Substitutes for REUs?

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Substitutes for REUs?

Post by rmg512 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:58 pm

Hi guys,

I've applied to 6 summer programs (couldn't do much more because I'm on the quarter system and most programs start before I even have finals) and was rejected from 2 of them thus far, one of which I considered a safer bet, so I'm a bit worried I might not even get into a summer program (but I have a 3.94 GPA and graduate coursework! I thought I'd be towards the top here!). What would you recommend doing from here? I live in Southern California, so there's a fair amount of industry to do internships for here (but I'm not all that interested in industry since I'm wanting to do pure math). I'm currently doing some research under the direction of one of my professors, too, but I'd like to learn about other fields in math and have more people to get solid letters of recommendation from. I'm hoping to go to Michigan to study commutative algebra for my Ph. D., so I know this stuff really matters. :?

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Re: Substitutes for REUs?

Post by owlpride » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:05 am

REUs are overrated. I think I am the only grad student in my year at Stanford who participated in an REU as an undergraduate. It seems that many of the strongest math students out there spend the summer working with professors at their home institution.

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Re: Substitutes for REUs?

Post by exxx » Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:20 am

I'm assuming you're asking solely with regards to what will improve your grad school application.

With that goal in mind, it's best to do math research personally, ideally with a well-known professor. You can usually write up a proposal to your university and get some funding comparable to what an REU would pay. It will look much better on your application for a number of reasons I'm sure you can work out yourself.

I feel the advantages of REU's are more than improving your application. For me it was a great experience to visit another math community and make new friends and get myself out there and known by more people. I also really liked the location I was in, so it was basically a brilliant vacation. I'd recommend finding the largest REU you can find, not only is it better for partying and meeting people, but they have the most money and attract the most attention and can result in the most opportunities. For me it resulted in an opportunity to attend some conferences, including one overseas.

I would recommend applying to some REU's even if your quarter system interferes with the scheduled dates. There were several students at my REU on quarter-systems, who arrived a week after the scheduled date, and the REU just arranged for them to stay a week later. It's a general rule of thumb in these math programs that if they think you're a good student and want you in their program, they'll be very flexible and understanding about things like that.

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