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Profile Evaluation - MS Statistics

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I'm wondering if I could get some advice on what tiers of schools I should apply for, given my background? I am going to apply for an MS in stats (Fall 2021).

Demographics: Biracial domestic male (Half-asian, half-white)

Undergrad: UIUC (big ten, very strong physics program)~#37 rank in stats.

    Major: Physics

    GPA: 3.82 overall, 3.76 major GPA. Got a B+ freshman year in Calc 3, all B+/B's one semester junior year when I took 5 math/phys classes, otherwise all A+/A/A-

    Coursework: Calc 1, 2, 3 (A, A-, B+), Diff EQ (A-), Linear Alg. (B+),  Discrete Math (B+), Real Analysis (A), Statistics and Probability I (A), Probability Theory (A+). A+/A in all CS courses (Intro CS, CS for science/eng., data structures).

    Notes: I took 3 years off in the middle of my degree taking part-time jobs+easy classes to deal with my depression after a death in the family.

Research: One REU in physics, learning and applying machine learning methods to a scientific problem in biology (PI I worked for was in physics).

Letters: I have an very strong letter from a PI from a physics REU where I applied machine learning methods to scientific research (he said I got more done than some grad students, told me I did a terrific job), one from a part-time tutoring job, and two from upper level STEM course profs in which I got A+ and A (Senior Quantum I and Intro to Real Analysis).

GRE: Haven't taken the GRE yet, but on my first practice test I got V:157, Q:162.

Misc.: Scored 2/120 on the 2019 Putnam exam, placing in top half of participants.

I am wondering what tiers of schools would be best to apply for? Do you think I have a good chance at UIUC and other big schools in the top 50? Should I include some below the top 50? Do you think I have any chance at top 10 schools like Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, etc.? I would really appreciate any advice on this or any related issue! Thanks!

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You should know that master programs do not rank exactly like PhD programs (as in US news). I would like to use this opportunity to give a

TOP 10 Rankings for US Master Programs:


Tier 1:

1. University of Chicago (MA in Statistics)

1. Stanford (MS Statistics or Data Science)


Tier 2:

3. Stanford (ICME, ML/AI/Data Science track)

3. Princeton (OFRE, MSE, MFIN)

3. MIT (Masters at OR or EECS)


Tier 3:

6. UW

6. Duke

6. Upenn


Tier 4:

9. Harvard

10. Berkeley 



This list is based on personal opinion but is generally influenced by popular opinion. For example, Stanford and UChicago is considered best 2 programs (personally I think UChicago is better than Stanford with thesis option, scholarship and ~50% admission rate to its PhD program). The other overlooked program at Stanford is the data science offered under its ICME institute as opposed to the one offered at stats department, which is also very good--there is an option to just switch to PhD at ICME upon satisfying some basic requirement. The next in line must be the MFIN or MSE at Princeton ORFE--at first glance it is untraditional for statistics but there is a good chance to switch to PhD program under ORFE which gives you excellent chance to study under top probabilists and statisticians. If you orientation is industry then ORFE gives you the best platform. The other excellent option to study statistics at master level is at MIT: either through EECS or OR's master programs. There are a lot of statistics/probability going around at MIT and lots of classes even though it does not have a dedicated statistics department. Next, UW, UPenn, Duke all have very good, very solid master programs in statistics.  The last category encompasses two better known schools. They are both good but curriculum is not as rigorous.  For example, Berkeley only has only 8 months, no thesis, and classes are really watered down stuff compared to PhD. Harvard is autonomous --more like a self-tailored sort of program--so it is harder to say.  

On your profile: 

Your course work and research are really good. I think you have a shot at Top 10 (maybe outside of tier 1). 

Edited by DanielWarlock
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Master's admissions are much less competitive than PhD's since you pay for the degree. With your profile, if you can get your GRE Q to 166+, I think you should be competitive for the  top 10s.  I would definitely apply to top schools like Harvard, Berkeley, Chicago and Stanford as well as add some safer options in the top 20s.

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14 hours ago, DanielWarlock said:

6. Upenn


AFAIK, Upenn does not have a terminal masters degree program in stat, and is earned on the way to a PhD, not necessarily a PhD in the stat department. That is unless you're talking about an MBA with a concentration in stat, which then has a different set of requirements different from an MS in stat. 

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Ranking MS programs into tiers is not a useful exercise. Yes, Chicago and Stanford have great programs, but they also have great PhD programs. The US News rankings are fine to follow and nobody is going to know the difference between Duke and Berkeley's MS program.  I think Stanford might be a reach but MS programs are not extremely competitive and I think you could probably get into a top 10 and definitely plenty of programs like UIUC.

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

I got V: 165 and Q: 165. Do you think a higher Q score would significantly help my chances of getting into top 10/Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Chicago, MIT, etc.? I am considering retaking it since I got V: 162 Q:168 and V:163 Q:167 on my 2 practice tests

Edited by fujigala
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