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Stats PhD profile evaluation, blunt assessments appreciated!

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Here is my profile:

Undergrad Institution: Small, decently respected (I think?) private liberal arts school
Major(s): Math
Minor(s): Statistics
GPA: 3.72 (Strong upward trend)
Type of Student: Domestic White Male

GRE General Test:
Q: 170
V: 167
W: 4
Research Experience:  2 different research experiences. First, REU this summer at Iowa State in forensic stats, second, a year long research with school this year in political text analysis. No publications but the current year long one might result in one at the end. Poster presentations for both. Both applied statistics. Both machine learning heavy. 
Letters of Recommendation: One letter from REU professor from Iowa State, second a professor from current research (and I have a class with him currently), and one from prof I've had many times who knows me well. All of them know me well so they feel pretty good.
Math/Statistics Grades:  
Freshman: Calc 2 A-, Linear Alg A, Diff Eq B+, Prob Theory B- (I was a dumb freshman lol)
Sophomore: Real Analysis 1 B+, Stats 1 A, Intro Data Sci A, Multi Var Calc A, Intro Comp Sci A
Junior: Abstact Algebra A, Stats 2 A, Discrete Math A, Statistical Theory A, Computational Math A
Senior: No grades yet but taking Advanced Stat Models, Real Analysis 2, Spatial Stats, Combinatorics, Algorithms for Decision Making 
Teaching experience: TA for top level mathematical statistics, spent a summer as a math tutor.
Professional experience: Summer as a data science intern at manufacturing company

Hail Mary: UPenn, Stanford, Berkley, Yale, Carnegie Mellon
Mid: UW, UC Davis, Purdue
Safer (I hope): Iowa State, UConn, Temple University
I'm trying to apply to schools near where my girlfriend is applying for psychology doctorates so I don't have unlimited freedom in where to apply. Mostly looking for a blunt assessment of what my expectations should be for this list. Secondly, should I address my B- in prob theory? The statistical theory course I took was very prob theory heavy and had it as a prereq to take prob theory, and I got an A there, so I feel that is kind of redeeming but I wasn't planning on mentioning it as it seems like I don't want to speak negatively in my statement, plus the grades go up strongly anyways. Advice appreciated here too!
Thanks for reading!
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Your profile is very similar to mine (liberal arts college, bad math grades early on, high GRE).  Frankly, I think your list is very bizarre, that there is a HUGE gap between your "mid" and "safeties."

I don't think you have any realistic chance at the hail marys. I'd classify UW as a hail mary too and would switch UW/Penn to their biostat programs for a more realistic shot.

I think UC Davis, Purdue, and Iowa State is a good range to aspire to but I definitely wouldn't consider those safe by any means (except perhaps for your Iowa State connection).  I never had any luck applying to Purdue, so they seemed to judge my early math grades pretty harshly.

As for UConn and Temple, I definitely think you can do better than those, but they wouldn't be bad safeties if the location works


I know you say you are restricted in your location, so here are some schools near (within an hour or two) of some of the ones you mentioned that might be good matches:

Near Stanford/Berkley: UCSC (almost 2 hours away)

Near Carnegie Mellon: Pitt Stat or Pitt Biostat

Near Purdue: Notre Dame ACMS (New up and coming program with really good faculty)

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Thank you bayessays! (Not sure how to "reply" to a comment?) I appreciate the feedback. I will look into those other options for sure. I originally had a more modest list, but my REU PI recommended I aim a lot higher. I think she's just enthusiastic about me lol. I have a couple of questions if you don't mind.

What makes you say that I could definitely do better than UConn and Temple? They seem like pretty good programs to me just from scanning websites, anything negative I should know about them? Or do you just mean there are even better options?

Do you have any thoughts about whether to mention the B- from probability theory in my statements of purpose?

Thanks again, I really appreciate the help!

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I am probably being too harsh on UConn and Temple - I looked into Temple in previous application cycles and their faculty is pretty impressive, and UConn is strong too and has a long history (although in a similar way to Iowa State, they seem to have been in decline for some time).  I seem to remember 10 years ago not applying to UConn because their department had funding issues, but I could simply be mistaken, and of course things could have changed in the meantime. (These programs also seem to have risen in the rankings in recent years)  Sometimes it's not even really about the quality of the professors, but just the presence of their graduates - I don't see UConn and Temple graduates with the same frequency I see graduates from a school like UIUC, even if there maybe isn't a huge difference in the faculty/research quality.

Part of this is reflective of the student population, and not the faculty - some programs in less desirable locations have overwhelmingly international student populations (Mizzou and Iowa are extreme examples that come to my mind, but I suspect UConn could be similar) and thus their graduates are not populating as many jobs in the US relative to the quality of the faculty.  This could affect your social life/cohort experience and really depends on your learning style and personal preferences - I couldn't imagine my master's program without having had the large cohort of domestic students to work together with, but when I went back to school later and didn't care about that aspect, it wasn't a big deal.

I think you can do good research pretty much anywhere.  I went to a program much less known than uconn/temple, but they had strong faculty.


I never mentioned bad grades in my SOP, and I've never heard anyone recommend it unless it was both recent and for a really good reason (personal illness/death in family/etc).  I think freshman year is self explanatory (I got a B in calculus and B- in linear algebra and it seemed to barely affect my applications despite all my anxiety about it at the time)

Also, you can't discount the wildcard of the good recommendation letters from a professor at a good program - if they have connections on admissions committees and people respect their opinions, that can change anything.

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I just looked up UConn on gradcafe's results page and it still seems like they give out unfunded PhD offers to international students (FSU and Georgia are also famous for doing this).  It might not affect you though as a domestic student, but it just gives bad vibes.

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