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Hi all,

I am not going to ask you guys to chance me, as I know the application cycle will be an uphill battle for me from a low GPA and non-traditional background. 

I majored in Economics at an Ivy League with minors in Math and Statistics. I didn't do so well in the Economics with a few C's, a few A's, and mostly B's,(major GPA ~ 3.1) while my Math (mostly A's with an occasional A-), Stat, and other STEM courses such as CompSci and Econometrics was around 3.75. My cumulative GPA including the 'general ed' courses was right below 3.40, with the lowest semester being the first semester of my third year. I finish both my senior semesters with a 3.9. It seems that my GPA progression is hyperbolic and concaved upwards over the semesters. I will have taken up to Real Analysis, scoring A-/A in my math courses from undergrad and graduate institutions.

Now, I am enrolled in my final year in a statistics masters program at a mid tier state school (to be specific - mid tier for statistics) and will be expecting a final GPA between 3.8-4.0. I will also be completing a master's paper on the topic comparing multivariate time series models using foreign exchange data (not a publication in a journal). My interest lies in financial engineering and multivariate statistics.

My GRE is V:160/Q:166/W:4 (I plan on retaking. Also I am taking the GRE Math subject to hopefully scoring between the 50th to 70th percentile. The higher the better but without the math major, I don't know how feasible it is.)

I have around 1 year of work experience in finance and data analytics (business strategy) as I recently finished my undergrad.

So my questions for PhD programs are:
1) Besides the big names such as Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, and Berkeley, where else offers such programs with respect to my interest in financial engineering and high dimensional statistics? I'd like to stay on the coasts. 

2) Which schools are more reasonable to be set as target schools? 

3) Is it worth my while to work towards a post-bac in math to compensate for the GPA and gain the necessary coursework?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

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  • 1 month later...

Hey man, current Berkeley IEOR PhD here. Given you are currently working on your masters, I don't think you will need to do any additional post-bac work. You have a strong background and you should be able to get into a good program. May i ask why you're interested in IEOR? Yes, OR departments do a lot of interesting work in financial engineering and many grads go on to be very successful in the space, but it might also make sense to increase your scope to include stats and financial engineering departments. In terms of IE/OR departments, you should also strongly consider UW Madison, UT Austin (though note that UT Austin doesn't actually have a regular funded PhD program that you can be accepted into; you get accepted to the masters which you pay for and then when you finish you can apply to be entered into the PhD group; doesn't say it super clearly on the website, but found out after I got accepted), UNC Chapel Hill (I'm not too familiar with this department, but my impression is that this is a theoretical shop focused on stats and financial engineering). Of course you should also consider Georgia Tech, as its ranked very highly. It used to be _the_ place to be for optimization (Nemhauser, Nemirovski), but given your interest in statistics, might not be the best bet. In terms of private schools, the department at CMU Tepper is very well regarded and highly technically rigorous despite the business school setting. USC has also been doing some pretty interesting work and growing the department. I'm excluding all the other big name schools that I am sure you are aware of (Northwestern, Booth, Wharton, Stanford...etc)


Good luck with your applications and I hope to be your colleague soon!

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  • 5 months later...
Posted (edited)

Thanks for the response. I have heard of several of these OR departments, and my only concern is that they may be heavily optimization focused, which doesn't line easily with my interests. My main interest in IEOR is the application of statistics, where there is a heavier emphasis on stat methodology.  I think my research interest primarily lies within the methodologies rather than the mathematical theory, which is why FE appealed to me initially, given my econ background. 

I've spoken to several faculty who mentioned the same as you, to broaden my scope, and to look into stat/biostat programs. I think my main concern is my Econ GPA, which was less than stellar, but I'm hoping my STEM courses can compensate for that. (I did end up finishing my masters with a 4.0).

Again, thanks for your input, and congratulations on accepting Cal's IEOR program. It is definitely hard to elicit a response on this forum for such hypothetical topics.

Best of luck in your studies! Maybe we will work together soon :)

Edited by kingduck
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