Why was 'enork' rejected? See 2010 profile thread?!

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Why was 'enork' rejected? See 2010 profile thread?!

Post by path » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:19 pm

Well, I was browsing through the 2010 profiles, and there is this user by the name 'enork' that particularly stood out.

His profile is as follows (I apologize for posting it here, in case it is deemed inappropriate, I will delete it):
Undergrad Institution: Ivy, good reputation in math and physics
Major(s): Math
Minor(s): CS
GPA in Major: 3.47
Overall GPA: 3.38
Length of Degree: 4 (graduated in 2008)
Position in Class: not sure. probably not much better than average.
Type of Student: US citizen, white, male.

GRE Scores:
Q: 800 (94%)
V: 710 (98%)
W: 4.5 (63%)
M: 860 (94%)
Physics: 990 (95%)

Program Applying: Pure Math (interested in algebra, topology, mathematical physics)

Research Experience: an undergrad thesis, but not really anything notable.
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TAed for a summer math program. Been doing some tutoring since graduating. Studying math and physics topics on my own.
Any Miscellaneous Points that Might Help: ambitious course work?

Applying to Where:
MIT - Rejected by email (2/9)
UC Berkeley - Rejected by email (3/4)
Cornell - Rejected by email (3/10)
UT Austin - Rejected by website (3/4)
UI Urbana-Champaign - Wait list by post (3/4) then rejected by email (4/12)
SUNY Stony Brook - Rejected by email (3/12)
UW Seattle - Rejected by email (2/27)
Georgia Tech - Accepted by email (2/17), TAship + 5.5k/yr fellowship - attending
UC Santa Barbara - Rejected by website (4/27)
U Colorado Boulder - Accepted by email (2/18), TAship - declined
USC - Accepted by email (2/10), 30k/yr fellowship for 2 years - declined
Colorado State - Accepted by email (3/4), TAship - declined

So, he seems to have had stellar scores on both Math and Physics GRE's, and still got rejected from most top schools.

If enork sees this thread, I would be interested in his opinion as why so many rejections from these schools. What do you think was your weakest point, that hurt you the most, because it clearly was not the MGRE score?


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Re: Why was 'enork' rejected? See 2010 profile thread?!

Post by goombayao » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:29 pm

enork wrote:Well, my application wasn't so strong in other areas. My GPA was 3.38 because I didn't make maximizing my grades a high priority. My letters probably weren't very impressive because I didn't get to know many professors. I didn't have much in the way of research experience (for example no REUs). Basically I did a poor job during my undergrad building a solid profile for applying to grad school. Even the math GRE I barely prepared for, but I happen to be good at that sort of test, for whatever that's worth.

I'm at Georgia Tech now and it's been great so far, so it wasn't the end of the world. Also GT's US News ranking got bumped up to 30 this year, so what I said maybe isn't true anymore depending on how you interpret the statement.
http://www.mathematicsgre.com/viewtopic ... 2192#p2192
Last edited by goombayao on Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why was 'enork' rejected? See 2010 profile thread?!

Post by owlpride » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:36 pm

I can only guess, but I suspect that it was a combination of grades and letters of recommendation. A sub 3.5 major GPA is below average at some selective private universities, and certainly below-average for grad school bound students.

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Re: Why was 'enork' rejected? See 2010 profile thread?!

Post by gromov » Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:56 pm

My strong suspicion is that low test scores are more frequently forgiven than undergraduate records that very far from spotless (I am sure they needn't be utterly perfect, but it's not uncommon to see many admits having very close to perfect records). Further, even in those cases, usually what saves a student would be strong letters or other indicators that are esteemed by the graduate admissions people as good ones that ignoring the given blotches would not be a problem.

It is harder for me to imagine a student with blotches on the immediate undergraduate record developing the relations with a professor which may work towards his or her favor in admissions than in the case of a student with mediocre test scores.

It is quite possible for a student to be very bright and capable of deep mathematics but to have left gaps in what he or she could have done to make that come through in the admissions game.

I am not adding anything beyond what the quote of enork and the other posts here say, aside from commenting on what I think is the correlation between having somewhat blotched undergraduate record and the letters of recommendation to salvage the application.

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Re: Why was 'enork' rejected? See 2010 profile thread?!

Post by apap » Thu Dec 22, 2011 8:21 pm

I would presume that looking at other previous applicants achievements and records is less than optimal since one's application is usually not very comparable to another's student who might come from a different background or school or country. Allegedly the application committeeman and women have a better understanding of quantifying the given varying data but heretofore it would still seem that they would also make judgement based opinions and biases as is the case with everything based on human cognition.

However as gromov astutely pointed out, the intrinsic nature of grades as being quantiative and representative of a longer period of time better emphasizes student-professor interaction to a level that a unimodular test is just not able to.

Furthermore, I would like to add, that while grades seem to be carved within stone in terms of academic integrity and ability, one could change him or her path of success towards graduate studies in mathematics by compressing his or her studies accordingly and achieving a higher comparable score in the subject test.

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Re: Why was 'enork' rejected? See 2010 profile thread?!

Post by Topoltergeist » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:57 pm

Everything that I have heard about the mathematics graduate admissions process has been that Letters of Reference are the most important part of an application. Good grades are neither necessary nor sufficient to get into graduate school, or even win a Fields Medal and Wolf Prize.
Wikipedia wrote: [Smale's] sophomore and junior years were marred with mediocre grades, mostly Bs, Cs and even an F in nuclear physics. However, with some luck, Smale was accepted as a graduate student at the University of Michigan's mathematics department. Yet again, Smale performed poorly his first years, earning a C average as a graduate student.
That being said, things are different now-a-days. The MGRE is a standardized test, so it allows the admissions committee to more equally compare applicants on a mostly arbitrary measure of mathematical competence. I speculate that if the school you went to is the gold standard for mathematical research, then your grades might substitute. Otherwise, if the school you went to is not very well known, then nailing the MGRE seems to be important.

In Fall 2011, I applied to 10 schools (top 20 programs as per the USN ranking) and after getting rejected from all of them, I am applying once again. I have now posted my profile in the 2012 thread. My GPA is about the same as enork's and last year I got a 710/65% on the MGRE. In talking with my research advisor about why I wasn't admitted to the school where he worked, he told me that if either my grades were higher or I had a better MGRE score, then I would have been accepted. Hopefully I will have good luck in 2012.

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