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Online undergrad, no research- but interested in PhD?


Hey! So I left my undergraduate program about 4 years ago. I'm back and will be finishing my BA in mathematics in the Spring of 2020 thanks to Indiana University online.

On the GRE, I got 165 for verbal, 170 in math, and 5.0 in writing. I haven't taken the Math subject test yet, but I'm expecting to score high on that based on my practice exams. 

My GPA is around 3.7, same in my major (math). My math GPA would be 3.9 except for an F which should have been a W (I was cross-registered, had previously gotten an A in the course at my home institution under a different name. My withdrawal was within the date at my home institution but not where I was cross registered... I don't know whether I could explain that/have schools recalculate my GPA?) 

I don't have very strong recommendations, mostly because I've been working in food service and non-profits for the past four years, and I haven't been really connecting with my current professors online. I also don't have really any research experience outside of some nonprofit stuff (conducting focus groups of our populations served and light data analysis, mostly). 

I'm most interested in USA statistics PhD programs, starting Fall 2021 or 2022. I don't have a super clear idea of what exactly a project idea would be but I do have a vague idea.

Where does this leave me? I'm most interested in going to a school that primarily serves low(er)-income students. Or at least has more people from the bottom 40% than top 5%, you know. Which by and large are not the highest ranking schools. Whether people here think it's wise, I personally am not very concerned with prestige/rankings.

Is it even really likely for me to get into a PhD program? Would it be wise to get a master's first (just to improve PhD applications)? I would definitely need funding. I'm aware it would depend on fit and such, I just really wouldn't want to bother looking into certain professors and such if people think it's unlikely to work out anyways (because of my LORs & lack of research experience) and I would be better off looking into a master's. Thanks!

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I can't answer most of your questions because I'm just applying myself, but I think it's worth trying to get your school to change that F to a W if you can. It might take some arm twisting, but honestly, the jump from a 3.7 to a 3.9 sounds worth some phone calls and strongly-worded emails to me.

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