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Masters in Statistics (low gpa)


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Hello!

I've been working for ~10 years as an actuary but I'm reconsidering my career. Hoping to get thoughts on whether a top tier (top 15) MS program in Statistics is out of reach for me, or if there are things I could do to make my application more attractive.

 

Undergrad: One of the State University of NY

Major: Major in Math (Actuarial), Minor in Chemistry

GPA: 3.25 overall, 3.8 major (I was previously trying to go the premed path but was not suited for it. At the same time, I was dealing with some family issues - onset of dementia in a parent, younger sibling going through a crisis of risky behavior - and as a result, probably held on too long to premed than I should have.)

Student Type: Domestic Asian Female

Undergrad Courses:  Calculus II (A), Calculus III (A), Ordinary Differential Equation (A), Probability I (A-), Probability II (C+), Applied Probability Models (A), Topology (A-), Linear Algebra (A). And maybe less relevant undergrad courses - Interest Theory (A), Microeconomics I (A), Microeconomics II (A), Macroeconomics I (A), Macroeconomics II (A), Actuarial Problem Solving (A).

GRE General: Will take, assuming quantitative will be fine

Math GRE: Should I take this?

Research: None related to math - 2 semesters in materials research under a Nobel prize winner

Work Experience: ~10 years as an actuary within consulting and life insurance, regular promotions and great reviews

Letters of Recommendation: Likely will ask from past managers

Programs Applying to: MS in Statistics

Considering to Apply to:  Top 15-20 programs

 

Questions

1.  What can I do to improve my application?

2. Which programs do you think I can get into? Will it be a stretch if I'm aiming for top 15-20?

3. I'm guessing I'm not the typical applicant since I'm more removed from school. How will that be viewed?

 

Many thanks!!
 

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As long as you do well on your GRE, I suspect you'll be fine. Sometimes programs like Stanford/Chicago are harder to crack, but overall these programs are not extremely competitive for Americans who are willing to pay. No need to take the math GRE for a master's degree whatsoever.  Do you have any math/stat professors who know you well who could write at least one of your rec letters?

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Thanks for the quick response!

On the math professors - I can reach out but I doubt they'll remember me given how long it's been. Would it hurt my app to not have a rec from a professor?

On Stanford/Chicago, anything I can should consider doing to make my application more attractive?

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I absolutely do not recommend the above advice for statistics PhDs, yet alone master's students. The above poster is a chemistry student.

It is pretty numbers driven, so your grades and scores are the major factors. 

Can I ask what you want to do with this degree?  With 10 years as an actuary, I feel like the opportunity cost of two years of salary to go pay for a degree and then ending up with a similar job seems like a strange path unless you have a very particular goal in mind.

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That's a very valid point on the opportunity cost. Honestly, I'm still trying to assess what I want to do. I suppose it's a mix of things:

  • The actuarial field is a very narrow niche and typically governed by regulation. If I wanted to move out of the insurance industry, it won't be a lateral move and I won't have the appropriate training as someone coming out of a Masters/PhD program in Stats.
  • Some positions do lean more towards statistics / data science (and these were roles I've enjoyed more) but at the end it's limited by actuarial judgment.
  • While I'm doing well professionally, I'm not that interested in the insurance industry. Part of me is considering whether a MS in Math would be better (like NYU's program) so I can explore a variety of math courses, something I neglected to do during my late-switch in undergrad to my Actuarial degree. Related question, what are top MS in Math programs that offer a thesis option?

I'm open to any thoughts or suggestions. Thanks for the advice so far!

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An MS might open up some career paths like being a low-level biostatistician.  If you want to go into tech as a data scientist, I think you could probably transition with a bootcamp or self-teaching.  I'm not trying to discourage you, but I think you should have a clear idea of what career path you want to move into, because you might end up with a position that isn't that different from being an actuary and down a quarter million dollars.

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1 hour ago, GettingDemReactions said:

To be clear, your advice for the original poster (since their GPA is set in stone) is to take the GRE and let it ride? Even though they have plenty of time to reach out to members of the department to express interest and gain advice for applying? Are you implying that in the statistics world this would hurt an application?  If not, it seems like the only other thing they can do aside from not bombing the GRE. 

Yeah, basically. 

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Contacting professors, besides questions for the admissions chair, in a statistics department when applying for a MS degree makes absolutely no sense.  Someone with almost straight A's in math classes taking the math GRE, a test they will almost certainly not do well on, for absolutely no reason makes no sense.  I'm not arguing from any position of authority, so stop with the personal attacks and rude tone.  I'm trying to help someone and you're spreading misinformation. 

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1 hour ago, GettingDemReactions said:

Their question is what COULD help their application. Both the Math GRE and contacting faculty COULD help them. Is it guaranteed? No, but you are spreading misinformation to say it can't help.

 

Agree that reaching out might help, but it won't help most of the time. From the pinned post by cyberwulf: Funding in most (but not all) U.S. stat/biostat programs is allocated at the department level to the strongest incoming students, so applicants aren't typically "matched" to potential advisors who agree to fund them*. Rather, the department projects the total number of positions available and then tries to recruit up to that number of students. Once the students are on campus, they are then either assigned to a position or (ideally) have some choices available to them. Of course OP should still try and reach out to faculty (but don't expect anything).

Regarding GRE subject test, OP did not take Abstract Algebra, Real and Complex Analysis, so taking the test will most likely mean throwing money away. Still, if OP is independently wealthy and willing to give it a shot then by all means go ahead and take the test.

Edited by Bayequentist
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Yeah, in Statistics/Biostatistics, students are accepted by the department, not into labs. Most PhD students don't pick their advisor until their second year in the program at the earliest. So it isn't really beneficial to e-mail professors, even for prospective PhD students (most of the time). In fact, a lot of Stat professors now have notes on their websites that state that they "unfortunately cannot respond to inquiries from students who have not yet been admitted."

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