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Profile Evaluation: Statistics Masters/PhD + School Recommendations


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Hi, I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe! I plan to apply to graduate statistics programs soon. I'm primarily interested in masters programs, as I don’t feel competitive/competent enough for a PhD. I would love if someone could help me understand where I stand and if my feeling is correct. I also am very nervous about the kinds of schools that are a viable, given my background. I‘d greatly appreciate any advice! 

 

Type of student: Rising 4th year domestic mixed male

Undergraduate Institution: Large public, no grade inflation (USN top 20 statistics department)

Undergraduate Major: Applied Math - Stat concentration, CS minor, honors (not sure if that means anything)

GPA: Cumulative: 3.90, Major: 3.95

GRE: Haven't taken yet; estimate: ~169Q, ~163V, ~4.5W

Relevant Courses: (all undergrad level unless specified; all A's, except B's in ODE's and databases) 

  • Math: calc 1-3, real analysis, linear algebra, ODE's, mathematical probability, numerical methods, combinatorics, dynamical systems
  • Stat: intro stats, linear models, data mining (grad level), sample survey/experiment design, intro operations research, topological data analysis, statistical computing, databases (grad level)
  • Computer Science: intro programming, intro DS&A, analysis of algorithms, computer organization, programming languages

Letters: average, but maybe below average - didn’t form very strong connections with professors

Research Experience: 1 year of statistical modelling with biomedical science application; 1 year of work with a CS professor on a project with statistical focus in deep learning; no publications

Internships: (not sure if this is relevant) one SWE/AB testing internship at local startup; one ML/NLP internship at a large public, but also relatively unknown, IT company

Misc Experience: one TA position for a senior level math class; a lot of eclectic self imposed machine learning projects

 

For masters I plan on applying to: (in order of descending perceived chances?) Texas A&M University, UNC, UWisc, Columbia, UMich, Duke, CMU, UW, UChicago, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford. I have no idea if I am competitive enough to apply to these school though. They all seem super competitive, so I will likely apply to more schools. A big worry I have is that many of the masters programs in statistics are targeted toward industry/data science, rather than preparing for research/PhD - so idk if it is even worth applying to them. I am also unsure whether I have enough rigorous statistics courses to apply to PhD programs. Would love any advice!

Thank you!

p.s. sorry if you saw this on reddit, I thought it would be valuable to get specialized advice from here 

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I think you are selling yourself a bit short. You could apply directly to PhD programs and probably get into a top 20 Stats PhD program (think: University of Minnesota, Texas A&M, Penn State). You might even get lucky and get into a school like Carnegie Mellon or University of Washington. There's not much to be gained from getting a Masters in your case if you are mainly interested in getting a PhD. I would only recommend Masters degrees for students who are only seeking a terminal degree in Statistics, who didn't have the best math grades in undergrad and need to "atone" for their undergrad performance, or who didn't major in math/a quantitative subject in undergrad (I would also recommend Masters for international students who did not attend well-known undergrad institutions in their home country). None of these applies to you.

I would recommend that you get recommendation letters from the professors that you did research with and one letter from a math professor who can attest to your mathematical abilities. I think you will have good results if you just apply to Statistics PhD programs directly.

Edited by Stat Assistant Professor
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19 minutes ago, Stat Assistant Professor said:

I think you are selling yourself a bit short. You could apply directly to PhD programs and probably get into a top 20 Stats PhD program (think: University of Minnesota, Texas A&M, Penn State). You might even get lucky and get into a school like Carnegie Mellon or University of Washington. There's not much to be gained from getting a Masters in your case if you are mainly interested in getting a PhD. I would only recommend Masters degrees for students who are only seeking a terminal degree in Statistics, who didn't have the best math grades in undergrad and need to "atone" for their undergrad performance, or who didn't major in math/a quantitative subject in undergrad (I would also recommend Masters for international students who did not attend well-known undergrad institutions in their home country). None of these applies to you.

I would recommend that you get recommendation letters from the professors that you did research with and one letter from a math professor who can attest to your mathematical abilities. I think you will have good results if you just apply to Statistics PhD programs directly.

Hi, thank you so much for the quick response and encouraging words! I thought the same about what one would gain out of masters programs, but I figured I didn't have enough coursework in statistics to apply. I'll certainly look more into PhD programs in that case, and take your advice on the recommendation letters.

I do have a follow up question regarding masters programs. Do you think I am competitive enough to get into a top 10 masters program? If so, would it be worth considering completing a masters at one of those institutions, and then applying to higher ranked PhD programs?

Thank you again! 

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Just now, statstudent said:

Hi, thank you so much for the quick response and encouraging words! I thought the same about what one would gain out of masters programs, but I figured I didn't have enough coursework in statistics to apply. I'll certainly look more into PhD programs in that case, and take your advice on the recommendation letters.

I do have a follow up question regarding masters programs. Do you think I am competitive enough to get into a top 10 masters program? If so, would it be worth considering completing a masters at one of those institutions, and then applying to higher ranked PhD programs?

Thank you again! 

Undergrad statistics coursework is not that important for PhD admissions, though it could potentially be helpful to have taken an undergrad class in Calculus-based probability and an upper-division undergrad class in statistical inference. I know people who got into Stats PhD programs who had never taken a statistics course before matriculating (they had a lot of math though).

I think you would get into a top 10 masters program in Stats, no question. However, that would entail dropping a lot of money on something that isn't required for you to get into a decent PhD program. I also think it would only make you marginally more competitive for PhD admissions at the top programs, unless you got something *really* noteworthy out of it (e.g. a publication in a respectable journal).

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3 hours ago, Stat Assistant Professor said:

Undergrad statistics coursework is not that important for PhD admissions, though it could potentially be helpful to have taken an undergrad class in Calculus-based probability and an upper-division undergrad class in statistical inference. I know people who got into Stats PhD programs who had never taken a statistics course before matriculating (they had a lot of math though).

I think you would get into a top 10 masters program in Stats, no question. However, that would entail dropping a lot of money on something that isn't required for you to get into a decent PhD program. I also think it would only make you marginally more competitive for PhD admissions at the top programs, unless you got something *really* noteworthy out of it (e.g. a publication in a respectable journal).

I see, that makes sense. Thank you so much for your advice!

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Now that I'm looking more into PhD programs I see that many applications, particularly top 10, "strongly recommend" submitting GRE Math Subject Test scores. Would anyone mind advising me on how taking the exam and getting ~75% - 80% percentile would affect my application for those programs? Similarly, how would not taking the exam affect my application?

I haven't even began studying for the exam yet, so I am trying to determine whether it is worth the effort. I'd be very grateful for any advice! Thank you!

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GRE Math subject test isn't super important except for maybe Stanford. If you can get >80% with 1-2 months preparation, I think maybe it worths taking the test. The test has a broad coverage so make sure you review all the topics. Since you haven't taken abstract algebra and complex analysis so it may take you some time to pick up the basics of these material. 

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40 minutes ago, bayessays said:

I think a score above 75% would be viewed positively for a domestic applicant. 

 

7 minutes ago, Casorati said:

GRE Math subject test isn't super important except for maybe Stanford. If you can get >80% with 1-2 months preparation, I think maybe it worths taking the test. The test has a broad coverage so make sure you review all the topics. Since you haven't taken abstract algebra and complex analysis so it may take you some time to pick up the basics of these material. 

I see, thank you for your responses! As a follow up, if I were to not submit my score - say if I got <75% or just didn't take it - would that have an adverse effect on my application for those programs?

Thanks again!

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3 hours ago, statstudent said:

 

I see, thank you for your responses! As a follow up, if I were to not submit my score - say if I got <75% or just didn't take it - would that have an adverse effect on my application for those programs?

Thanks again!

No. As long as you have strong record in math courses, those programs won't care much about your math GRE score. 

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