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Profile Evaluation for Statistics PhD 2019

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Hi everyone! I'm trying to get an idea about my chances of getting accepted into a PhD program in statistics. I would appreciate your opinion.

Undergrad Institution: American University of Beirut
Major(s): Chemical Engineering (Bachelor of Engineering)
GPA: 3.21 Cumulative GPA

Note: I have a 3.95 GPA over my last four semesters with A grades in a Statistics class and an A in an Operations Research class. My cumulative GPA is low because I didn't do as well in my first two years. One big problem is that I got Cs in the four math classes that I have taken during these two years. This is where I fear that I shouldn't be entertaining the idea of my PhD aspirations.

Type of Student: Middle Eastern Male
169 Quantitative
165 Verbal
5.0 Analytical
Programs Applying: PhD in Statistics
Research Experience: Internship at  R&D department of a manufacturing company. My project involved the use of regression and statistical learning tools in analytical chemistry.
Letters of Recommendation: One from my Statistics professor. Another from my Operations research class professor. I aced both these courses. The final letter would come from my supervisor from my research internship.
Computing Skills: R, Python, SQL, C++
Work Experience: Currently an Associate at Deloitte in Data Analytics.
Applying to Where:

Carnegie Mellon

Duke University

University of Pennsylvania

University of Chicago


University of Connecticut (PhD)

Texas A&M

University of Texas Austin


UC Santa Cruz

Ohio State University

Stony Brook University

Penn State University

University of Minnesota


Edited by stellar4
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Based on my own experience applying to 3/4 of your reach schools, I'd say don't waste your money/time on those, especially since I think UT Austin is already a reach for you.  Your cumulative gpa is worryingly low, although your dramatic improvement in the last year will counteract that a bit. You don't mention any math classes like real analysis, and I'd recommend having a full years worth of that if you can and getting an A or A+. Was your research doing anything more than just applying standard statistical packages to a dataset? If not, that isn't really gonna help you much, although stats programs don't expect research experience. 

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What’s your mathematical preparation outside of the standard prerequisites (calculus, linear algebra,!probability, math stat)?  Ideally you would have multiple semesters of real analysis like @statscan9 said, plus some other proof based math courses.  Hopefully, your Cs were in less important classes like differential equations.  Similarly, what was your research experience like?  Did you just apply packages or make your own? This might change based on your exact math grades but your list is likely aiming too high.   I would definitely drop CMU from your list and probably Duke.  CMU is crazy competitive (probably one of the most).  Duke is a little easier since they are a little bigger and have fewer applications but I don’t think your application would stand out enough.   Chicago is probably a reach as well.  If your research interest is Bayesian statistics (guess based on the list) I would replace some of the reaches with Missouri, Baylor, and a few others in the bottom half or so of the US news rankings.    I would categorize Ohio State, Texas A&M, Minnesota,nand UT Austin as reaches.  Currently your list has a significant chance of not getting any offers,  but this could be fixed by applying to much less top tier programs and more realistic ones. 

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Thank you for your posts.

I had a hunch that my target universities were too ambitious but I guess my statistics professor is a bit out of touch (most of the universities are his suggestion). He seems to think that if I do well on the GRE (which I have) and with my experience in data analytics at a multinational corporation, I have a good chance. I'd to refine my list to increase my chances of getting accepted.

FYI. The related courses that I took were:

-  Calculus and Analytical Geometry III

- Differential Equations

-Elementary Linear Algebra with Applications 

- Numerical Computing

-Introduction to Probability & Random Variables

- INDE 303: Operations Research II

As for my internship, I was using the package but also working on excel. I would say that my project was more related to analytical chemistry than statistics.

With that being said, is the list below more realistic?

-University of Missouri

-University of Connecticut


-Stony Brook University

-Penn State University

I'd appreciate suggestions so I can talk to my professor and give it a shot this year at least.


Edited by stellar4
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Even for the schools you've listed, it's probably going to be tough to gain admission (not sure about SUNY or Stony Brook, but Missouri, UConn, and Penn State are going to be tough). Your work experience at Deloitte has value for future employers but won't really be given much attention for PhD admissions. To be blunt, there are going to be a lot of international students at Missouri, UConn, and PSU who have much stronger profiles (including some with impressive profiles who just weren't lucky enough to get into the top tier programs -- possibly because of one small weakness in the application, like forgettable rec letters or something).

If you are DEAD set on getting a PhD in Statistics, what may help in your case is to complete a Masters in Statistics (where you also take two semesters of real analysis and one or two additional proof-based math on top of that), or a Masters in Mathematics where you complete 4 statistics courses (the year-long Masters level applied statistics sequence and the Casella-Berger mathematical statistics sequence). That is not to say that getting the Masters will *guarantee* you admission to a PhD program, but in your case, it would improve your chances from your current profile. For reference, my current PhD program has international PhD students who did their undergrad at less well-known or obscure institutions, but who got their Masters degree at a reputable university in their home country (like ISI or Sharif or one of those schools). Or they got a Masters from a reputable American university. And doing well there helped them gain admission to our PhD program.

Edited by Applied Math to Stat
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@Applied Math to Stat

Appreciate the honesty. I’ve thought about doing a masters in Statistics. I realize that the ideal profile for a PhD is different from the ideal profile for a masters but wouldn’t you say that the same weaknesses in my PhD application would be exposed in masters applications as well?


Edited by stellar4
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11 minutes ago, stellar4 said:

@Applied Math to Stat

Appreciate the honesty. I’ve thought about doing a masters in Statistics. I realize that the ideal profile for a PhD is different from the ideal profile for a masters but wouldn’t you say that the same weaknesses in my PhD application would be exposed in masters applications?


In general, admissions to Masters programs in Statistics should be much less competitive than for PhD programs. I am not sure about admissions to MS programs in your country, but in the U.S., it is much less competitive, besides a few selective MS programs (like Yale or Duke). Masters programs are also more forgiving about poor grades in the first few years. If you do decide to do a Masters in Statistics and do well in it, you may possible be more competitive for schools at the level of University of Florida, Missouri, Virginia Tech, and UConn, and schools ranked below that (a "reach" school for you -- ASSUMING you got a Masters and did well -- would probably be a school like Ohio State).

If you want to pursue Statistics and you have the funds, perhaps obtaining a Masters degree in it is not a bad idea. That can give you a flavor of whether you enjoy it enough to continue pursuing a PhD, or if not, it will open up a lot of doors in industry.

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Even those updated schools will be reaches, and Penn State is unrealistic. In addition to your GPA, you haven't taken enough math and your research and work experience is average and won't make you stand out. I would say you need a master's plus additional math to have any shot at programs in the top 60 like that, and maybe lower your expectations/apply to a biostat program where math expectations will be lower. 

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