Preparing for application for Fall 2023

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Joined: Fri Mar 18, 2022 2:24 pm

Preparing for application for Fall 2023

Post by math.magician » Mon Mar 21, 2022 11:53 pm

I'm planning to apply for Ph.D programs in the next cycle. I have couple questions for you veterans if you don't mind:

1. I thought it would be a good idea to start working on my personal statement. I asked two professors (they either is on or have been on the admission committee, which is apparently assigned in a rotating way, weird) who I know semi-well. One of them told me basically told me he never read it unless there's a red flag elsewhere on the application, the other one told me he only reads it when someone is borderline (whatever that means) and will consider everything as a whole.

My question is - what am I suppose to write in it? Not much instruction or advice have been given to us by our professors (or applications, I've looked through the current application for the current cycle) as to what to include here. How should we write this essay to best represent us as a potential candidate?

2. I think I can get very good recommendation letters from 2 professors, but for the third one should I ask a 3rd math professor who I have only taken class with but never talked to, or a professor outside of STEM that knows me pretty well? Also, how should we approach professors asking them to write letters for us? In person, email?

3. Is there anything I can do (as a junior in college) to improve my chances for admissions before time to submit my application?

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Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2021 4:03 pm

Re: Preparing for application for Fall 2023

Post by ms60000204 » Tue Mar 22, 2022 1:59 am

As for your question 2:
Your reference letter will have to answer where you stand in the class (50%, 25%, 10%, etc), so it depends.
Was the course graduate level? If you did well, go for it.
If not, there isn't much your math professor could do to increase your chance. Maybe your another non math professor can qualify your potential as a researcher by writing about your certain character.

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Re: Preparing for application for Fall 2023

Post by ijustwanttodomath » Wed Mar 23, 2022 12:28 am

Get research experience!!! Most of the successful applicants on this forum had some kind of experience doing research, either at their university, as part of an REU or internship, etc.

One of the universities I applied to, and got into, had a great guide on writing the personal statement that I used to help guide me on what I wanted to write about and include in my SOP. Here is the link: ... formation/
Honestly, I treated the applications process like applying for a job (because it basically is extremely similar, with the exception that I have to pay these people to consider my application :| !) You have to learn to sell yourself and your abilities. It isn't an easy skill to learn and I'm still in the process of mastering it myself, tbh.

Re: third letter writer not being in math--you could do this, I did it for some REUs and even for my master's degree, but it isn't advised normally. Most people want to read about your ability to do math in the letters of recommendation. If they are a STEM professor, then that may hold more weight than your philosophy instructor (for example). You could always reach out to grad directors to see if they would accept it, but your best bet would be to develop a stronger relationship with some of your professors (or other professors of math) and asking them to write you a letter once you start applying.

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Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2021 8:59 pm

Re: Preparing for application for Fall 2023

Post by coolar » Wed Mar 23, 2022 12:44 am

Your letters of rec matter a lot, as they provide a mature assessment of your mathematical abilities and personality. I would not recommend a non-math professor writing you a letter unless you are REALLY close with them and have done research with them that kinda relates to math.

If you have a professor writing you a letter that you did not do research with, I highly recommend staying after class and talking to them, going to office hours, participating as much as possible in class, etc. You really want them to know who you are and know that you are passionate about math and can succeed in a Ph.D. program.

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