Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

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ekansh2912
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Oct 17, 2021 3:46 pm

Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ekansh2912 » Sat Mar 05, 2022 5:22 am

Some people believe that international students, particularly those having undergrad from a foreign (non-US) university, who apply for Ph.D. in the US universities are put at a very high standard compared to domestic students, i.e., what is expected from their application is significantly more than what is expected from that of a domestic applicant , and if this is the case (which prima facie seems to be), then it is grossly unfair. Others argue against this belief. Since this discussion was going on in a thread not meant for it, I have started this thread to carry forward this discussion, if one wants to.

Indeed, I anticipate there will be people who'll say "why to start this thread", or "why to discuss this all over again", or simply, "who cares?". Well, apparently, no one cares because there is yet not a detailed discussion on this issue on any public forum like this or quora. This renders one to believe that unjust treatment in the admissions process is impossible, which does not seem to be indisputably true. There should be at least one resource or discussion thread that future international applicants can refer to in order to understand that things are not as uniform and just to all applicants always as they are told to be on paper and that they need not corner themselves to the thought that they did not work hard or had a bit of bad luck this cycle if they do not get offers when they see domestic applicants with reasonably modest profiles getting the same.

The immense outrage portrayed in the thread where the previous discussion took place surprises me why is it so wrong to even talk about this! First, I will try to give some justifications as to why I think it is RIGHT to talk about this (one may not give a damn, but I don't care: this should be here for the record).

(1) We are not here to "judge" each other's profiles when they post it here, but when one questions the system, one has to rely on facts, and profiles here speak for themselves. This platform is inundated with domestic applicants (DA) with modest profiles making it to top, prestigious programs (I have explicitly point-out at least 5 such profiles right now). I challenge anybody to point out a profile of any international applicant (IA) who did his/her undergrad outside the US and has a modest profile making it to even decent programs, let alone such prestigious programs. I have seen DA profiles with up to 0.5 points less GPA (on a 4-point scale), no GRE Math score, no publications, poorer GRE general score, lesser than (or no) research and work experience making it significantly better programs. We all know that the selection process is holistic, but such applications lag on at least 5 relevant factors. One may say that this DA's letter must be terrific! Well, this is too quixotic to think about - why would somebody write an incredibly strong letter for a DA with a GPA of less than 3.5 and such stats which independently don't show any massive mathematical achievement which may be deemed fit for entry to top programs. What plays a game here is either or both of the following: (a) the letter writers of this DA is an acquaintance with professors of the university the DA is applying to, (b) he/she lets the DA influence (wholly or partly) what goes into the letter.

(2) When admissions committees see a modest-profile DA from a known US university, having letters from someone they (or their peers) know, they may put his/her profile above that of an IA with a comparable profile but UG from outside the US and having a less known (or not known to them) recommender. Why do I claim this? There are profiles of IA from the best universities of their countries, with GPA above 3.85 and 3.9, reasonable research experience, at least 1 publication/conference talk, modest GRE scores, and a lot many relevant and advanced grad courses failing to make it to even the waitlist of many very ordinary programs, while their DA counterparts lagging in almost all parameter making to prestigious programs that too in the first round. Here, many people may attack me with this: "the failed IAs had terrible SOPs". While this may be partly true for some, it cannot be true in general for all. I am talking from the analysis of at least 40 such IA-DA profiles. All IAs messed up their SOP and all parallel DAs had wonderful SOPs and incredibly strong letters? It is too naive of oneself to believe that.

(3) When US universities struggle with funding in a given admissions cycle (like in this cycle due to a terrible Omicron wave in the US and now this war-like scenario), it is the IAs who are butchered the most, in general. When funding cuts, the seats reduce - if that cuts 20% seats total, those for international admits are cut by up to 50%. No offense but just to name a few, Chicago, UIUC, Cornell, UPenn, and Rice are some examples of universities that are consistently and strategically increasing the concentration of domestic admissions for the last at least 3 years. This has skyrocketed this year. It's not that IAs were not admitted in this cycle in top places, they certainly were, but those rejected were put to an incredibly high standard of comparison while keeping the comparison scale for DAs almost unchanged - the profiles of this cycle shout out load to convey this.

(4) Many of the IAs are me have reasonable research experience but countries do have not have well-defined programs like summer REUs for US students. In general, our research experience is given milder recognition when compared to somebody's participation in an REU somewhere in the US if both pieces of research are not groundbreaking enough to speak for themselves (which is mostly the case at UG and grad level, especially in pure math). My publication in the top journal of my country is considered inferior to that of a DA of the same level who published in a good American journal, just because admissions committee members know the good American journal and/or its referees better and assume that the applicant who published there might have done some good work. They don't usually bother to find out about another country's national journal if they do not much know about it already. Is this fair?

Somebody mentioned in the previous thread that most of these universities are funded by the federal and state governments which makes it natural for them to cater to the DAs more. Well, this may initially make some sense to many, but if this is the reason for discriminating against IAs, why do not these universities put (or even implicitly indicate) this on their websites and/or their brochures that DAs will be given prefernce in admissions since it is their country? They do not do that because that is not the reason.

The DAs who will relate to this will feel attacked and exposed. They just want to bring down this thought of ours for two main reasons:

(1) They are enjoying and relishing such trends and loopholes, such psychology or behavior of universities that already put their application much above a stronger international application at many places. They do not want the nature of this system to change since they are ones benefitting from it and any change will put them in competition with their much stronger international counterparts, a fair treatment for admissions will put them at a disadvantage.

(2) They have never received discrimination on the grounds of nationality, country of UG, or permanent residence status. They can't feel our pain and will hence think that IAs like me are blaming the system and producing false accusations just to justify our rejections. No matter how backed up with facts my arguments may be, all they will do is bring some tantrum out of their hubris and argue why what I am saying (and others like me are or may be thinking) must be wrong since it attacks the system they are taking the advantage of.

There may be some IAs who might agree, totally or partially, with my words but won't write in support: either they are too drained and beaten by this system to talk about this or they have made it to the program of their choice and do not care what happens with other current and future IAs (those IAs disagreeing with this set of views may mostly be of the latter type). But it is necessary for future IAs, especially those having their UG from outside the US) to see this part of the picture too so that they can realize that the sea they are going to jump in has sharks that eat them and spare their domestic (or permanent resident) counterparts. One may have different opinions and may present them as I have done, but should only point out the flaw in my opinions if they have facts. As noted above, I can point out the profiles of individual users here to support my arguments but have not done this yet because I don't want this place/thread to turn toxic, rather I want to present opinions backed with reason and have an intellectual, unbiased, and mature discussion.

bigbang
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2022 5:12 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by bigbang » Sat Mar 05, 2022 7:27 am

This answer on Quora, from a guy who did his Ph.D. from Stanford and was apparently the kind of applicant you seem to argue for, pretty much aligns with your views: https://qr.ae/pGdgQf.

SchursLemma
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:16 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by SchursLemma » Sat Mar 05, 2022 10:48 am

It depends on the country I suppose. Non-US IAs from the UK or Europe for example (assuming they are from well-known universities in those countries) have a better chance of getting offers than someone from China or India, especially the latter, though there are exceptions. This book (https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php ... 0674088696) gives a rundown of how graduate admissions work, and I suppose it would be applicable for math as well.

deviant_lime
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2020 3:39 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by deviant_lime » Sat Mar 05, 2022 11:49 am

Even at the undergraduate level, US state universities give preference to students from that state in the admissions process and they also receive a lower tuition rate so I don't know why you think it's not possible that this happens at the graduate level as well.

I understand it feels unfair, but I imagine that universities in most countries will also prefer their domestic students from that country in the admissions process. While this is hard, life in general is just not fair. Just because domestic students have an advantage doesn't mean you should put down people's profiles as modest. Stats such as GPA/GRE do not give the whole picture. A good letter from a professor with a lot of connections in the US can mean a lot more to admissions committees than you might think. They might have shown a lot of promise in research during an REU that show potential beyond what GPA can possibly show.

ijustwanttodomath
Posts: 42
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 4:15 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ijustwanttodomath » Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:06 pm

I would like to preface my response by saying I am technically a "domestic applicant," but I watched my father, a refugee, deal with many of the struggles associated with being an international applicant to jobs and subsequently graduate programs, as at the time no one took his truly impressive credentials from his home country seriously.

Sorry about any typos, haven't had my morning cup of joe.

(1) Who are you to decide who has a "modest profile"? I get it because I can't lie, I was hurt to see applicants on this forum who have "lower" credentials than my own get admitted to certain programs over me... but there are so many factors that play into the admissions decision process and many agree it is a crapshoot... Are there certain factors that does improve someone's likelihood of being admitted into a mathematics PhD program? Of course--grades and experience with teaching or research are huge influences on the decision. There are many things that could have been discussed in their statement of purpose or letters of recommendation that made the admissions committee give preference to them over other applicants. If there was an interview involved, then they may have given a great impression to faculty during the meeting. If they recognized the student from a presentation or just conversation at conferences like JMM, SACNAS, NCUWM, etc., that could have also been an opportunity to impart a great impression. So, is it really fair to judge someone for their ability to excel in mathematical research just based on their "stats" from this forum? I do not believe so. I know several brilliant people who produced wonderful research but they didn't have a super high GPA, and I know people who had a high GPA only because they weren't honest students and their research outcome was trash in comparison (if we assume GPA correlates with ability to do research).

(2) It is entirely possible that is the case. To be blunt, there are more international applicants than there are domestic applicants. There is a lot of debate about whether or not publicly funded institutions (i.e., paid for by citizens' tax dollars... which include DA) should be spent on international students while domestic students are told to go eat shit. A similar case has been the huge issue with UC Berkeley and the enrollment freeze CA courst placed on them with respect to concerns about their number of out-of-state students vs their number of resident students (aka the people who pay taxes that keep them going!) : https://calmatters.org/education/higher ... lment-cap/

My point is that publicly funded institutions are oftentimes capped at the numbers of international students they can accept. They kind of have to accept domestic students, which makes sense considering they as an institution are supposed to be servicing domestic students. Hence why domestic students owe a much lower tuition rate than international applicants--as someone else mentioned, given the reduced funding to higher education, can influence departments' choices as well. More students with less spots = higher competition. Even extremely strong domestic applicants are struggling to get into PhD programs at the moment, from what I've seen on this forum + irl + on /r/gradadmissions.

(3) Well, yeah. They can admit more domestic applicants (who know the U.S. educational system better than international applicants, usually) who can in turn teach their math courses and produce more research. A lot of the domestic profiles on here also feature people who have experience teaching math in some capacity or giving oral presentations about their research, which matters a lot considering a lot students who get funded going to be employed as TAs.

(4) Graduate schools aren't running a charity where they try to accept everyone who is an international student. Furthermore, who are you to decide what is a good publication in an American journal?? Why would they have to sell you to themselves? That's YOUR job to do in your application; if your journal was a highly ranked one, perhaps mention that in your application. Part of being a good researcher is learning how to sell yourself--ostensibly, I was good at it for a few programs, and not so good for others.

Plus, there are many domestic applicants who are immigrants or children of immigrants! I grew up in poverty, my parents worked their asses off to get to a stable place after they came to the U.S. as refugees in pursuit of the American Dream (debatable whether it was a worthwhile pursuit), I worked my ass off to get the best education I could with what I had access to and was educated about at the time.

If your home country gives you such great opportunities as an undergrad (which is not the case with many universities here in the U.S.), then why do you need to come here? Apparently, the opportunities are already available to you there based on what you described. Convince the admissions committee why they should spend $$$ to bring you to their campus, otherwise they will be inclined to believe you're doing just fine over there.

Lastly, it is easy to falsify information in general. Both on the internet, so you shouldn't take every admissions decision you see on here or other sites too personally, and on applications... It is definitely harder for domestic students to falsify their application materials because it is very easy to contact universities and people to back up what they claim while the same cannot be said about international applicants.

--

Honestly, it sounds like you are the one drowning in your hubris, likely out of your own misunderstanding of how graduate programs in the U.S. works and the circumstances many domestic applicants struggle with in pursuit of a doctorate. To be able to apply for and pursue a doctorate is a privilege that isn't afforded to many extremely talented students, regardless of whether they are a domestic or international student. I don't really see why this needs to become the Hardship and Oppression Olympics. None of what I have read so far has convinced me that international students, overall, have it harder than domestic applicants. I don't think domestic students necessarily have it easier as you claim.

YellowBee
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2022 10:09 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by YellowBee » Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:26 pm

ekansh2912 wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 5:22 am
As noted above, I can point out the profiles of individual users here to support my arguments but have not done this yet because I don't want this place/thread to turn toxic, rather I want to present opinions backed with reason and have an intellectual, unbiased, and mature discussion.
This is so rude. Like you're just some random person who evidently couldn't get into some programs you wanted to get into. What makes you think you have any right to judge other people's profiles? I'm sympathetic to the fact that you didn't get into the programs you wanted, but don't tear other people down to make yourself feel better. I

ms60000204
Posts: 34
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2021 4:03 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ms60000204 » Sat Mar 05, 2022 2:02 pm

YellowBee wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:26 pm
ekansh2912 wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 5:22 am
As noted above, I can point out the profiles of individual users here to support my arguments but have not done this yet because I don't want this place/thread to turn toxic, rather I want to present opinions backed with reason and have an intellectual, unbiased, and mature discussion.
This is so rude. Like you're just some random person who evidently couldn't get into some programs you wanted to get into. What makes you think you have any right to judge other people's profiles? I'm sympathetic to the fact that you didn't get into the programs you wanted, but don't tear other people down to make yourself feel better. I
I didn't read the whole post, but thanks for saying this. How does it even intellectual, unbiased, and mature?

BochnerTube
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2022 12:03 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by BochnerTube » Sat Mar 05, 2022 4:55 pm

Hi OP,
I'm a slightly older international student who studied his undergraduate at a decent university in the US. It was one of the schools you were rejected from based on your past posts. I also applied this cycle as well to some joyful acceptances and not very hurtful rejections. I feel compelled to respond to your post because it reflected some of my initial knee-jerk reactions when I applied for my undergrad. I was rejected from 29 schools back in 2019.

But somehow I managed to study my undergrad here, and I spent nearly 3 years taking graduate courses and sharing comparable or heavier workload as the Ph.D. students at my uni. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with the domestic and international Ph.D. students there.

Most of the international Ph.D. students at my university share similar sentiments as you. They graduated from top universities from their home countries and/or top international universities in the western world. Many of them feel even more strongly about this "discrimination" than you do, and I have seen a couple of pretty heated debates on this topic amongst them.

But I do want to say that the strongest students I have noticed in the school are not international students. There seems to be a pretty even split of talent between international and domestic at the undergraduate level, and at the graduate level, the top spots tend to be occupied by domestic students. I don't think this information reflects your view of the state of affairs in America. I often feel that the international students feel a little too strongly about this discrimination, and tend to have an unreasonably low view of their domestic peers. I think it is a little sad that they feel that way. I am sympathetic to both your and their feelings, but they are certainly not appropriate.

At the same time, I think the comments of some of the other responders to your post are a little cruel. They're taking the piss on you for not getting into the schools you wanted to get into, and putting you down for your comments. I think it's a little uncalled for, even if you were a little harsh.

Being an international applicant is difficult. Nobody can deny that. You have to balance learning a foreign language, and if you studied in your home country, navigate a generally more cruel, unforgiving, and bureaucratic education system. You have to struggle to obtain resources that American students can take for granted. There are no REUs, and there are often little to no research opportunities for undergrads unless you're something like a top 5 student. There's also more compulsory coursework you have to balance and no homework or midterms to cushion grades. Most foreign universities are exam-based. you take one exam once a year and if you **** it up your career is as good as over. I do think the situation is a little easier for international students who did their undergrad in America, and a little easier than that for American students. I have had some bitter experiences here myself as an international student.

Nonetheless OP, I think you're reacting a little too strongly towards all of this. Some of my acquaintances (local and international) in my university who are far better credentialed than I am, did not manage to get into the schools they were hoping for. It is a sad and difficult state of affairs. There are no comforting words for this mess. In a perfect world, we are as brilliant as we want to be and as capable as we imagine ourselves to be. This is not that world. We certainly don't have "better" profiles than our American counterparts, and whatever difficulties we face are not the responsibilities of anyone else.

All we can do is try our best.

To respond to some of the other commenters:
Most international students want to do their Ph.D. in the US because it's funded. Most Ph.D. programs elsewhere in the world are not. Foreign universities recognize how difficult and competitive it is for international students to study in the USA which is why they tend to hire postdocs and Ph.D. grads from these universities. These students, having studied in these foreign universities, share the same sentiments as the people who hired them, and the cycle continues. The situation is not as simple as wanting to study here because the universities are better. Many extremely strong international students had initially wanted to study in their home country, only to be told they would have no future navigating the bureaucracy if they graduated with a piece of paper with non-English words on it.

ijustwanttodomath
Posts: 42
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 4:15 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ijustwanttodomath » Sat Mar 05, 2022 8:23 pm

BochnerTube, thank you for sharing your perspective. I don't agree that anyone was being cruel to OP in this context--again, play stupid games, win stupid prizes--but I appreciate that you explained the circumstances many international students go through. Although I do want to mention that REUs and internships are very competitive to get into, and several American universities (usually non-PhD granting institutions) don't have the resources for students to pursue research. Students who did their undergrad at R1 or R2 universities are going to have a drastically different experience than people who did not, as are students who had a privileged upbringing (which, ngl, STEM students who pursue grad school tend to be...).

It would be one thing if OP or the person in the other thread approached this issue without trying to decide who has it harder in life and resorting to personal attacks. Insulting the qualifications of domestic students who got into the programs they applied to is really immature and uncalled for.

Will_Wilde
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2020 4:17 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Will_Wilde » Sat Mar 05, 2022 8:30 pm

ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:06 pm
I would like to preface my response by saying I am technically a "domestic applicant," but I watched my father, a refugee, deal with many of the struggles associated with being an international applicant to jobs and subsequently graduate programs, as at the time no one took his truly impressive credentials from his home country seriously.

Sorry about any typos, haven't had my morning cup of joe.

(1) Who are you to decide who has a "modest profile"? I get it because I can't lie, I was hurt to see applicants on this forum who have "lower" credentials than my own get admitted to certain programs over me... but there are so many factors that play into the admissions decision process and many agree it is a crapshoot... Are there certain factors that does improve someone's likelihood of being admitted into a mathematics PhD program? Of course--grades and experience with teaching or research are huge influences on the decision. There are many things that could have been discussed in their statement of purpose or letters of recommendation that made the admissions committee give preference to them over other applicants. If there was an interview involved, then they may have given a great impression to faculty during the meeting. If they recognized the student from a presentation or just conversation at conferences like JMM, SACNAS, NCUWM, etc., that could have also been an opportunity to impart a great impression. So, is it really fair to judge someone for their ability to excel in mathematical research just based on their "stats" from this forum? I do not believe so. I know several brilliant people who produced wonderful research but they didn't have a super high GPA, and I know people who had a high GPA only because they weren't honest students and their research outcome was trash in comparison (if we assume GPA correlates with ability to do research).

(2) It is entirely possible that is the case. To be blunt, there are more international applicants than there are domestic applicants. There is a lot of debate about whether or not publicly funded institutions (i.e., paid for by citizens' tax dollars... which include DA) should be spent on international students while domestic students are told to go eat shit. A similar case has been the huge issue with UC Berkeley and the enrollment freeze CA courst placed on them with respect to concerns about their number of out-of-state students vs their number of resident students (aka the people who pay taxes that keep them going!) : https://calmatters.org/education/higher ... lment-cap/

My point is that publicly funded institutions are oftentimes capped at the numbers of international students they can accept. They kind of have to accept domestic students, which makes sense considering they as an institution are supposed to be servicing domestic students. Hence why domestic students owe a much lower tuition rate than international applicants--as someone else mentioned, given the reduced funding to higher education, can influence departments' choices as well. More students with less spots = higher competition. Even extremely strong domestic applicants are struggling to get into PhD programs at the moment, from what I've seen on this forum + irl + on /r/gradadmissions.

(3) Well, yeah. They can admit more domestic applicants (who know the U.S. educational system better than international applicants, usually) who can in turn teach their math courses and produce more research. A lot of the domestic profiles on here also feature people who have experience teaching math in some capacity or giving oral presentations about their research, which matters a lot considering a lot students who get funded going to be employed as TAs.

(4) Graduate schools aren't running a charity where they try to accept everyone who is an international student. Furthermore, who are you to decide what is a good publication in an American journal?? Why would they have to sell you to themselves? That's YOUR job to do in your application; if your journal was a highly ranked one, perhaps mention that in your application. Part of being a good researcher is learning how to sell yourself--ostensibly, I was good at it for a few programs, and not so good for others.

Plus, there are many domestic applicants who are immigrants or children of immigrants! I grew up in poverty, my parents worked their asses off to get to a stable place after they came to the U.S. as refugees in pursuit of the American Dream (debatable whether it was a worthwhile pursuit), I worked my ass off to get the best education I could with what I had access to and was educated about at the time.

If your home country gives you such great opportunities as an undergrad (which is not the case with many universities here in the U.S.), then why do you need to come here? Apparently, the opportunities are already available to you there based on what you described. Convince the admissions committee why they should spend $$$ to bring you to their campus, otherwise they will be inclined to believe you're doing just fine over there.

Lastly, it is easy to falsify information in general. Both on the internet, so you shouldn't take every admissions decision you see on here or other sites too personally, and on applications... It is definitely harder for domestic students to falsify their application materials because it is very easy to contact universities and people to back up what they claim while the same cannot be said about international applicants.

--

Honestly, it sounds like you are the one drowning in your hubris, likely out of your own misunderstanding of how graduate programs in the U.S. works and the circumstances many domestic applicants struggle with in pursuit of a doctorate. To be able to apply for and pursue a doctorate is a privilege that isn't afforded to many extremely talented students, regardless of whether they are a domestic or international student. I don't really see why this needs to become the Hardship and Oppression Olympics. None of what I have read so far has convinced me that international students, overall, have it harder than domestic applicants. I don't think domestic students necessarily have it easier as you claim.
You worked your ass off, good for you. So are some international students. You had your own sufferings, sorry to hear that. So are some international, and domestic students too. I myself had gone homeless twice and was admitted to a respite center once, where I met domestic people abandoned by their own society. The world is fucked up and there are more people than you or I want to believe who have an extremely shitty life. I use my spare time on adult tutoring to help domestic and international people (likely including people like your father) with great financial struggles to land a better job and improve their lives, because I don't dichotomically believe people are suffering due to their nationality. I knew domestic students who could not continue their math dream without full financial support due to their family situation and who also worked their ass off. And honestly, some of them have a much stronger profile than you or me in terms of the number of graduate classes they have aced, the paper they have written, the rec's they have gotten, the capacity they have developed to explain avant-garde math to even a complete newbie, the meetings they have been to. I don't feel convinced that you are the one to judge personal hardship either. In fact, I agreed with you that there is no point to throw a hardship and oppression olympics. I was using my own experience and witness to prevent any potential abuse of moral high-ground here. That will not benefit a discussion.

I understand that some people may prioritize tribalism over internationalism like, say, "science has no borders", especially in a discussion that may reduce their share of the cake. I might hold the same view as yours if I were from your background too. I don't believe I am a saint. However, since I am unfortunately impacted by the situation due to my citizenship, I have to faithfully reply to the points you listed out so that future international students will not* (I omitted the "not" here by mistake in the original version of my reply) excessively internalize external issues when they fall into the majority of IA's matched to schools lower one or two tiers than schools they might get admitted to were they DA's.

1) who are you to decide why a seemingly "modest profile" is actually stellar, or, at least, above par? Are you assuming that IA with a "non-modest profile" don't know the existence of conferences like JMM, SACNAS, NCUWM, etc.? I also know brilliant people who produced wonderful research but they didn't have a super-high GPA. I understand that people have different situations, like health issues, family struggles, etc. which may impact their capacity to perform their best in classes. Yet usually these people at least have some sort of proof of their capacity, like interesting writings or papers. If these people actually are only having a sub par GPA (btw, my mentor, ex-DGS of my current department, told me no top 10 schools would take me if I had a single B on my transcript; I think that is a bit too extreme, yet I cannot help but raise my eyebrow when I see a math GPA below 3.8/4.0 in top 10 admissions) or mGRE score, I think no one will say anything about them. Yet if they don't even have a single stat supporting why they should be admitted while others don't, why should we go out of our way to imagine "probably they did well in some aspects that they didn't demonstrate"? Isnt it OUR job to advertise ourselves?

2) I agree that publicly funded institutions often have to do that, because a status quo is always extremely hard to change and I don't aspire to be able to push forwards that myself. However, it is a stretch to go from practical reason to value judgment that they are supposed to be servicing domestic students at the graduate level. It is valid to argue from a taxation perspective that "my parents pay the tax and thus I should be guaranteed a greater chance to get in". Yet you can also argue that since immigrants are contributing to a crucial part of the economy too, it is debatable who eventually pays more tax to this country, on top of other economic values they bring. This is an immigrant country from the beginning. You are a second-generation immigrant too. While it is understandable you feel defensive to your seat here, it makes you look bad by being like "I got my share. F**k you."

3) It is also valid to argue from the development of science and math or "meritocracy" perspective that "domestic students have already had an easier chance in undergrad admission. If a world-class education doesn't prepare them to be competitive enough for PhD training, why should they still have an easier pass?" (I will reply to BochnerTube's point on "split of talent between international students and domestic students" separately) At least in my school, while some domestic students are really really good, I do notice that the population of 3rd and 4th year PhD students who cannot even explain fundamental knowledge of their own field(s) well is overrepresented by some other domestic students too. It is an anecdotal data point and I may be wrong here. I just wanted to point out that there are potentially valid arguments for different stances. If we sincerely want to talk about it, we had better put ourselves in others' shoes.

4) Are you suggesting IA's are worse teachers than DA's, or IA's don't know the importance of teaching thus having not tutored or TA'ed for that? C'mon, just check the teaching evaluation result of a random top 20 program (I checked the flagship school I am from). The ratio of excellent TA's in international students vs domestic students does not seem to be lower than the population ratio. A lot of the international profiles on here also feature people who have experience in teaching math in some capacity or giving oral presentations about their research too. Are you conveniently overlooking evidence that doesn't support your statement?

5) Who are you to decide what is a bad publication in an American journal? Are you assuming IA's publications are more likely to be a "bad" one than the DA's? Did any single IA suggest the other way here so far? Are you making up things to do people dirt?

Hasnt NSF provided domestic students training programs to only domestic students here? Why are you playing the victims by pretending you dont have great opportunities in the U.S.?

Lastly, it is easy to falsify information in general. Like how you resort to partial truth that supports your sentiment that "international students should not talk about the treatment peculiar to their group". I like your suggestive statement that "it is harder for domestic students to falsify their application materials" because the difference in treatment does not only apply to IA's from non-U.S. universities (unless you continue to turn a blind eye on reality).

Honestly, it sounds like you are drowning in your hubris and privileges, likely out of your (intentional or unintentional?) overlooking of how graduate programs in the U.S. works and the circumstances many international applicants struggle with in pursuit of a doctorate. No one is trivializing DA's suffering. There are people like me who even go out of our way to help other people regardless of their nationality exactly because we know how bad things are for everyone. I dont really see why people like you are eager to shut up IA's slightest vent about the ill-treatment that DA's admittedly will not have to go through. No one was engaging in the hardship and oppression olympics till you threw out your own to guilt others. I hope you are able to understand the simple fact that international students struggle more can be true at the same time with the fact that domestic students suffer a ton. Please dont think dichotomically.
Last edited by Will_Wilde on Fri Mar 11, 2022 9:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Will_Wilde
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Will_Wilde » Sat Mar 05, 2022 8:35 pm

ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 8:23 pm
BochnerTube, thank you for sharing your perspective. I don't agree that anyone was being cruel to OP in this context--again, play stupid games, win stupid prizes--but I appreciate that you explained the circumstances many international students go through. Although I do want to mention that REUs and internships are very competitive to get into, and several American universities (usually non-PhD granting institutions) don't have the resources for students to pursue research. Students who did their undergrad at R1 or R2 universities are going to have a drastically different experience than people who did not, as are students who had a privileged upbringing (which, ngl, STEM students who pursue grad school tend to be...).

It would be one thing if OP or the person in the other thread approached this issue without trying to decide who has it harder in life and resorting to personal attacks. Insulting the qualifications of domestic students who got into the programs they applied to is really immature and uncalled for.
Yea, if the attack is you on me then it is not immature. I guess I definitely expected to receive so much precious education on a personal value judgment. You take a simple comparative statement as an insult and really no one can persuade you to step out of your bubble unless you make up your mind yourself.

Will_Wilde
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Will_Wilde » Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:05 pm

BochnerTube wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 4:55 pm
Hi OP,
I'm a slightly older international student who studied his undergraduate at a decent university in the US. It was one of the schools you were rejected from based on your past posts. I also applied this cycle as well to some joyful acceptances and not very hurtful rejections. I feel compelled to respond to your post because it reflected some of my initial knee-jerk reactions when I applied for my undergrad. I was rejected from 29 schools back in 2019.

But somehow I managed to study my undergrad here, and I spent nearly 3 years taking graduate courses and sharing comparable or heavier workload as the Ph.D. students at my uni. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with the domestic and international Ph.D. students there.

Most of the international Ph.D. students at my university share similar sentiments as you. They graduated from top universities from their home countries and/or top international universities in the western world. Many of them feel even more strongly about this "discrimination" than you do, and I have seen a couple of pretty heated debates on this topic amongst them.

But I do want to say that the strongest students I have noticed in the school are not international students. There seems to be a pretty even split of talent between international and domestic at the undergraduate level, and at the graduate level, the top spots tend to be occupied by domestic students. I don't think this information reflects your view of the state of affairs in America. I often feel that the international students feel a little too strongly about this discrimination, and tend to have an unreasonably low view of their domestic peers. I think it is a little sad that they feel that way. I am sympathetic to both your and their feelings, but they are certainly not appropriate.

At the same time, I think the comments of some of the other responders to your post are a little cruel. They're taking the piss on you for not getting into the schools you wanted to get into, and putting you down for your comments. I think it's a little uncalled for, even if you were a little harsh.

Being an international applicant is difficult. Nobody can deny that. You have to balance learning a foreign language, and if you studied in your home country, navigate a generally more cruel, unforgiving, and bureaucratic education system. You have to struggle to obtain resources that American students can take for granted. There are no REUs, and there are often little to no research opportunities for undergrads unless you're something like a top 5 student. There's also more compulsory coursework you have to balance and no homework or midterms to cushion grades. Most foreign universities are exam-based. you take one exam once a year and if you **** it up your career is as good as over. I do think the situation is a little easier for international students who did their undergrad in America, and a little easier than that for American students. I have had some bitter experiences here myself as an international student.

Nonetheless OP, I think you're reacting a little too strongly towards all of this. Some of my acquaintances (local and international) in my university who are far better credentialed than I am, did not manage to get into the schools they were hoping for. It is a sad and difficult state of affairs. There are no comforting words for this mess. In a perfect world, we are as brilliant as we want to be and as capable as we imagine ourselves to be. This is not that world. We certainly don't have "better" profiles than our American counterparts, and whatever difficulties we face are not the responsibilities of anyone else.

All we can do is try our best.

To respond to some of the other commenters:
Most international students want to do their Ph.D. in the US because it's funded. Most Ph.D. programs elsewhere in the world are not. Foreign universities recognize how difficult and competitive it is for international students to study in the USA which is why they tend to hire postdocs and Ph.D. grads from these universities. These students, having studied in these foreign universities, share the same sentiments as the people who hired them, and the cycle continues. The situation is not as simple as wanting to study here because the universities are better. Many extremely strong international students had initially wanted to study in their home country, only to be told they would have no future navigating the bureaucracy if they graduated with a piece of paper with non-English words on it.
Thank you for your contribution.

It is dangerous to police others' feelings. It is worse when you secretly set up a strawman when you try to distort the nature of others' feelings. So far, the OP didn't say anything close to "have an unreasonably low view of their domestic peers". Probably some people you have had a heated debate with do. Yet it is a stretch to assume OP does in their original post. We all have our respect for people who demonstrate their capacity which include of course both domestic and international students. Questioning a few cases out of a group does not automatically put down the whole group.

I am not sure what the OP is reacting to. At least for me, if a social phenomenon is multifaceted yet dissenting voices are pressed down by being told to their face "talking about situation peculiar to your group is wrong", then I should stand up for myself, other people dealing with similar situations having similar stances but afraid of nasty attacks (by people like these who reply to me in the other thread), and future international students. It is not about "feeling too strongly about a 'discrimination'", but about the fact before this thread hardly any English forum has a discussion on this.

We should try our best. Yet we don't have to just swallow whatever the privileged tell us to. Like how kaubrey phrases a situation that benefits them as the only absolute "correct" consequence based on reasoning followed from their values. Or how ijustwanttodomath suggests I am to blame for people being triggered in an unrelated thread by a single non-taboo word I used (if they really thought it is absurd or just a personal take, they wouldnt reply to me. Just like why there is no protest against human attempting photosynthesis). You don't have to agree with me here and we can agree to disagree.

You can represent international students like you. Please don't assume the spokesperson role for everyone. No will I.
Last edited by Will_Wilde on Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:19 pm, edited 6 times in total.

dddddddddddddd
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by dddddddddddddd » Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:08 pm

This may be a naïve perspective, so I would be glad if anyone could tell me where I am misunderstanding something. I am writing this as a domestic applicant, so perhaps I need to get off my high horse. My take is that the usage of the word "unfair" is not correct.

It seems to me that this thread is a comparison of difficulty between domestic and international applicants, and the claim is that international applicants have a harder time getting into grad school in the U.S. It is not obvious to me why this is unfair. Is it unfair if we have two applicants with "equal" stats (whatever that means as no two applicants are going to be equal), then the institution would pick the domestic applicant over the international one? To me, even in this perfect scenario which probably (almost certainly?) never happens, this does not seem unfair at all. In particular, direct comparison of any two applicants seem to be difficult.

I guess all I am saying is that domestic applicants and international applicants are subject to possibly different standards due to institutional preferences, and I am not sure why this is unfair.

ijustwanttodomath
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ijustwanttodomath » Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:30 pm

Tbh, at work and no longer bored enough to bother reading or writing another wall of text. I'm sorry you dealt with terrible circumstances and are apparently experiencing an obstacle in reaching your goals. It sucks and several of my friends irl, domestic and international students, are dealing with similar situations. The entire applications process is a crapshoot to begin with.

Moreover, my intention was not to invalidate your feelings or your experiences--they are valid. However, it isn't fair to shit on other people's successes because you decided that they are lesser quality candidates than you are. I mentioned the other factors that could play into a decision because those things DO happen; for example, one of my friends got their single acceptance because a member of the admissions committee recognized their name and past research project description from a conference that they attended a few years ago.

The original post was, in my eyes, shared with the goal to stimulate discussion, as one does on a forum. People are allowed to disagree with your opinions and mine as well.

Will_Wilde
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Will_Wilde » Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:53 pm

ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:30 pm
Tbh, at work and no longer bored enough to bother reading or writing another wall of text. I'm sorry you dealt with terrible circumstances and are apparently experiencing an obstacle in reaching your goals. It sucks and several of my friends irl, domestic and international students, are dealing with similar situations. The entire applications process is a crapshoot to begin with.

Moreover, my intention was not to invalidate your feelings or your experiences--they are valid. However, it isn't fair to shit on other people's successes because you decided that they are lesser quality candidates than you are. I mentioned the other factors that could play into a decision because those things DO happen; for example, one of my friends got their single acceptance because a member of the admissions committee recognized their name and past research project description from a conference that they attended a few years ago.

The original post was, in my eyes, shared with the goal to stimulate discussion, as one does on a forum. People are allowed to disagree with your opinions and mine as well.
I agree that the situation is very tough for anyone. If I see people shit on others' success, I will speak up too. Yet either my post or the OP's really did this. I have to admit previously I simply assumed that people agree with the statement questioning a system doesnt mean attacking individuals.

I also agree with you that among domestic students, the amount of opportunities one has is greatly impacted by which tier their undergraduate institute is. That is actually one of my major incentives to work on adult tutoring, to contribute my part to make up for the gap. It is also true that eventually, including me, if it were not some sort of privilege one had in one's upbringing, one would hardly end up in a STEM grad school.

If I really wanted to stimulate a discussion, I would not have been gentle in my original post. I can relate that when one has a bad day, they are more inclined to view things others said as "coming with a hidden agenda". Yet it is really not my problem that my intention was twisted in people's minds. How do I defend myself for things I didn't say but only existed in others' minds?? I cannot get into their head after all.

I agree that the admission process is filled with unexpected factors. For the rest, how about let's just agree to disagree? Hope you have a good time in grad school.

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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by xeno_3142 » Sun Mar 06, 2022 3:17 am

I'm an international applicant who studies in a non-US university. I also didn't get into many programmes that I want and my application outcomes are described by my supervisor as "a bit disappointing". So I think maybe I can share some of my thoughts here.

To me, I think international applicants are not necessarily "biased against" but we do have some disadvantages compared to domestic applicants or those with US bachelor degrees. There are lots of disadvantages that I can think of, none of which is really unfair in my opinion.

My university is in fact the best in the country and famously selective and competitive. And I am "the best student" in my programme as least according to my GPA. But like many non-US schools, my home university does not have a "standard" math curriculum that US grad admission committee would expect an applicant to have (I also only transferred to math during my second year). I basically wasn't allowed to take graduate courses before my final year because those modules were reserved for graduate students. There is virtually no TA opportunity for undergraduate. And my school does not have any funding for undergraduate research. Besides, it is extremely hard to have publications as an undergraduate here since most of the professors here are reluctant to take extra unpaid responsibility to supervise students with such an endeavour (I for one do not have any publication which I think is a serious disadvantage). Besides, I didn't have any academic advisor to talk to regarding my plan to apply for US schools and few of my peers have similar plans.

I think all of the above have played some role in making my profile less appealing. But again, I don't think there is anything wrong with US schools to reject me for these reasons. At the end of the day, we are the ones who enter the game that is not perfectly catered for us.

Decoder
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Decoder » Sun Mar 06, 2022 3:51 am

I am an international applicant for this cycle(2022), specifically, I am from China.
I don't feel the admission is unfair. We choose to apply to schools in the U.S., this is all personal choice. Foreign recommenders are supposed to have less impact. You can't say this is unfair, because it is impossible for any committee to give a proper measurement of recommenders from all over the world. And more importantly, if you feel this is unfair, you can apply for your country's domestic schools if you feel your application materials will be judged in a more 'fair' manner. Once you choose to apply for American schools, then that means you accept the rules and play the game. It is bitchy to doubt the rules after you have accepted them.

Your sentences also make me feel that your brain is linear, in the sense that you think GPA 3.5 is for sure worse than GPA 3.8. If that is the consequence of you taking linear algebra, I strongly suggest you take some nonlinear analysis. Why higher mGRE is always better than lower? Why more publications are always better than fewer or no publications? Why an applicant with GPA3.5 cannot get a far better recommendation than yours? Why every school should admit the same amount of international students and domestic students? Why can't they have a better match in research interests than yours? These are all unfounded assumptions and I don't think even one of them is correct. People with a high GPA do not necessarily have a better potential to be a researcher. (In case you judge mine, I have a 4.0 GPA in math courses including 7 graduate courses)

And let me tell you the application results from our school, my undergraduate class has tens of people get into Havard, Stanford, MIT, and Yale. You can name any of the most prestigious schools in America and you will find my colleague there(mostly they are masters though). We are all Chinese and I don't really think any unfair judgment is addressed on us. Ph.D. application is way harder than master's, but I still get some admissions, and one of my colleagues got a Ph.D. at Yale. I got many rejections, but I understand that there are many people, domestic or international, that perform better in some sense than me. And my rejections are not a consequence of unfair judgment.

Lastly, please be polite and open to everyone in this forum, and don't say that anybody's profile is worse than yours.

bigbang
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by bigbang » Sun Mar 06, 2022 8:26 am

dddddddddddddd wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:08 pm
This may be a naïve perspective, so I would be glad if anyone could tell me where I am misunderstanding something. I am writing this as a domestic applicant, so perhaps I need to get off my high horse. My take is that the usage of the word "unfair" is not correct.

It seems to me that this thread is a comparison of difficulty between domestic and international applicants, and the claim is that international applicants have a harder time getting into grad school in the U.S. It is not obvious to me why this is unfair. Is it unfair if we have two applicants with "equal" stats (whatever that means as no two applicants are going to be equal), then the institution would pick the domestic applicant over the international one? To me, even in this perfect scenario which probably (almost certainly?) never happens, this does not seem unfair at all. In particular, direct comparison of any two applicants seem to be difficult.

I guess all I am saying is that domestic applicants and international applicants are subject to possibly different standards due to institutional preferences, and I am not sure why this is unfair.
This seems to be unfair to the OP, and to some extent to me too, because to the best of my understanding, the selection process is relative, i.e., if there are 10 applications "deemed" better than mine for 10 "seats", then I won't get a seat no matter how strong my application may be (in my opinion and/or in that of the admissions committee). Hence, as an IA, I am (and rightly ought to be) very much concerned about how the applicant pool is and how the admissions committee sees it and chooses people to admit. Now, the point is that if the IAs are subjected "to possibly different standards" (as you say) and "much higher degree of standards" (as the OP says), it blatantly is unfair to the IA - (let me "quantify" an otherwise holistic, abstract thing just for the purpose of explanation here) - if a domestic application should cross, say, 8 on a quality scale of 10 to be awarded an offer, and if an international application should cross, say, 9 or even 8.5 on a quality scale of 10 for that, then it certainly is unfair. So, if you agree that intl. appl. are subjected to a higher or more rigorous standard than dom.appl., then it is unfair to the IAs.

Also, I don't understand why you think the hypothetical scenario you mentioned (in red) is not unfair - it is both unfair and discriminatory if you agree that the stats and quality of applications are somehow compared to be the same (as you've called "equal").

CoffeeBean
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by CoffeeBean » Sun Mar 06, 2022 8:32 am

bigbang wrote:
Sun Mar 06, 2022 8:26 am
dddddddddddddd wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 9:08 pm
This may be a naïve perspective, so I would be glad if anyone could tell me where I am misunderstanding something. I am writing this as a domestic applicant, so perhaps I need to get off my high horse. My take is that the usage of the word "unfair" is not correct.

It seems to me that this thread is a comparison of difficulty between domestic and international applicants, and the claim is that international applicants have a harder time getting into grad school in the U.S. It is not obvious to me why this is unfair. Is it unfair if we have two applicants with "equal" stats (whatever that means as no two applicants are going to be equal), then the institution would pick the domestic applicant over the international one? To me, even in this perfect scenario which probably (almost certainly?) never happens, this does not seem unfair at all. In particular, direct comparison of any two applicants seem to be difficult.

I guess all I am saying is that domestic applicants and international applicants are subject to possibly different standards due to institutional preferences, and I am not sure why this is unfair.
This seems to be unfair to the OP, and to some extent to me too, because to the best of my understanding, the selection process is relative, i.e., if there are 10 applications "deemed" better than mine for 10 "seats", then I won't get a seat no matter how strong my application may be (in my opinion and/or in that of the admissions committee). Hence, as an IA, I am (and rightly ought to be) very much concerned about how the applicant pool is and how the admissions committee sees it and chooses people to admit. Now, the point is that if the IAs are subjected "to possibly different standards" (as you say) and "much higher degree of standards" (as the OP says), it blatantly is unfair to the IA - (let me "quantify" an otherwise holistic, abstract thing just for the purpose of explanation here) - if a domestic application should cross, say, 8 on a quality scale of 10 to be awarded an offer, and if an international application should cross, say, 9 or even 8.5 on a quality scale of 10 for that, then it certainly is unfair. So, if you agree that intl. appl. are subjected to a higher or more rigorous standard than dom.appl., then it is unfair to the IAs.

Also, I don't understand why you think the hypothetical scenario you mentioned (in red) is not unfair - it is both unfair and discriminatory if you agree that the stats and quality of applications are somehow compared to be the same (as you've called "equal").

I also don't see why it's necessarily "unfair" if a US educational institution prefers applicants from the US. I'm sure that IA and DA applicants are all equally deserving of going to grad school in math, but it seems like it would be normal for universities in any country to prefer applicants from that place, especially if they receive funding from their state or national government.

This isn't to say that I don't think US institutions should accept any grad students from outside the US. I think having both domestic and international students makes the program stronger overall. I just think that it's very reasonable to guarantee a certain number of spots to domestic students each year.

bigbang
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by bigbang » Sun Mar 06, 2022 8:51 am

CoffeeBean wrote:
Sun Mar 06, 2022 8:32 am
bigbang wrote:
Sun Mar 06, 2022 8:26 am

This seems to be unfair to the OP, and to some extent to me too, because to the best of my understanding, the selection process is relative, i.e., if there are 10 applications "deemed" better than mine for 10 "seats", then I won't get a seat no matter how strong my application may be (in my opinion and/or in that of the admissions committee). Hence, as an IA, I am (and rightly ought to be) very much concerned about how the applicant pool is and how the admissions committee sees it and chooses people to admit. Now, the point is that if the IAs are subjected "to possibly different standards" (as you say) and "much higher degree of standards" (as the OP says), it blatantly is unfair to the IA - (let me "quantify" an otherwise holistic, abstract thing just for the purpose of explanation here) - if a domestic application should cross, say, 8 on a quality scale of 10 to be awarded an offer, and if an international application should cross, say, 9 or even 8.5 on a quality scale of 10 for that, then it certainly is unfair. So, if you agree that intl. appl. are subjected to a higher or more rigorous standard than dom.appl., then it is unfair to the IAs.

Also, I don't understand why you think the hypothetical scenario you mentioned (in red) is not unfair - it is both unfair and discriminatory if you agree that the stats and quality of applications are somehow compared to be the same (as you've called "equal").

I also don't see why it's necessarily "unfair" if a US educational institution prefers applicants from the US. I'm sure that IA and DA applicants are all equally deserving of going to grad school in math, but it seems like it would be normal for universities in any country to prefer applicants from that place, especially if they receive funding from their state or national government.

This isn't to say that I don't think US institutions should accept any grad students from outside the US. I think having both domestic and international students makes the program stronger overall. I just think that it's very reasonable to guarantee a certain number of spots to domestic students each year.
What you said makes sense if the university and/or the department mentions this on their program info section that a proportion of seats are reserved for domestic applicants, which I don’t think they do (talking in general). Some countries do have such a system where there are different forms of reservations at university levels too and they mention this. Unless it is explicitly acknowledged by the program that they guarantee a certain number of spots to domestic students each year, it is both legally and morally wrong IMO.

ekansh2912
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ekansh2912 » Sun Mar 06, 2022 9:51 am

YellowBee wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:26 pm

This is so rude. Like you're just some random person who evidently couldn't get into some programs you wanted to get into. What makes you think you have any right to judge other people's profiles? I'm sympathetic to the fact that you didn't get into the programs you wanted, but don't tear other people down to make yourself feel better. I
Oh please don’t try to imagine the fate of my application(s) and pretend to feel sympathetic to the hypothetical situation that me, or other people even obliquely agreeing with me on this topic, did not get into programs I (or they) wanted to. I had already predicted the following in my original post: “…will hence think that IAs like me are blaming the system and producing false accusations just to justify our rejections.” Thank you for proving my point right. I seem to have gauged the shallow mentality of “some” boastful and arrogant DAs.

ekansh2912
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ekansh2912 » Sun Mar 06, 2022 9:52 am

ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:06 pm

(1) Who are you to decide who has a "modest profile"? I get it because I can't lie, I was hurt to see applicants on this forum who have "lower" credentials than my own get admitted to certain programs over me... but there are so many factors that play into the admissions decision process and many agree it is a crapshoot...
ijustwanttodomath and YellowBee asked who am I to judge other’s profiles and call them modest! Let me start off simple. We put our detailed profiles on this forum and check those of others to gauge our chances of making it to a program. As aspiring applicants, we see an “accepted profile” and get a sense of what all we need to do to make it to that program. As an applicant in the month of November and December, we compare our profiles with those of others and decide if we should apply to a place we want to apply to (some may back off applying to a university if they find many many great profiles applying to that university). From January onwards, we start telling our results. Why? We want the current and future applicants to know what it took us to make to that university or what we did prove insufficient to make it to another. At any step, all we are doing is providing a comparison scale or reference to others, i.e., we are letting others a chance to judge us and then themselves. We all judge and once you post yourself here and write “admitted” or “rejected”, you agree to an implicit judgment (which could certainly be constructive, and mostly is as I explained above). You said about profiles having “lower” stats – see that it is exactly where you judged. Now don’t call your statement an obvious observation and mine as an evil-intended judgment. It’s obvious that profiles are judged here (whatever that word may mean to you both).

Why did I say modest? Well, those of you lecturing me on the outstanding quality of the SOP and LORs of many DAs with otherwise “lower” stats (in the words of ijustwanttodomath), we all put ONLY stats on this forum – so they are here the only parameters of comparison. Nobody stopped anybody from discussing their SOP and LORs here (many can potentially discuss their LORs since they themselves write a few for their own applications). But you don’t do that. For whatever purpose you are disclosing the information of your stats and achievements and your results here, you leave it to the reader to analyze (or just read) your incomplete profile. Stop acting naïve and take this – all low stats together make a modest profile ON THIS FORUM. They may not be modest otherwise since apparently, on the table of the admissions committees, some “very terrific letters from the most famous mathematicians” and “amazingly written and wonderfully promising statements” are attached (quite flabbergasting) to these otherwise statistically modest profiles of the DAs. But with what they show or say here, they are modest.

ekansh2912
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Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ekansh2912 » Sun Mar 06, 2022 9:55 am

Decoder wrote:
Sun Mar 06, 2022 3:51 am
I am an international applicant for this cycle(2022), specifically, I am from China.
I don't feel the admission is unfair. We choose to apply to schools in the U.S., this is all personal choice. Foreign recommenders are supposed to have less impact. You can't say this is unfair, because it is impossible for any committee to give a proper measurement of recommenders from all over the world. And more importantly, if you feel this is unfair, you can apply for your country's domestic schools if you feel your application materials will be judged in a more 'fair' manner. Once you choose to apply for American schools, then that means you accept the rules and play the game. It is bitchy to doubt the rules after you have accepted them.

Your sentences also make me feel that your brain is linear, in the sense that you think GPA 3.5 is for sure worse than GPA 3.8. If that is the consequence of you taking linear algebra, I strongly suggest you take some nonlinear analysis. Why higher mGRE is always better than lower? Why more publications are always better than fewer or no publications? Why an applicant with GPA3.5 cannot get a far better recommendation than yours? Why every school should admit the same amount of international students and domestic students? Why can't they have a better match in research interests than yours? These are all unfounded assumptions and I don't think even one of them is correct. People with a high GPA do not necessarily have a better potential to be a researcher. (In case you judge mine, I have a 4.0 GPA in math courses including 7 graduate courses)

And let me tell you the application results from our school, my undergraduate class has tens of people get into Havard, Stanford, MIT, and Yale. You can name any of the most prestigious schools in America and you will find my colleague there(mostly they are masters though). We are all Chinese and I don't really think any unfair judgment is addressed on us. Ph.D. application is way harder than master's, but I still get some admissions, and one of my colleagues got a Ph.D. at Yale. I got many rejections, but I understand that there are many people, domestic or international, that perform better in some sense than me. And my rejections are not a consequence of unfair judgment.

Lastly, please be polite and open to everyone in this forum, and don't say that anybody's profile is worse than yours.
With reference to my previous post, I, like other normal people, perceive profiles posted here as they are statistically. The answer to all your WHYs in the second paragraph is – because statistically, THEY ARE. If you tell me that with every “statistically modest profile” (refer to my previous post for an explanation to that phrase), I should imagine wonderful SOPs and LORs, and if you mind me still judging like the way I was earlier, then you can call me thinking linearly. But if you are sensible enough to not give the above suggestion, then I will see the profiles as they are here. Here, the specific kinds of profiles that I seem to talk about in my original post have low GPA, low mGRE, no research experience, little to no tutoring/teaching exp. Mathematical potential, if any, is reasonable to be reflected in at least one place other than the mysterious LORs not posted on this forum. Why on Earth should I assume that all these profiles which have been accepted will be backed with “terrific letters from the most famous mathematicians.” Why do you assume this? Maybe this is the consequence of you taking courses (more than you can handle) that require you to imagine weird things or scenarios that are impractical and have terribly low odds of being true. Maybe a lot of abstraction has cut you off from the real world – I strongly suggest you take a few courses in the applied math side to bring your brain back to Earth.

To your last paragraph, I said this in my original post: “It's not that IAs were not admitted in this cycle in top places, they certainly were, but those rejected were put to an incredibly high standard of comparison while keeping the comparison scale for DAs almost unchanged”. Your 4.0 GPA in math grad courses makes me hopeful that you have the ability to understand the obvious meaning of this statement. Lastly, it looks from your words that it may be incredibly difficult for you, but try to start off by being polite and setting an example for rude people like me.

pietropic
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:28 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by pietropic » Sun Mar 06, 2022 1:07 pm

Hey guys,
before giving my opinion away, I wanted to establish some things to make stuff clearer.
As of right now I don’t study in the US, so take all my opinions with a grain of salt.
Last year I applied to 6 graduate programs in North America (4 in the US + 2 in Canada), I was accepted in 2 of them. I studied as an Undegrad in Brazil, Brazil could be described by a former US president as a shithole country, but particularly for math the situation is better. In Brazil we definitely have a easier time applying to grad school compared to other Latin American countries.

Here I will assume that no region on earth is preferred by “god”, in the sense that Mathematical talent is equally distributed around the world. Moreover, I will assume that the goal of the universities, and the US’s public funding in mathematical research is not for that every citizen can have a graduate diploma, and able to do research if they wanted to. Instead the goal is to make US’s universities elite institutions in mathematical research, and the public funding exists because the government feels that its strategically important to have this centers in the US, and not elsewhere.
In this point of view, it is clear that the objective of the grad admissions procedures is to select the best mathematical talent available for their spots. And therefore, the main issue is how to choose, between applicants, those with the most talent for research.

The last thing I wanted to say before making my point is, we have two options: Either we treat this entire forum as useless, cuz no metric will ever describe one’s ability, or we can assume that the metrics are flawed, but recognize that they give us some sort of a rough estimate of the person’s ability.
I am personally more inclined to the first option, but since graduate committees ask for these metrics: grades, graduate courses, research experience, teaching experience etc.
I will assume that we can roughly judge between two profiles what is the better one. In this sense, it is not arrogant or bad to say that candidate A is a better candidate than candidate B.

Establishing these points, I agree that this forum correlates with the opinion that IAs(and by this I mean people with non-US/Canada degrees) have to show more for it to enter a top program, compered to DAs( and by this I mean the complement of the set of IAs). Now the question is, Is this unfair?
My point is: what does unfair means? If unfair is used as in “life is unfair” I agree, if unfair is thought as in professors in these committees are being prejudicial against IAs I don’t have reasons to believe so.

Let’s just put ourselves in the place of a such professor in a such committee, you receive an application from a university you never heard of, from a country you don’t know. What do grades mean? A B+ in real analysis could either mean you are the best student in class, or it could mean that you are the worst, and there is no way to know that.
That is why I think for an IA the most important thing is the LORs, but again this is also put IA in a disadvantage, you will face a restaurant recommendation from a close friend, a lot differently than a recommendation from a random person in the street. If you are a professor LORs from people you know and trust are way more valuable than the ones from people you never heard of.

Of course professors know people from other countries, in my acceptances/rejections there is a strong correlation between my recommenders co-authors universities and my acceptances, and the other way around as well.
In this light, I don’t feel that people coming from Oxbridge or a top university in China should have the same issues as the rest of us IAs, of course this is just an impression from someone who doesn’t know the system from inside.
But I am pretty sure that as it is right now, if someone comes from a country where is no research in math, no grad programs in pure mathematics, no matter if the person is a generational talent, they will never be accepted in these top programs.

I disagree with the original post when it was mentioned that publishing something in a top journal from one country could be compared (or even better) than a publication in a good US’s journal. This is simply not true, of course that there is a subjectivity involved ranking journals and papers, but journals are a lot more internationalized than universities.You don’t have to be sweedish or even know where Sweeden is to publish in Acta. If your paper is good, and its published in a good journal, I am sure people will just recognize it.


We all know that in the US there are amazing institutions, incredible research, and it is a leading country mathematically wise.
But I am pretty sure that a lot of people here don’t realize that Mathematics exists outside the US, and not only that, there is exceptional mathematics and good funding even outside western Europe and North America.

ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:06 pm
If your home country gives you such great opportunities as an undergrad (which is not the case with many universities here in the U.S.), then why do you need to come here? Apparently, the opportunities are already available to you there based on what you described. Convince the admissions committee why they should spend $$$ to bring you to their campus, otherwise they will be inclined to believe you're doing just fine over there.

Lastly, it is easy to falsify information in general. Both on the internet, so you shouldn't take every admissions decision you see on here or other sites too personally, and on applications... It is definitely harder for domestic students to falsify their application materials because it is very easy to contact universities and people to back up what they claim while the same cannot be said about international applicants.
The reasons that a lot of IAs want to go to the US are not exclusive mathematical, or even financially wise, as even you DAs know that changing university from undergrad to grad is important, not only for you, but also for the entire mathematical community. This exchange will make you know different mathematical cultures and views, which in the long run makes it so that the community is well oxygenated with new ideas and practices.

Let’s not forget that even with all of its great credits, in some rankings, US’s universities are not alone at the top anymore, and sometimes not even the majority at the top( http://www.shanghairanking.com/ranking ... 021/RS0101). In the top 5 of this well respected ranking there is only one north-american university.

About the falsifiability of information its just sad that some people still have this ideas about foreigners.

ijustwanttodomath
Posts: 42
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 4:15 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ijustwanttodomath » Sun Mar 06, 2022 2:23 pm

pietropic wrote:
Sun Mar 06, 2022 1:07 pm
We all know that in the US there are amazing institutions, incredible research, and it is a leading country mathematically wise.
But I am pretty sure that a lot of people here don’t realize that Mathematics exists outside the US, and not only that, there is exceptional mathematics and good funding even outside western Europe and North America.

ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:06 pm
If your home country gives you such great opportunities as an undergrad (which is not the case with many universities here in the U.S.), then why do you need to come here? Apparently, the opportunities are already available to you there based on what you described. Convince the admissions committee why they should spend $$$ to bring you to their campus, otherwise they will be inclined to believe you're doing just fine over there.

Lastly, it is easy to falsify information in general. Both on the internet, so you shouldn't take every admissions decision you see on here or other sites too personally, and on applications... It is definitely harder for domestic students to falsify their application materials because it is very easy to contact universities and people to back up what they claim while the same cannot be said about international applicants.
The reasons that a lot of IAs want to go to the US are not exclusive mathematical, or even financially wise, as even you DAs know that changing university from undergrad to grad is important, not only for you, but also for the entire mathematical community. This exchange will make you know different mathematical cultures and views, which in the long run makes it so that the community is well oxygenated with new ideas and practices.

Let’s not forget that even with all of its great credits, in some rankings, US’s universities are not alone at the top anymore, and sometimes not even the majority at the top( http://www.shanghairanking.com/ranking ... 021/RS0101). In the top 5 of this well respected ranking there is only one north-american university.

About the falsifiability of information its just sad that some people still have this ideas about foreigners.
The second portion of falsified information comment was because of my own experiences with international students, both in school (as a student and employee) and with family members and others in my personal life. Of course, not everyone lies. I realize now my previous post was poorly phrased.

However, I brought it up because people on the internet DO lie. Perhaps my exhaustion yesterday made me goof up on communicating what I meant to say lol. I could easily just claim I got into top 5 PhD programs with a 2.8 GPA on this forum to troll a bunch of people and you wouldn't be able to prove it was false. Why get so worked up about other people's claims on here?

Nonetheless, no one said math doesn't exist outside of Europe or North America. The forum mostly skews to people applying to programs in North America especially, but if there are opportunities for funded research at other universities, go for it! I just don't see why we need to be toxic and play the comparison game with stats or who has it harder. As I already mentioned, the admissions process is a crapshoot. At my undergrad, there were students, domestic and international, who had AMAZING "stats" and often came up with brilliant, clever solutions to our homework in some classes and they couldn't get into any PhD programs during their first attempt at applying. It happens.

ijustwanttodomath
Posts: 42
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 4:15 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ijustwanttodomath » Sun Mar 06, 2022 2:49 pm

ekansh2912 wrote:
Sun Mar 06, 2022 9:52 am
ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Sat Mar 05, 2022 1:06 pm

(1) Who are you to decide who has a "modest profile"? I get it because I can't lie, I was hurt to see applicants on this forum who have "lower" credentials than my own get admitted to certain programs over me... but there are so many factors that play into the admissions decision process and many agree it is a crapshoot...
ijustwanttodomath and YellowBee asked who am I to judge other’s profiles and call them modest! Let me start off simple. We put our detailed profiles on this forum and check those of others to gauge our chances of making it to a program. As aspiring applicants, we see an “accepted profile” and get a sense of what all we need to do to make it to that program. As an applicant in the month of November and December, we compare our profiles with those of others and decide if we should apply to a place we want to apply to (some may back off applying to a university if they find many many great profiles applying to that university). From January onwards, we start telling our results. Why? We want the current and future applicants to know what it took us to make to that university or what we did prove insufficient to make it to another. At any step, all we are doing is providing a comparison scale or reference to others, i.e., we are letting others a chance to judge us and then themselves. We all judge and once you post yourself here and write “admitted” or “rejected”, you agree to an implicit judgment (which could certainly be constructive, and mostly is as I explained above). You said about profiles having “lower” stats – see that it is exactly where you judged. Now don’t call your statement an obvious observation and mine as an evil-intended judgment. It’s obvious that profiles are judged here (whatever that word may mean to you both).

Why did I say modest? Well, those of you lecturing me on the outstanding quality of the SOP and LORs of many DAs with otherwise “lower” stats (in the words of ijustwanttodomath), we all put ONLY stats on this forum – so they are here the only parameters of comparison. Nobody stopped anybody from discussing their SOP and LORs here (many can potentially discuss their LORs since they themselves write a few for their own applications). But you don’t do that. For whatever purpose you are disclosing the information of your stats and achievements and your results here, you leave it to the reader to analyze (or just read) your incomplete profile. Stop acting naïve and take this – all low stats together make a modest profile ON THIS FORUM. They may not be modest otherwise since apparently, on the table of the admissions committees, some “very terrific letters from the most famous mathematicians” and “amazingly written and wonderfully promising statements” are attached (quite flabbergasting) to these otherwise statistically modest profiles of the DAs. But with what they show or say here, they are modest.
Last I checked, you didn't have the balls to even post your "stats" on here. Tbh, I was lazy on my post and didn't write the full details of my application "stats" or whatever because why would I? I don't need to impress randoms on the internet lol. I imagine many people are in the same boat as well. I mostly used the forum to gauge what universities people applied to who had similar background or interests as myself to figure out which places I wanted to apply to, and to get updates on admissions from the universities I applied to.

Personally, I don't really care if someone who has a "worse profile" than mine gets into a program and I don't. It hurt my ego for a few minutes and then I moved on with my life after remembering so many factors can influence a department's decision beyond GPA, mGRE, and number of publications in whatever journal. Shit happens and then I've dealt with enough in my life to move forward instead of dwelling and being bitter. I'm happy with the admissions I do have, as everyone I've met with so far from those programs has been super kind and transparent about expectations and opportunities at their campuses, and I'm grateful to have other things going for me career-wise as backup plans if academia doesn't work out for me.

One of my former classmates had a 2.8 in his undergrad, got into a well respected PhD program for his field of interest, and is now doing great things at one of the UCs as a postdoc. A friend of mine had a 3.5ish GPA, dealt with extremely terrible circumstances throughout his education, and got his first PhD admission this year after receiving all rejections last year at a university he was rejected from in the previous cycle... only because a faculty member reached out to him and asked if he was interested in doing research with them in a field slightly different to what he wrote about in his statement of purpose. The "stats" don't paint the whole picture of someone's admissions outcomes.

Weil98
Posts: 29
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2021 3:03 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Weil98 » Sun Mar 06, 2022 7:53 pm

The admissions process was very fair to me. I am neither domestic nor international. (this is supposed to be a joke :P)
Last edited by Weil98 on Mon Mar 07, 2022 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

pkzrd
Posts: 80
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2020 8:43 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by pkzrd » Mon Mar 07, 2022 12:44 pm

I am an international student though I did my undergraduate in the US. I applied last cycle and is now a 1st year grad student.

I think the application process was mostly fair. I had a decently large amount of cohorts whom also applied to Ph.D programs and we compare results.

In my humble opinion, I think the answer depends on the department. I think some department do try to take in more domestic than international students, especially public ones. And some department also try to maintain a 50-50 or a specific male-female ratio when considering who to accept.

But there seem to be a bit of luck in play too. Your application might come off as a red flag to someone in the admission committee at one school but might be considered someone they want at another school. It kind of depends on who is on the committee, their finances, their current class, etc etc. Too many variables.

Will_Wilde
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2020 4:17 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Will_Wilde » Mon Mar 07, 2022 7:43 pm

Decoder wrote:
Sun Mar 06, 2022 3:51 am
I am an international applicant for this cycle(2022), specifically, I am from China.
I don't feel the admission is unfair. We choose to apply to schools in the U.S., this is all personal choice. Foreign recommenders are supposed to have less impact. You can't say this is unfair, because it is impossible for any committee to give a proper measurement of recommenders from all over the world. And more importantly, if you feel this is unfair, you can apply for your country's domestic schools if you feel your application materials will be judged in a more 'fair' manner. Once you choose to apply for American schools, then that means you accept the rules and play the game. It is bitchy to doubt the rules after you have accepted them.

Your sentences also make me feel that your brain is linear, in the sense that you think GPA 3.5 is for sure worse than GPA 3.8. If that is the consequence of you taking linear algebra, I strongly suggest you take some nonlinear analysis. Why higher mGRE is always better than lower? Why more publications are always better than fewer or no publications? Why an applicant with GPA3.5 cannot get a far better recommendation than yours? Why every school should admit the same amount of international students and domestic students? Why can't they have a better match in research interests than yours? These are all unfounded assumptions and I don't think even one of them is correct. People with a high GPA do not necessarily have a better potential to be a researcher. (In case you judge mine, I have a 4.0 GPA in math courses including 7 graduate courses)

And let me tell you the application results from our school, my undergraduate class has tens of people get into Havard, Stanford, MIT, and Yale. You can name any of the most prestigious schools in America and you will find my colleague there(mostly they are masters though). We are all Chinese and I don't really think any unfair judgment is addressed on us. Ph.D. application is way harder than master's, but I still get some admissions, and one of my colleagues got a Ph.D. at Yale. I got many rejections, but I understand that there are many people, domestic or international, that perform better in some sense than me. And my rejections are not a consequence of unfair judgment.

Lastly, please be polite and open to everyone in this forum, and don't say that anybody's profile is worse than yours.
I agree that you can rationalize the rules the way you did. However, are you suggesting it is impossible to use any criteria? If so, then how do you know the decision is not made on a whim? If it is still possible to somehow compare different profiles in some ways, then did you really refute OP's doubt on situations in which "the applicant has a low GPA, low mGRE, few graduate classes, no publication" at the same time? If it is possible for domestic students to have extremely strong LORs without consistent performance on concrete stats, then why are there almost no such international students here? It may not necessarily result from unfairness, yet it would be too early to just assume it is not.

I am honestly not sure how does the fact your undergraduate class has tens of people get into Havard, Stanford, MIT, and Yale or you getting offers relevant to this thread. When are individual advancements sufficient in proving (or disproving) a general situation? There are African American billionaires and president in the U.S. Does that suggest systematic racial injustice do not exist anymore?

Finally, if you are advocating for politeness and against judgment, then how about starting from yourself to not label values different from yours as “bitchy”? It is not a universal truth that “once you choose to apply for American schools, then that means you accept the rules and play the game,” but just a subjective statement deduced based on your values. “Personal choice personal responsibility” is just one type of political philosophy among many. Even the states do not completely follow extreme individualism (e.g. it does have an imperfect social safety net here). If you want to openly support the values you believe in, sure go for it. Everyone is entitled to their ideas. But could you please not phrase it as if it were a fact rather than an opinion? Otherwise, it just makes people wonder if your argumentation here reflects your general logical thinking skills.

Jerry99
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Dec 02, 2019 5:01 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Jerry99 » Wed Mar 09, 2022 2:26 pm

Definitely no. If you are an ethnic minority or belong to the underrepresented group of math students, you will be more likely accepted to a program in the US. :mrgreen:

deviant_lime
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2020 3:39 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by deviant_lime » Wed Mar 09, 2022 4:15 pm

Jerry99 wrote:
Wed Mar 09, 2022 2:26 pm
Definitely no. If you are an ethnic minority or belong to the underrepresented group of math students, you will be more likely accepted to a program in the US. :mrgreen:
This ignores the countless things that make it more difficult for underrepresented minorities to even make it to the application process. Students from these groups are often not exposed to math at as early of an age as others. They might face discrimination in stem classes in college from their peers and professors. If you go to a less prestigious school for undergrad, then it becomes even more difficult as LORs from famous mathematicians at fancy colleges might carry more weight at some schools.

I am an underrepresented minority in math and go to a top 20 school in the US. I really had never even heard of pure math before my freshman year of college. Some of my peers here have made comments directly to me that have made me feel unwelcome and insinuated that someone from my background would never succeed in math. Now experiences like that almost turned me away from the field completely. It's just anecdotal, but these things are real barriers to entry for so many people and not just who are underrepresented in the same ways as me.

I just hate the idea that you think underrepresented minorities get a free pass into grad school. These people you talk about worked really hard to get into those schools. They wouldn't accept someone who is not ready for their program. They just have to look at students holistically.

ijustwanttodomath
Posts: 42
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2022 4:15 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by ijustwanttodomath » Thu Mar 10, 2022 12:50 am

deviant_lime wrote:
Wed Mar 09, 2022 4:15 pm
Jerry99 wrote:
Wed Mar 09, 2022 2:26 pm
Definitely no. If you are an ethnic minority or belong to the underrepresented group of math students, you will be more likely accepted to a program in the US. :mrgreen:
This ignores the countless things that make it more difficult for underrepresented minorities to even make it to the application process. Students from these groups are often not exposed to math at as early of an age as others. They might face discrimination in stem classes in college from their peers and professors. If you go to a less prestigious school for undergrad, then it becomes even more difficult as LORs from famous mathematicians at fancy colleges might carry more weight at some schools.

I am an underrepresented minority in math and go to a top 20 school in the US. I really had never even heard of pure math before my freshman year of college. Some of my peers here have made comments directly to me that have made me feel unwelcome and insinuated that someone from my background would never succeed in math. Now experiences like that almost turned me away from the field completely. It's just anecdotal, but these things are real barriers to entry for so many people and not just who are underrepresented in the same ways as me.

I just hate the idea that you think underrepresented minorities get a free pass into grad school. These people you talk about worked really hard to get into those schools. They wouldn't accept someone who is not ready for their program. They just have to look at students holistically.
I unfortunately had an extremely experience to you (although I definitely did not go to a top 20 school lol serendipitously ended up at an R2 tho!). I'm so sorry you also had to deal with a hostile environment, it really messes with your ability to assess your abilities and your confidence in pursuing your goals. Math (and physics, tbh) needs more people like us who can dispel the myth that you didn't have to be some kind of mathematical child prodigy to pursue a PhD in math! I've met so many talented, brilliant people who honestly could have gone so much further with their education if they had access to resources and support.

soyutcebir
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2021 8:52 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by soyutcebir » Thu Mar 10, 2022 9:08 am

Jerry99 wrote:
Wed Mar 09, 2022 2:26 pm
Definitely no. If you are an ethnic minority or belong to the underrepresented group of math students, you will be more likely accepted to a program in the US. :mrgreen:
This couldn't be more wrong. Most of the programs, like REUs, will say they encourage ethnic minorities or people who belong to underrepresented groups to apply but also put citizenship as a condition. Also, there are only 10-15 research programs that accept international students, so I wouldn't think that it is "easier" to get in as an international student even if what you said was right. When the opportunities are not equal you can't simply compare the

GreekAlphabet.Expert
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Dec 05, 2021 2:23 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by GreekAlphabet.Expert » Thu Mar 10, 2022 10:28 am

Imagine your chances of admissions is a lottery and your odds is 1/x for some arbitrary integer x>1, but subject to the following modifiers:

- You get 1 extra chance of drawing if you're domestic
- 1 extra chance of drawing if you're female
- 1 extra chance if you're under-represented minorities
- 1 extra chance if you have taken graduate courses
- 1 extra chance if you published
- 1-2 extra chance if your letter writer has strong connection to the program/admission committee
- maybe 1 extra chance if you participated in an REU
- 10/5/3 extra chances if you got a gold/silver/bronze medal to IMO or Putnam fellow/top25/honorable mention

This is just an exaggeration of your odds, don't take it seriously.

Jerry99
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Dec 02, 2019 5:01 am

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by Jerry99 » Thu Mar 10, 2022 1:38 pm

ijustwanttodomath wrote:
Thu Mar 10, 2022 12:50 am
deviant_lime wrote:
Wed Mar 09, 2022 4:15 pm
Jerry99 wrote:
Wed Mar 09, 2022 2:26 pm
Definitely no. If you are an ethnic minority or belong to the underrepresented group of math students, you will be more likely accepted to a program in the US. :mrgreen:
This ignores the countless things that make it more difficult for underrepresented minorities to even make it to the application process. Students from these groups are often not exposed to math at as early of an age as others. They might face discrimination in stem classes in college from their peers and professors. If you go to a less prestigious school for undergrad, then it becomes even more difficult as LORs from famous mathematicians at fancy colleges might carry more weight at some schools.

I am an underrepresented minority in math and go to a top 20 school in the US. I really had never even heard of pure math before my freshman year of college. Some of my peers here have made comments directly to me that have made me feel unwelcome and insinuated that someone from my background would never succeed in math. Now experiences like that almost turned me away from the field completely. It's just anecdotal, but these things are real barriers to entry for so many people and not just who are underrepresented in the same ways as me.

I just hate the idea that you think underrepresented minorities get a free pass into grad school. These people you talk about worked really hard to get into those schools. They wouldn't accept someone who is not ready for their program. They just have to look at students holistically.
I unfortunately had an extremely experience to you (although I definitely did not go to a top 20 school lol serendipitously ended up at an R2 tho!). I'm so sorry you also had to deal with a hostile environment, it really messes with your ability to assess your abilities and your confidence in pursuing your goals. Math (and physics, tbh) needs more people like us who can dispel the myth that you didn't have to be some kind of mathematical child prodigy to pursue a PhD in math! I've met so many talented, brilliant people who honestly could have gone so much further with their education if they had access to resources and support.
I am sorry for what you have experienced. Many people around me complain that the bar for math Ph.D. varies with your identity. If you browse this website, it turns out that the domestic majority of students would have to do 5+ grad courses and 2+ research experiences with a 3.8+ math GPA to get accepted to a decent math Phd program. And if they find some people get into the programs with less competitive profiles, what do you think they would have in their minds?

"I just hate the idea that you think underrepresented minorities get a free pass into grad school. " Notice that I never say underrepresented minorities will get free access. I say they are more likely to get accepted, providing that they have a similar profile to a majority candidate. And actually, I don't stick to that opinions as well. It is application time, and some people around me talk about this. If someone discriminates against you in the stem classes, it is their wrongdoing, and they are just racist and uncivilized. You should definitely report their behavior to the school, and they will be warned or punished. I hate those people who discriminate against others, and I have never discriminated against others in my life. I am just here to provide a piece of information that someone would feel unjust if they are turned down while someone seems to be less competitive in their minds gets in.

After all, it is almost a philosophical question: what is fair and what is unfair? I somehow regret clicking this topic and getting involved in this argument that never ends. But the hostile situations you mention in Top 20 school surprise me. I am not in a Top 20, but our department is very diversified and inclusive. It turns out that the ranking somehow may not be a good measurement for all.

After thinking about this a while at the table, I realize that the information gap triggers this discussion. I am sorry for your experiences that some peers and professors are discriminating. But those people (excluding me) who think that minority groups take advantage of them on the application may only judge based on the profile and may not know the situation. Thus, they feel that someone less competitive or qualified take their place. So it would help if you mentioned that in your SOP about the difficulties in your academic life.

yf1997
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2022 5:32 pm

Re: Are international applicants treated slightly unfairly?

Post by yf1997 » Wed Mar 16, 2022 6:21 pm

I'm an international applicant who didn't get into any programs I applied to. Initially I was very disappointed and angry, but not so much anymore after thinking about it for a while. My converted GPA is around 3.7 - 3.75, where as only international students with above 3.9 seem to get into the schools I applied to, from what I see around here. My supervisor said this is very disappointing but not totally unexpected, so I think I should share some of my thoughts here.

International students are definitely treated differently from domestic students. However, this does not mean that schools are being unfair when it comes to admissions.

Funding sources for schools often have conditions attached to them. More often than not, this is some government or state agency funded by tax dollars. The funding conditions are based on nationality, which says something like "only domestic students should be funded". There can also be other funds/scholarships specifically reserved for underrepresented minorities. I don't think its unfair for people/organizations/charities to set up funds to support minorities, or for governments to support their own citizens. Unfortunately the byproduct is that there are a lot less funded places available for international students. Admission committees everywhere are not out to specifically screw over international students. They are facing economic reality.

My supervisor reads applications for a top program in my country, and the following is his response when I asked him about this.

There are two barriers to admission:

1. Is the applicant qualified academically? Can the applicant keep up with the workload and graduate in a reasonable amount of time (usually 4-5 years)?
2. Do we have enough funding to support this applicant, if we admit them?

People that can't clear barrier 1 are those that he won't admit no matter what. The way around barrier 2 is to have your own external funding, usually from a company or a government agency in your own country. The program has never rejected any applicant who cleared barrier 1 and has their own, full external funding.(Note that it is full external funding, so something like NSF GRFP, which gives a stipend of $34000 and cost of education allowance of $12000 to the institution, is not enough. Because tuition fees are more than $12000) Math departments (at institutions that he has worked in before) are also very against the idea of self-funding for some reason, so don't expect to gain admission even if you can pay. You need to get EXTERNAL funding. This is unlike the humanities, where the norm is that PhD spots are unfunded, and self funding is perfectly acceptable.

He said that, it you secure any amount of external funding midway through the process, it is perfectly acceptable to emails schools that rejected you earlier, asking them to reconsider. Many schools are willing to change their decision, with probability of success depending on the amount of funding you secured.

He also said that public schools have this problem worse than private schools, and that among the public schools, the UCs (University of California schools) have it the worst. This applies even if you are admitted; be prepared to be overworked and underpaid. From what I see around here this seems to be true: Most schools often give stipends in the high 20k to low 30k range, but the UCs are usually around low 20k.



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