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Stat/OR Phd // Profile Eval

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Hi all, I'm planning on applying for Stat/OR/other stat-focused PhD programs next fall. I'm really unsure where I stand in terms of my application--there are a couple of odd quirks in play--and would love some feedback regarding the range of schools I'm looking at. Here's my profile:

Type of Student: Domestic white male

Undergrad Institution: Top 10 US (per USNews rankings)

Major: Mathematics

Minor: Statistics

GPA: 3.81

Related Courses (undergrad) :  Intro stats (AP credit), Calc I/II (AP credit), Intro Linear Algebra (B-), Multivariable 1 (A-), Multivariable 2 (B), Intro to Proofs (A-), Abstract Algebra 1,2 (B+, A), Galois Theory (A), Number Theory (A), Real Analysis 1,2,3 (A, A, A), Advanced Linear Algebra (A), Mechanics (A), Electricity&Magnetism (A), Waves&Oscillations (A), Mathematical Statistics/Probability Theory 1, 2, 3 (A, A, A), Regression (A-), Experimental Design (A), Programming Fundamentals 1,2 (A,A), Data Structures (A) 

Also have familiarity/competency w/ ODEs, although I do not have a formal course on my transcript. Listing physics courses since OR/applied math programs might care. 

Overall strong upward trend in grades. Have something like a 3.9+ over the last 60 credit hours, which include all the stat theory courses. 

GRE: actual score tbd; consistent 170Q/164+V in timed, appropriate condition practice tests. 


  • 2 years undergrad research in experimental physics, fairly heavy programming emphasis
  • Internship+(at time of application) work experience in quantitative finance (this'll probably hurt my app?) 
  • 2 years Physics/Calc/Linear tutor for university run tutoring program
  • LORs should be decent--two math profs and a physics prof, all of whom I took at least a year of pretty small classes with, and research advisor 

Anyhow, onto the fun stuff. 

The biggest abnormality in play is that I took some time off university my freshman year due a health issue (which was in part responsible for that shitty first term and B- in freshman linear algebra...). I enrolled in a community college near home and took 5 or 6 classes just to stay engaged w/ school while recovering, and my grades were pretty meh--a mix of As and Bs in freshman level math/cs/physics courses. I think my GPA there was around a 3.6 or 3.7. I didn't use the courses for anything--the institution I will be graduating from this year does not accept community college credit in general--but I'm pretty sure I'll have to send in the CC transcripts anyway for most schools (a few places, most notably Stanford, state that they only want transcripts from places I was fully enrolled in for ≥1 year).

Anyhow, right now my list of schools is looking something like:

Super Reaches: Stanford (Management Science + Engineering--Decision Analysis or Optimization+Stochastics), Caltech (Computing + Mathematical Sciences), MIT (ORC)

Still Reaches: Michigan (Statistics), Washington (Statistics), Cornell (Systems Engineering), UCLA (Statistics)

Better Odds(??): CU-Boulder (Applied Math), UCSB (Statistics + Applied Probability), Waterloo (C&O, Masters), Maryland (AMSC)

Safer (???): MSU (Statistics + Probability), UC Irvine (Statistics)

I'd like to cut this list down to no more than 10 schools (especially if I can't get fee waivers), and hopefully make it a bit less top heavy (I feel like I'm shooting WAY too high right now...). My research interests are still developing, but they lean more towards theoretical than applied areas. As of now, preferences would probably be Stanford>UCLA/Caltech/Washington>UCSB/Boulder/Cornell>rest, but I'm not even sure how many of those places are realistic shots at all. 

Would really appreciate any input! 

Edited by snickers_bar
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I don't think UW or Michigan is a reach for your profile. As long as you explain the medical issue your freshman year in your application (or better, have an LOR writer explain it in their letter), it shouldn't be a huge issue for many good programs. Your GPA is pretty good, you went to a top school, and you have A's in advanced classes like Real Analysis and Galois Theory. The research experience in experimental physics is also a plus.

For Statistics, I think you should actually aim for schools like Duke, Wisconsin, NCSU, UNC, and possibly UC Berkeley. The Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc. are all really difficult to get into, but you could try a few of them too if you wanted. MSU and UCI are both fine programs with good academic placements (I saw that UCLA Biostatistics just hired someone who got his PhD from UCI, and there are other alumni from these programs at places like UF and ASU) -- but I think you could definitely get into a top 20 Statistics program if you applied to some.

Edited by Stat Assistant Professor
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Yeah, I don't think the early grades will be a huge issue given the clear ability to do higher level coursework at a top school.  I still think UW and Michigan are reaches in the sense that they are very competitive and you are not guaranteed admission, but you should definitely apply to schools at that level.  UCLA and UCI are great programs that I think you should probably get into.  (Honestly, I think UCI and UCLA are pretty comparable in terms of program quality - UCI is a very strong department).  You don't need to be applying to programs like UCSB, MSU, Maryland unless you have personal reasons for wanting to attend those schools.  I would add more schools in that 10-30 range.

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Thanks for the feedback. 

I'm looking into the research/overall programs at all the schools mentioned in this thread so far, and the suggestions have definitely been helpful in narrowing my list.

I'm not super interested in biostats--from what I can tell, most of the departments seem really applied, and I'm not really leaning in that direction. Some of the programs with bioinformatics/computational bio slants do seem interesting though, so I'll still read up on a couple places. 

Again, thanks everyone--this was super helpful in figuring out the range of schools I should be looking at. 


Edited by snickers_bar
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4 hours ago, snickers_bar said:

I'm not super interested in biostats--from what I can tell, most of the departments seem really applied, and I'm not really leaning in that direction.

For biostat, if you're really interested in theory, you should mostly be looking at UW, UNC, and maybe Harvard/Hopkins (which have a lot of good methodology people).

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