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Fall 2022 -- Stat/Biostat PhD Profile Evaluation + Any Advice Much Appreciated!


xy332
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Hello!

I'm starting to look at Stat/Biostat PhD programs and hoping for advice as to what schools I should apply and what I can do to enhance my application over the next two semesters in undergrad.

Undergrad Institution: Low Ivy League
Major: (B.S.) Biometry & Statistics
Minors: Mathematics, Data Science
GPA: 4.05/4.30 (approx. 3.92/4.00) but this is a bit inflated with research grades
Type of Student: Male Domestic
GRE General Test: n/a - taking soon
GRE Subject Test in Mathematics: n/a (and not sure if should take)
 
Programs Applying: Statistics/Biostatistics PhD
 
Research Experience:  
- Paper in the works in ML/bio-informatics area
- Paper in the works in signal processing area
- Hopefully starting some theoretical statistics research soon in preparation for undergrad thesis

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 
- University's presidential research scholar program
- On pace for magna or summa cum laude (hopefully)
Pertinent Activities/Jobs: 
- A couple of data science projects
- TA-ing bio course for 2 semesters and data science for 1 semester
- One summer of data analytics/consulting experience
 
Letters of Recommendation:
I'm expecting two strong letters from professors with whom I am doing research, and one more tbd
 
Coding Skills: 
R, Python, Java
Relevant Courses + Grades:  

(Only Taken Undergraduate Classes)

Mathematics - Calc II (A-), Multivariable calculus (A-), Linear Algebra (A+), Intro to Real Analysis (taking next semester), Applicable Algebra (taking next semester)
Statistics - Methods I (A-), Methods II (A-), Probability (A+), Theoretical Statistics (A+), Linear Models (A+), Statistical Design (A+), Data Mining and ML (A)
Other Relevant Courses: Data Science (A+), Intro Computer Science (B+), Data Structures (A), Networks (A)
Biology- AP credit and one elective course
 
Additional comments/concerns:
1. I think my biggest weakness is my math background. I am trying to enhance it next semester with an intro analysis and applied algebra course, but I'm not sure if I can take more math courses before applications are due... Any thoughts?
 
2. I am really open to either Stats or Biostats programs (my application is probably more competitive for the biostats due to my previous point). Some currently on my mind are:
Biostats: Columbia (top choice), Duke, Harvard, UWashington, UNC, JHU
Stats: Cornell, Columbia (top choice), UChicago, Yale, Berkeley, Northwestern
 
I'd really appreciate any feedback on my schools (if there are others I should be looking at please let me know!) and any advice you may have on how to improve my application (courses, research, necessity of math gre, etc.) since I still have some time left.
 
Thanks so much for your help!
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Since you're performing very well academically at an Ivy League School known for slight grade deflation and you have great research experience with some papers in preparation, I think your chances of getting into a top program are quite good. I think you should be able to get into those Biostatistics programs. For Stat, I don't think you need to apply to Northwestern. If you want to add a few "safer" options, I would add Texas A&M, UCLA, and NCSU (these aren't "safe" schools in general, but specifically for your profile, I think that they are very safe bets).

That said, it is worth noting that Columbia Biostatistics is not in the same league as Harvard, UW, JHU, or UNC for BIostat. And some of the programs you have listed are quite different. For instance, Yale S&DS strikes me as quite theoretical, while Columbia Biostat is quite applied. You may want to take stuff like that into account. If you want to do less theoretical stats, then Berkeley Statistics is a good choice (UCB is strong all-around in probability theory, thoeretical stats, and applied stats), and I would also add some schools like University of Washington (they have great faculty in demography and social science stats, for example).

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3 hours ago, Stat Assistant Professor said:

Since you're performing very well academically at an Ivy League School known for slight grade deflation and you have great research experience with some papers in preparation, I think your chances of getting into a top program are quite good. I think you should be able to get into those Biostatistics programs. For Stat, I don't think you need to apply to Northwestern. If you want to add a few "safer" options, I would add Texas A&M, UCLA, and NCSU (these aren't "safe" schools in general, but specifically for your profile, I think that they are very safe bets).

That said, it is worth noting that Columbia Biostatistics is not in the same league as Harvard, UW, JHU, or UNC for BIostat. And some of the programs you have listed are quite different. For instance, Yale S&DS strikes me as quite theoretical, while Columbia Biostat is quite applied. You may want to take stuff like that into account. If you want to do less theoretical stats, then Berkeley Statistics is a good choice (UCB is strong all-around in probability theory, thoeretical stats, and applied stats), and I would also add some schools like University of Washington (they have great faculty in demography and social science stats, for example).

Thank you so much! In your opinion, would it be necessary or advantageous to take the math gre subject test for these programs? Also, are there other math courses beyond real analysis that I should take before applying?

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45 minutes ago, xy332 said:

Thank you so much! In your opinion, would it be necessary or advantageous to take the math gre subject test for these programs? Also, are there other math courses beyond real analysis that I should take before applying?

I am not sure what "Applicable Algebra" is. Is this a proof-based linear algebra class or abstract algebra? I think analysis and maybe advanced linear algebra should be sufficient for the Biostat programs on your list. I think you are in good shape for Biostatistics programs. Some of the top Statistics programs (Chicago, Columbia, Berkeley) may have a preference for students who have deeper math backgrounds, so it's hard to gouge your chances to the stats programs on your list -- on the other hand, you have a strong pedigree and your research experience is solid, so I'm not sure how much adcoms will take that into account. If I were you, I would apply to more top 20 schools for Statistics, like University of Minnesota, NCSU, TAMU. 

If you haven't taken real analysis or abstract algebra before, then I don't anticipate that you would be able to score high on the Math Subject GRE. And even those who have taken those classes need to study a lot to do well on the Subject test. Therefore, it may not be worth your time and effort. Doing well on this test may help for Columbia, UChicago, and Yale, but as far as I know, it isn't required at any school except for Stanford. And a high score on the subject test isn't really a substitute for having taken the classes and getting good grades in them.

Edited by Stat Assistant Professor
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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi, a quick update: I just received my GRE general score and got 165(Q), 162(V), 5.0(AW). Would this score (particularly the 165Q) keep my application competitive for the top Biostats (i.e., Harvard, JHU, UWashington) and Stats (i.e., Columbia, Berkeley) programs I mentioned? Or should I retake to try and up the quant score? Thank you!

Also to make clear, I’m not as worried about the non-quant scores, but I was definitely hoping for a bit higher result on the quant section...

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I think people might disagree with me, but I think if the money/time to take it isn't too burdensome it might be worth it. If you have a weaker math background a 165 might cast doubt on your quantitative ability and make the difference if you're borderline. At the same time I don't think a 165 would axe you application.

Just an encouraging note I took the GRE cold and got a 164 Q the first time and found the kinda  hard, but got a 170Q the next and thought it was super easy with not much additional studying. It doesn't take that much more effort  to get 170Q as your performance can vary so much test to test. 

Edited by trynagetby
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