that matters are the letters come along with that. You should reflect on how well your letter writers know about you and how strong their letters are/might be. Remember that top 20 schools, especially the ones you mentioned above are incredibly selectively and sometimes the admission is somehow "random". No one will be confident that they can get into Brown, Cornell, NYU, not to mention Princeton.

If you know some professor in your home school (e.g. your former advisor or instructors) who has good connections and is willing to guide you and write a good letter for you, I would say staying in your home school is a good idea. Going to master programs means completely changing to a new, uncertain environment.
Yes, I forgot to mention the recommendation letters! So the three writers are my personal tutor, my supervisor for the UROP, and my supervisor for the group research project. My personal tutor knows me pretty well and should hold really positive opinions about me (I think). He is not famous neither does he hold any honor tho. The supervisor for the group research project also taught me last semester, and I have talked to him personally a couple of times. I think his letter is probably mediocre, as he is a really friendly professor and was very willing to help, but he has rarely shown strong appreciations. I don't know if that's just how he treats everybody, but I wouldn't be so confident and say he wrote a strong recommendation letter for me. The third one is the one that possibly went wrong. The professor who supervised my UROP, who I think should be most important, turned out to be really unconcerned with my project and me. Although I tried pretty hard to email him with my progress and my questions or set up an appointment, he just seemed to not care that much. In fact, he only started reading my report during our appointment, while I actually sent it to him at least a week in advance :cry: . Thus indeed, although he agreed to help with the letters, I doubt it helped.

So yea, I guess my letters are nowhere near strong. I am not the type of person who knows how to impress professors... I am more like the type that does his own stuff well and wait passively for others to discover. So I will need to work on this definitely.

A good way to let professors know about me is to do projects in my opinion. Based on my status right now, I will need at least one more writer who really likes me, and two more would be perfect. However, if I go to my own school's grad program I will have to apply by the end of this year, and no time to do research with a professor.

I can't seem to find a good way to impress professors whom I don't research with. Just asking them questions is not enough for them to remember me, and I don't know what are some other ways to close up the gap...



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