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Should I Reapply in Fall 2024?

Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2024 4:52 am
by seer
I am an graduating senior this semester, and I have applied to several PhDs in mathematics this year. While I have received a few offers from my safety schools, I have been rejected by almost all of my top choices so far. Therefore, I am wondering if I should reapply for PhDs next year instead of going to the safety schools (I am not sure if I want to mention any specific programs for anonymity).

I have listed out my application below. I would also appreciate any suggestions on how I can improve my application for next year (if I decided to reapply):

Undergrad Institution: US News Top 10 National Universities
Major(s): Mathematics and Computer Science
Minor(s): N/A
GPA: 4.0
Math GPA: 4.0
Type of Student: Domestic Asian Female

GRE Revised General Test: (Did not take)
GRE Subject Test in Mathematics: (Did not take)

TOEFL Score: (xx = Rxx/Lxx/Sxx/Wxx) (if applicable)

Program Applying: Pure Math (Algebraic Geometry / Algebraic Topology)

Research Experience:
(i) Two REU programs and research with professors at home institution.
(ii) Three papers in algebraic geometry, two in submission and one is published on a good journal.
(iii) Two papers in applied mathematics and statistics, both in submission.
(iv) Currently working on an honors thesis (but not going too hot~).
(v) Talks at a few conferences.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: One national award for undergraduate students for excellent research in mathematics.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TA / Grader for 10+ classes in Mathematics and Computer Science, including three graduate algebra courses. Worked as a SWE intern at a company on Fortune 500.

Math Courses Taken: 10+ graduate classes in mathematics (Algebraic Geometry, Riemann Surfaces, Algebraic Number Theory, Algebraic Topology, Advanced Complex Function Theory, Partial Differential Equations, Algebraic Combinatorics, Modern Algebra, Commutative Algebra, Numerical Analysis, and more.) Independent studies in advanced topics on algebraic topology and differential topology. Directed reading in dynamical systems and harmonic analysis.

Any Miscellaneous Points that Might Help: Two of my letter writers are quite famous in their respective areas (algebraic topology and low-dimensional topology). My third letter writer is my REU mentor in (ii) on algebraic geometry. I also have two backup writers, one is a professor in Applied Mathematics I I worked with in (iii), and the other is a senior professor who I have been the TA for in several classes.

Any Other Info That Might Matter: I have a psychiatric disability, but I did not mention it all on my applications due to fear of being rejected.
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I would also be grateful if anyone has any ideas on why I was rejected by many of the top programs in mathematics. This is honestly a very defeating experience and is discouraging me from pursuing further career in mathematics.

Re: Should I Reapply in Fall 2024?

Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2024 7:57 am
by MonsieurGalois
You certainly seem to have a good enough profile to be competitive at a T10. Maybe the programs you applied to didn’t have faculty members who were still taking on students in the areas you’re interested in? From what I’ve heard, faculty in algebraic geometry are in high demand from grad students so if you wrote mainly about AG in your SoP, you might have been at a slight disadvantage. I could be totally wrong though so take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt!

Re: Should I Reapply in Fall 2024?

Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2024 8:35 am
by Oliver_w8
My own experience tells me that even with a stellar profile like yours, the reality is that waiting does have a tangible and significant cost.

I took a year off after graduating and then found myself rejected from every school to which I applied 3 years in a row. Thankfully I've been able to find work teaching, so it isn't as if I have a blank CV, but one tends to lose or atrophy one's skills without practice.

If, on the other hand, you could find yourself engaged in some kind of research endeavor it might be worth waiting and trying again next cycle. But keep in mind that with the current cultural and economic trends, pure math departments aren't exactly monotonically increasing in size. The general feeling also seems that students are taking a longer time to graduate now than in recent memory.

To my own anecdote, in the end (this year) it seems more likely than not that I will be going to my safety (undergraduate institution) anyway. So I basically spent 4 years & $X,000 for nothing except forgetting most of my algebra and almost all of my analysis.

As far as why you or I or anyone else might be rejected, one might as well point to astrological signs as the cause. There is so little transparency in the process at all stages. Two years ago I had received very strong encouragement from the chairs of two different departments, basically telling I should apply & would be a perfect fit for the program & a competitive applicant &c. to no avail. Neither those two nor the rest of the schools from which I received rejections said anything useful when I asked why—"we can't disclose much information about specifics", "it's a competitive process", "there were only 5 students admitted this term" and so on. My assumption would be that not even the professors sitting on the admissions committees have anything resembling clear or definite criteria that inform their behavior.

At any rate, don't forget that you are still young, and what's more, living in turbulent times. Take a minute this weekend to reflect on your motivation for pursuing a career in academia. You've already got five papers to your name, and are clearly capable of working in the field. If research is something you enjoy, it is clear that it will work out for you wherever you end up. If you like to teach, the PhD isn't even a necessity (though it obviously comes with a pay raise). If you want to be famous, keep in mind most of the names you read in textbooks are people who slowly and steadily built their reputation and expertise, not the virtuosos, savants, and lucky few.

Re: Should I Reapply in Fall 2024?

Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2024 11:28 am
by mgre24
I think it depends on what you consider safeties and where your cutoff is. If you have offers from ~T15 schools, I don’t know if waiting is a good idea. You could always ask your top choice to defer admission for a year, and see what their response might be. Some are open to the idea. If your best options are outside the top 25, I would personally reapply next year.

I also will mention taking a year off to work in industry can be a valuable experience, if you continue to do math on the side. It would also lessen the burden of living on a stipend; working as a SWE you can bank in a lot of cash in just a years time, which will have a tangible effect on your quality of life in a PhD program.

Whatever the choice you make, you already have an incredible profile, and will have success in whichever route you choose. Don’t stress too much!

Re: Should I Reapply in Fall 2024?

Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2024 12:44 pm
by LetMeIn2401
No one can really comment on what you should do. In some sense, you supplied very little information. We don't what the quality of your REU papers are, or what you mean by safeties. If your safeties are t15 or better don't bother reapplying, the process only gets harder each year.

Re: Should I Reapply in Fall 2024?

Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2024 3:13 pm
by eamath
Hi, Sorry application season isn't going as well as you hoped. You have an excellent profile and are a very strong candidate. Whether to re apply depends on several factors
1) Is your ultimate goal a professor position or is industry or national lab of interest as well?
Program ranking is likely more important for professor positions, although your advisor is really key. A famous person at a good school may be better than an average person at a great school

2) Can you significantly improve your profile for next year? My guess is not that much as your profile is already so strong, unless one of your letter writers was not as strong as you thought. Did you apply for NSF GRFP? If you win that, you can go back to some of your schools and see if they will re-consider your application now (can happen as your cost to the department goes much lower). Also depends on what you could do in the next year. It may be worth asking your current advisor for advice. They may also be able to reach out to schools you were rejected at to get a better feel why (not sure I would do this)

3) What were your safeties that you have been accepted in? Without giving away too much information, were they US news top 20 or top 15, or 25-50? Were your target schools top 5 or top ten, other? How many total did you apply to?

So, if I were trying for Princeton, MIT, etc but got into U Michigan, I would strongly consider going to UMich, especially if a good advisor match. I would also strongly consider schools like UT Austin, UW Madison, U MInnesota, Northwestern, etc if those were the "safeties" you got it, and they had strong professor in your area of interest.

Good luck!