Where Do I Have a Legitimate Shot?

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:48 am

Where Do I Have a Legitimate Shot?

Post by myhorsesaremany » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:59 am

b]Undergrad Institution:[/b] Top 40 School
Major(s): Mathematics B.S.
Minor(s): N/A
GPA: 3.76 Major, 3.63 Overall :? [No excuses here. I worked a job while taking Topology, Analysis, etc. and I shouldn't have. I have mostly A's, with two B+'s.]
Type of Student: Domestic White male

GRE Revised General Test:
Q: 163 (88%) [Had to move the day before and had a gnarly migraine/allergies]
V: 161 (89%)
W: Haven't heard but felt good about it
GRE Subject Test in Mathematics:
M: About to take, what score will I need?

Program Applying: Pure Math

Research Experience: I've participated in two research projects. One of which was at the junior college level with NASA's Reduced Gravity Flight Opportunity and the other was with an up-and-coming professor in Probability. The latter resulted in an upcoming paper but I wasn't able to construct the proof of theorem, so it's mostly just data This project was completely independent and my professor/mentor chose to loosely guide me. I did present at two conferences, however.
Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Dean's List first quarter, top 15% of my class (I don't know if it's higher than that).
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Extensive tutoring experience (both private, professionally, and volunteer) for 4+ years. I was granted a research stipend this Summer as well.
Any Miscellaneous Points that Might Help: (Such as connections, grad classes, famous recommenders, female or minority status etc...) One of my letters will be very personal as I have had many deep conversations with my mentor and he has given me tons of encouragement. According to one of my other letter writers, anybody in a probability department will know his name and recognize him as a fantastic mathematician. I also believe this other letter writer to write me a warm review. My third letter writer will write me a warm review as well but it will not be as personal. He is, however, well recognized in topology-related fields.
Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: I was elected to become a McNair Scholar. However, I think this might be more helpful in other fields and not in math. I am also very interested in probability, and have done a lot of self-studying in that particular field.

Applying to Where: (Color use here is welcome)
This is where I need help. A couple of my advisors have urged me to apply to top programs. However, I've long had my doubts and judging by the profiles I've read in the two sticky threads, I need to set my sights a little lower. Where do you guys think I should apply?

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Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:38 am

Re: Where Do I Have a Legitimate Shot?

Post by ReneMagritte » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:46 am

I don't think you should pay too much attention to the profiles. They only include the very raw data like GRE scores, GPA and a brief work history and can't really be used to form a proper picture of a candidate. It's generally held that the most important part of the your application is your letters of references, followed by your personal statement. The profiles omit both of these! Some of the profile posts are bizare (I think "why did this person get rejected - they look great?!") but most of the key factors are missing.

For your application, you appear to have great references - in fact, your primary reference sounds like the best is could possibly be (well-known mathematician who knows you very personally). You sound like you'd be able to write a strong personal statement, too.

Ultimately though, the people who know best are your advisors, and if they're urging you to apply to top programs then you really should take their advice. Is your main concern the financial aspect of applying to places?

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Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:48 am

Re: Where Do I Have a Legitimate Shot?

Post by myhorsesaremany » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:42 pm

Most of my advisors are in non-math related fields and are associated with the McNair Scholars Program. The McNair Scholars program is a competitive program which seeks to help underrepresented students and/or low-income, first generation college students get into graduate school. A lot of my advisors are confident that we all will get into graduate schools. However, I'm convinced that math is very different from other fields with the respect that something like McNair will not hold much weight on my application.

I am not worried about the financial aspect since almost every graduate school I'm applying to has a fee waiver specifically for applicants whom are apart of the McNair Scholars program. Furthermore, any travel expenses for interviews will be reimbursed to me through the McNair Scholars program.

What I'm mainly worried about is the disappointment. I've only had a month to study the GRE Subject Test due to prior research commitments, classes, work, etc. If I bomb this thing then I'm convinced my chances at a top school have gone down the drain. I'm not really content with going to a smaller school as I've found faculty at NYU, Cornell, Stanford, University of Washington, and University of Wisconsin-Madison who are working on topics very related to what I'm interested in.

The main point is that I'm dedicated to getting into a school which is a good fit for me. However, so far all of those schools are top schools and I don't believe that my grades/GRE scores are good enough for them. I have heard to that LOR and your PS hold more weight, but when you read the raw data, it's kind of scary.

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Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:58 am

Re: Where Do I Have a Legitimate Shot?

Post by vonLipwig » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:08 pm

It might be worth asking for some advice from faculty you know in mathematics - this could overcome the problem you state.

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