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2020 Statistics Phd Profile Evaluation


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I applied for Fall 2019 programs but have not heard any acceptance and not anticipating them at this point.

Undergrad Institution : Not well known public university. Ranks around 96 (among regional universities west) on US News

Major(s): Mathematics
GPA: 3.6
Minor(s): Computer Science
Type of Student: Domestic, White Male
Courses taken and taking: Calculus I-III (A, C+, B), Mathematical Proofs (A), Abstract Algebra I (A), Linear Algebra (C), Topology (A), Real Analysis I,II (A),
Real Functions and Measures (C+), Functional Analysis (B+),  Complex Analysis (B), Advanced Problem Solving (A), Probability I, II (A-, A+),
Stochastic Processes (A), Statistical Theory (A+), Statistical Methods (A), Linear Regression(A+), Applied Analysis of Data (A+), 
Machine Learning I, II (A-, A+), Data Visualization  (A), Data Science (A+)

GRE General Test:
 159 (72%)
V: 155 (69%)
W: 3.0 (17%)

Grad Institution: N/A
Programs Applying: Statistics
Research Experience: 1. Did time series data analysis on water quality data with statistics professor. Successfully applied for a few grants for this project.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Tutor, TA, and Research Assistant. 
Letters of Recommendation: Two professors from stats department both implied to be very strong. One professor from math department whom I presented with at a conference.
Research Interest: Nonparametric Regression, Statistical Learning Theory, Functional Data Analysis
Applying to where: 
MS (will only go if I get funding): Wake-Forest, Yale
PhD:  Rice, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, NC State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Iowa State, Ohio State, Cornell
Extra Stuff:  Presented at JSM and MathFest. Passed two Actuarial Exams.
My advisers have been very positive about my potential in a PhD program and my likelihood of acceptance, but I don't have good sense where I fit given the blemishes on my record. I plan on retaking the GRE and have confidence in obtaining much higher scores, but am still concerned about my GPA and the poor grades in Linear Algebra and Measure Theory.
Edited by banach
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you aimed way too high with your applications. For example, I just attended Cornell’s visit day and all of other accepted students attended Ivy+ schools for undergrad and had stellar grades. Even at Ohio State, all of the other accepted students I talked to had very strong grades  in math/stats courses and substantially higher GRE scores than you.

Even with improved GRE scores, I think it will be difficult for you to get into the stat PhD programs you listed. The competition is extremely tough. 

I’m not familiar with lower ranked stat PhD programs, so I can’t speak to whether you would have a shot at those. 

What are your career goals? Why do you want to get a PhD in stats?

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3 hours ago, omicrontrabb said:

What are your career goals? Why do you want to get a PhD in stats?

My career goals are in academia, I very much want to be a researcher and enjoy teaching as well. 

Of the schools listed above I only applied to Ohio, NCSU, and UCSB. I also applied to Toronto, but have no desire to reapply there. I have only received a rejection from NCSU, and at this point am betting that the likelihood of hearing an acceptance is low. The other schools I plan to apply to this fall.

Last fall was pretty rough and I didn't fully commit to the application cycle for 2019. I'm all in now, but the radio silence from Ohio and UCSB did make me question if the flaws on my application, besides my terrible GRE scores, were substantially detracting from my application. 

You mentioned that applicants you met all had strong grades in math/stat. Does that mean they got straight A's? Or mostly A's? I do have mostly strong grades in math, but are the C's and B's going to spoil my shot at PhD programs? I'm more than happy to do a masters program first, but would want to find a program offering funding. Would I be competitive in that pool?

Also I should add that Real Functions and Measures, Functional, and Complex were graduate courses at another university.

Edited by banach
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With your math grades, you're going to need to increase your GREQ at least 5 points.  You're also going to definitely need to do a reputable master's program first to have any shot at a top 50 program. As it stands, I don't see you having a shot at a top 70 US News program.

5 years ago, I had almost identical grades from a top school, perfect GRE, and much more research experience and was rejected from the schools you're applying to, and admissions have only become more competitive.

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Consider UCSB. On their website they list admission statistics from 2015.


The average undergrad GPA for accepted students was 3.83 and GRE-Q was 167. Also notice the acceptance rate was 5%. That is extremely competitive and has likely only become more so since 2015.

You have done well in your stats classes, but admissions committees generally care more about your math grades than grades in applied stats courses. So right now, your overall math record is mediocre grades and a mediocre GRE-Q score. That doesn’t show the admissions committee that you have the ability to succeed in math heavy graduate stats courses. A B or even a C here and there won’t ruin your chances. I got a B in analysis for example. You’re also at a disadvantage, since ad coms won’t be familiar with your school and the rigor of the classes. The key is to show that you can handle advanced math.

I second bayessays advice, try to improve your GRE, which would demonstrate your math ability, then apply for masters degrees. There are funded options, but that would limit your choice of schools. I am personally not super familiar with masters admissions, but know they also are not super easy. You definitely need to work on that GRE score.

Also, you said that you want to become a professor. Your path to that seems to be get a masters, do well, get a PhD from a 50ish ranked school. From there you could probably become a professor at a regional school.

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3 hours ago, omicrontrabb said:

Also, you said that you want to become a professor. Your path to that seems to be get a masters, do well, get a PhD from a 50ish ranked school. From there you could probably become a professor at a regional school.

Agreed that the OP needs to retake the GRE and most likely needs to get a Masters degree to overcome the math grades and the fact that s/he attended a regional, relatively unknown school. But to become a professor at a regional school, you definitely don't need to get a PhD from a top 50ish school (you'll see faculty at these schools with PhDs from schools like Oklahoma State, Montana State, University of Central Florida, etc.). These types of institutions place far less importance on pedigree and research productivity than on things like teaching and likeliness to stay there long-term (so at these schools, having a PhD from a super-prestigious program can actually work against you in the hiring process, as they may assume you won't really want to go there). There's nothing wrong with working at these institutions if you prefer teaching to research and like the academic lifestyle but don't want to deal with as much pressure to publish, advise PhD students, etc.

And even if you get a PhD from a lower ranked -- or even an unranked -- program, you can still get an R1/R2 job if your publications are good and well-respected (though, granted, the odds of attaining such an academic position will not be as good as if you attended a more reputable program and will be practically impossible without a postdoc or two from a more prestigious institution)... but it's not impossible to move up, provided your postdoc is productive and results in a few quality publications. For example, I saw that an alumnus of UT Austin's Statistics PhD program (ranked #50) is now faculty at UCLA.

Edited by Stat PhD Now Postdoc
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