Suggestions for a freshman int'l at a small LAC

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Iamweak
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2022 9:30 pm

Suggestions for a freshman int'l at a small LAC

Post by Iamweak » Thu Oct 06, 2022 9:17 am

Greetings,

Hello I am an international student at a very small LAC. I am interested in the discrete maths field and want to do my PHD in that field. Seeing the profiles here, a lot of the strong applicants have a strong research experience and a lot of advanced classes in their belt. The trend I see is a high GPA (3.7+), at-least 1-2 research experience and some even published and a lot of advanced classes (5+ graduate classes) with some TA experience.

How do I as someone coming from a small LAC where forget about advanced graduate courses, I don't even have access to advanced undergrad courses make a road map to PHD?
The research experience for Undergrads are very limited for International students and those who take in international student, perhaps require one to take advanced undergrad courses or prefer the applicants with adv undergrad courses. How do I get research experience as an undergrad?
Can someone give me some insight on how to go to a a good PHD from my background.

Regards.

FieldsMedalist
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2022 6:14 am

Re: Suggestions for a freshman int'l at a small LAC

Post by FieldsMedalist » Thu Oct 06, 2022 10:36 am

First it depends where do you want to go. The "trend" that you talked about is surely for Top programs (top 20?). You can always find a logical place that you can do your PhD in. Also it is common to find excellent advisors in lower ranked programs. The advisor matters more than the university.

But in any case if you want to go to a "top program", whatever that may mean scientifically, you of course should have a profile that stands out to the other competitive applicants. Universities usually don't expect that most undergrads have research experience, let alone publications. But these days things are becoming more competitive since many undergrads are exposed to many opportunities and research experience. In your case for example, it would be a good idea to take a gap year and do these stuff in it. Attending some summer school, conference, REU, working on a research project with a professor, taking some grad classes... You can perhaps be able to do these stuff in this gap year, and your profile would definitely be boosted.

Iamweak
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2022 9:30 pm

Re: Suggestions for a freshman int'l at a small LAC

Post by Iamweak » Thu Oct 06, 2022 11:03 am

Yeah, I thought of REU but they are very limited for international students, so I don't have hopes on that. I plan to take the courses available to me but it just goes up-till real analysis 1, abstract algebra 1 and some intro Combinatorics class which is I guess the minimum. I have been doing olympiads from my high-school days and hope to do well in Putnam but from what I've heard, grad admission give 0 looks for Putnam. So, essentially I will not have anything exceptional.

I found UIUC net math, are there any other places like that where I can take advanced classes for affordable price? Which may give me a little boost.
I am an int'l student on full ride at my current LAC and I chose it just because of the financial condition so I'm not so well off to take non degree courses and do things like BSM.

Next,
My concerns are :
Can I get a funded masters as an international student? Is masters looked as good thing during PHD admission?
Can I do independent research with the faculty member? What is there in REU that makes it so special?

eamath
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2022 10:54 am

Re: Suggestions for a freshman int'l at a small LAC

Post by eamath » Thu Oct 06, 2022 11:43 am

Hi, The advantage of a small liberal arts college is personalized attention from professors. Ask your math professors if there are any research projects you could work on with them. This may be done as an extracurricular activity or for course credit. Both summer and during the school year is possible. At first it may just be background reading and study, hopefully moving to a research project as you gain knowledge. (also consider computer science project if no good math option presents itself). Our son who is on scholarship at a liberal arts school did this and has a single authored paper in a good journal from the year long project he worked on. The other thing you can readily do is ask professors to offer you a reading, independent study course on advanced math topics you are interested in. This way you could cover material equivalent to abstract algebra 2 and real analysis 2. Make sure your advisor knows you are interested in a math PhD and they can help guide you. A final thought, some scholarships/aid can be used for study abroad exchange student programs (typically a semester or full year, junior year). You could pick a school with a strong math program to pursue course work not available where you are at. Our son is doing this now at a top 5 international school.

Also see this polymath reu https://geometrynyc.wixsite.com/polymathreu Its online but allows international students.

Good luck!

Iamweak
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2022 9:30 pm

Re: Suggestions for a freshman int'l at a small LAC

Post by Iamweak » Thu Oct 06, 2022 12:19 pm

Thank you for the information.I definitely plan to utilize the communication advantage that I have with my professor. The polymathreu sounds awesome.
Regarding independent studies, do universities recognize it as a valid coursework? I definitely plan to do some independent studies.
Regarding the study abroad, my college has some partnership with universities outside US, but they are not very well known for maths, the best I could find was a college in Taiwan which offered a ton of advanced courses. So, for now definitely leaning towards it if I can sort out the financial aspect of it.

I am not sure if I can do exchange semester in Universities where my college doesn't have agreement with. I particularly looked at Uni of Bonn and ENS France, the website suggests I need to be from their partner college.



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