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Profile Evaluation for Mathematics PhD and MS Apps


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Undergraduate Institution: State school

Majors: Mathematics and Psychology (Double major)

Cumulative GPA: 3.03/4.00
GPA at last school attended: 3.47/4.00
Math major GPA: 3.70/4.00

Type of Student: Domestic multiracial (white/indigenous/Latina) female

Relevant Courses:
Calculus I,II,III, IV (all A)
Discrete Math (A)
Ordinary Differential Equations (A)
Applied Statistics (C)
Linear Algebra (B)
Applied Abstract Algebra (A)
Mathematical Modeling (A)
Topology (audited)
Directed Readings (Satisfactory/Pass)

Abstract Algebra I (currently A)
Real Analysis I (currently A)
Capstone (currently A)
Programming Abstractions (currently A but it will likely drop to a B )

Future? (I graduate this semester and don’t yet know if I’ll be able to take these):
Real Analysis II
Data Structures

GRE General Test: 318 (Verbal: 159 | Quantitative: 159 | Writing: waiting to hear)

Research Experience: Participated in a reading course/looked at some open problems related to lattice cryptography for one summer. I also have about six months of experience in a cognitive neuroscience lab.

Extracurricular stuff: Participated in an informal reading program with a grad student, where I studied the elliptic curve factorization algorithm and algorithms for Delaunay triangulation. I also gave a talk on Delaunay triangulation.

Honors/Awards: LSAMP scholar, Dean’s List (multiple semesters), President’s List (once)

Interests: cryptography, graph theory, number theory, mathematical biology, computational geometry

Misc. Info: I dropped out of college a couple of times and failed an entire semester back in 2012. My grades the last couple of years, especially since switching to a math major, have turned around significantly. I also have years of irrelevant work experience, but a history of being promoted.

Letters of Recommendation:

  • A math prof that I’ve had several courses with and done research with
  • haven’t asked anyone else yet, but will likely be asking my analysis, calc 3, and algebra professors and just seeing who feels they can write a strong letter, if any. I don’t know any of them well, but I’ve been to their office hours a couple of times and I have/had good grades in their classes.

Schools I might apply to:

  • UT Arlington, PhD or MS (not sure)
  • UT Dallas, PhD
  • University of North Texas, PhD
  • Southern Methodist University, PhD Applied Mathematics
  • University of Oklahoma, MS or PhD (not sure)
  • Oklahoma State, PhD Pure Math
  • University of Arkansas
  • Kansas State
  • University of Kansas

General questions:

  • Should I retake the GRE for a higher quant score?
  • Is this an okay list of schools? Does anyone have any suggestions for other places to apply in this general region?


Edited by blorp2.0
formatting, typo
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Sorry for the delay, Saturdays are my day to get ahead on work and studying. 

First off, I would say that it sounds like you have a bit of a story. Admissions committees want to see that you have the ability to persevere. The ability to endure hardship, stay focused and motivated and finish strong. It sounds like given your less than traditional experience in college, it is worth mentioning in a few sentences in a SOP or PS. 

For me, I am most concerned about your grades in applied statistics and linear algebra. Linear algebra is a necessity, and fundamental understanding of linear algebra is essential to success in a Ph.D. program. I will say that given your stellar grades in difficult mathematics courses (including real analysis), that the admissions committees might be able to overlook those two lower grades I mentioned. Hopefully that is the case.

Second, I would say you definitely should retake the GRE. The goal would be to get your Q score in the 160's. At that level, it won't really be used as a screen out, as it may be in the 150's range. 

I think you should absolutely look at the University of South Carolina, I think it would make a solid addition to your list. In the same region you may want to consider Auburn and maybe Alabama (Applied Statistics Ph.D.). 

It sounds like you want to be near Texas, so the above may not apply. 

I am not totally sure about schools that will be realistic for you. At first glance the 3.03 is worrying, but you have a story. You have very solid math grades and a great turn around with the 3.47. I think if properly explained, you may have a solid shot at some of the schools on your list. 

Hope this helps a bit! If you have any other questions, let me know.

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Thank you so much!!

Do you think there’s anything I can do to mitigate the impact of the linear grade? I’ve used linear every semester since then and have become much better at it, and the research I worked on used a fair amount of linear as well. Should I maybe mention that? Also, should I consider taking abstract linear algebra to show them that I’m working on it?

Do you happen to know where I might find examples of how to explain poor past performance? I don’t have the space to talk about the reasons behind every bad semester. Would it be enough to say it was a result of poor organizational skills, an illness that went undiagnosed & untreated until two years ago, a couple of extended hospitalizations for miscellaneous reasons, close family deaths, and working nearly full time? I really can’t get into all of it and I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses. It’s clear that I’m able to handle these kinds of stressors better now, since I’ve dealt with the fact that the woman who raised me is dying, had to help out, etc. and I still made straight A’s. It’s hard to gauge what is and is not appropriate to say, even on this forum. 

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First off, thank you for feeling comfortable to share that on the page here. Yes, I think that just a few sentences, like above, are a great way to do it. I agree with you, its a fine line between making excuses and explanations. That being said, an explanation (correctly done) gives the committee insight into you and your life experience. It lets them see that you can persevere and perform well under the hardest of conditions.

As for linear, I think having the person who you've done research with writing a letter on your behalf would be crucial. They can speak not only to your research ability but also to your ability using and applying your coursework. That should help alleviate some concerns.

I don't think an abstract linear course is necessary. Abstract algebra requires the understanding of GL(2,R), GL(n,R), SL(2,R) and others. Additionally, many proofs involve the understanding of matrix groups being non-abelian, which is a property you learned in linear (under * matrices aren't commutative). These are fundamental concepts which reinforce large ideas from linear. While you aren't inverting a matrix by hand or rref ing a matrix you are using the big picture ideas that you will also need to be familiar with in grad school.

Also, I cited some medical reasons, very briefly, in my personal statement. It seemed to work in my favor as the adComs understood my semester of lower than normal grades. It was a subtle balance but if you're brief and clear, they'll appreciate it.

Edited by BL250604
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Thanks so much! Did you go into much detail as to what the medical issues were, or were you more vague? 

Also, the professor I did research with has been extremely encouraging of me in terms of going to grad school, and has already agreed to write the letter, so I’m good on that front. I’m glad to hear it might help with the linear issue as well. 

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Having someone who can speak to your character as well as research ability is fantastic. I didn't get too descriptive, but I described the issue enough so they knew I was actually going through stuff for a couple years and could understand the problem. I didn't want the letter to turn into a pity party. There's definitely a good balance.

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