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Hello! Getting my applications together for PhD programs in statistics.... Just recently discovered this site and would like to get some advice on my choice of schools and how competitive I might be.

Undergrad: Top 10 public university

Majors: Mathematics, Statistics (both are BS)

GPA: 3.85

Type of Student: White male, domestic

Programs applying: Statistics PhD (via masters, I suppose)

Research Interests: Environmental/ecological statistics, including applications to meteorology/ornithology, nonparametric statistics.

Relevant Coursework:

Calc I-III (all A’s),  Sets and Logic (introduction to proof-based math): A-

Differential Equations: A, Linear Algebra 1: A

Abstract Algebra: A, Complex Analysis: A-

Programming with Java: C. Is this something I should mention in my statement of purpose? How bad does this look?

Regression Analysis: A-, Experimental Design: A

Categorical Data Analysis: A, Intro to Probability: A

Statistics Theory: A, Nonparametric methods: A

Stochastic Processes: A

Current and future coursework:

Advanced Calculus (two semesters), Topology, Linear Algebra for Data Science, Stochastic Processes 2

Other things:

Made the most boneheaded mistake during class registration…. My university does summer and fall registration at the same time and I accidentally added Calc I for the summer instead of fall. Noticed the mistake too late and was forced to withdraw, which is showing on my transcript. Is this something I should be worried about, or possibly address in my statement of purpose?

Programming: R

GRE: taking next week. Feel pretty alright about it…. I’ve been scoring in the mid 160s in both V and Q in the practice tests I’ve done recently, for what it’s worth.

Now it gets sketchy (it seems to me, at least):

No relevant internships/work experience, pretty bland resume.

Letters: One that I expect to be rather average, another one that should be decent, and another that should be quite strong, all from math professors. Overall, not very excited about them though, and probably another weakness?

Schools I’m planning to apply: Penn State, UConn, Oregon St, Kansas St, Colorado St, Florida State, UF. I’d really appreciate any feedback on my choices thus far, and am looking to add a few more. Am I overreaching?

Any advice is greatly appreciated! 

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Given your grades and your pedigree, I think you can aim higher in the ranked USNWR ranked list than your current list. The schools on your list make sense if you are interested specifically in environmental/spatial statistics, but I think you have a shot at higher ranked programs as well.

Check out UNC-Chapel Hill Biostatistics, John's Hopkins Biostatistics, Harvard Biostatistics, Cornell Statistics, NCSU Statistics. All have great faculty working on spatial and environmental stats.

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Given your interests, I would also recommend that you look more into Biostatistics PhD programs in general. There are some very strong spatial/environment faculty at, for example, UCLA Biostatistics. Dr. Sudipto Banerjee at UCLA comes to mind, and he has excellent academic placement for his PhD advisees.

Many of the top PhD programs in Statistics are not as strong in the area of spatial/environmental stats as top biostat programs. 

Edited by Stat Assistant Professor
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On 11/22/2020 at 11:00 AM, Stat Assistant Professor said:

Given your interests, I would also recommend that you look more into Biostatistics PhD programs in general. There are some very strong spatial/environment faculty at, for example, UCLA Biostatistics. Dr. Sudipto Banerjee at UCLA comes to mind, and he has excellent academic placement for his PhD advisees.

Many of the top PhD programs in Statistics are not as strong in the area of spatial/environmental stats as top biostat programs. 

Thank you so much for your suggestions! I've looked into them a bit and I'm finding lots of good matches.

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On 11/22/2020 at 4:33 AM, sgg1008 said:

possibly address in my statement of purpose?

Not worth mentioning, you have taken plenty of math since. 

 

I think from your list, Penn State, Colorado State and UF are probably good targets.  FSU has good people too and is probably pretty safe. I think UConn, Kansas State, and Oregon State are definitely lower than you need to be applying even for your safest options.  I think it would also be a great idea to apply to a few higher ranked schools like the ones mentioned by @Stat Assistant Professor

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On 11/22/2020 at 11:00 AM, Stat Assistant Professor said:

Given your interests, I would also recommend that you look more into Biostatistics PhD programs in general. There are some very strong spatial/environment faculty at, for example, UCLA Biostatistics. Dr. Sudipto Banerjee at UCLA comes to mind, and he has excellent academic placement for his PhD advisees.

Many of the top PhD programs in Statistics are not as strong in the area of spatial/environmental stats as top biostat programs. 

Does this also apply to master's in Statistics/Biostatistics programs at these same universities? It doesn't seem like there are many notable master's in biostatistics programs with coursework in spatial/environmental stats, whereas there seem to be a lot more master's in statistics programs with that sort of coursework.

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1 hour ago, Plexor2 said:

Does this also apply to master's in Statistics/Biostatistics programs at these same universities? It doesn't seem like there are many notable master's in biostatistics programs with coursework in spatial/environmental stats, whereas there seem to be a lot more master's in statistics programs with that sort of coursework.

I'm sorry, I'm not really sure about the coursework in Biostatistics Masters programs. My impression was that they are mostly the same as Statistics Masters programs in the first year. 

Also, to OP: it might be worthwhile to check out a few unranked programs as well. Spatial statistics is a bit of a "niche" field (so some of the best programs for Spatial Statistics are not necessarily the highest ranked in USNWR -- e.g. Colorado State and University of Missouri Statistics are both strong programs for spatial statistics). However, in addition to these schools, there are also a few unranked PhD programs that are very strong in spatial statistics. For example, I would consider University of California-Santa Cruz (they're a new department after splitting off from the Applied Math department) and University of Cincinnati to be quite strong at spatial stats. 

I do recommend you apply to some higher ranked programs as well, though, because you're good enough to get into them, and it's possible that your research interests might change. I think you might find some Biostatistics departments (e.g. UCLA, JHU, UNC) to be a very good fit for your interests. 

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On 11/26/2020 at 12:13 AM, Stat Assistant Professor said:

I'm sorry, I'm not really sure about the coursework in Biostatistics Masters programs. My impression was that they are mostly the same as Statistics Masters programs in the first year.

I was mainly referring to the electives offered by programs in statistics and biostatistics. Many master's in statistics programs offer a few electives with titles such as "environmental statistics" or "spatio-temporal modeling", but I don't see as many master's in biostatistics programs that offer at least a few of these types of electives. Also, would master's in biostatistics programs be a good fit if I'm specifically interested in working with a broad spectrum of environmental statistics in my career as opposed to working in the public health field or similar?

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