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PhD Biostatistics - Need Advice


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Hi all! Thanks for taking the time to read this thread. I'm currently considering a Ph.D in biostatistics (or something similar) and would appreciate some feed back.

Firstly, I am a Canadian student who did an undergraduate Honors BA in Psychology. A lot of my electives and even my thesis were in the area of applied statistics - quant psych. During my time here, the only 'Math' course I completed was a comprehensive course that was basically calc 1, elements of calc 2, linear algebra and probability. I have taken lots of courses from the stats dept including categorical data analysis, probability, and even some related electives like epidemiology.

I have since then been accepted to University of Toronto's Masters of Science program in Biostatistics. I currently have a 3.96 GPA. I've taken courses in Survival analysis, bayesian methods, categorical analysis and a few advanced topic seminar style classes. I also completed Mathematical Foundations of Biostatistics (which is the Mathematical Statistics course for our program). I am also taking a course in Statistical Inference from the graduate stats dept this term. I haven't any publications as our program is geared more towards professional rather than academic, though I've been involved in several research projects (as an assistant) but still have no publications. I have not written the GRE though I would be willing to. It doesn't look too difficult. I can also get good letters of reference from profs at both universities.

My main questions are:

-what are my chances at gaining entry into a PhD program in Biostatistics (provided I write the GRE)

-i know going into a phd program in statistics/biostatistics a course in math stats is necessary. I have taken what my department offers in terms for the requirement. Do you think this will come up as an issues? I'm taking the Statistical Inference class this term to help boost my profile.

-if you think I have a shot at applying, where do you think I might have the best chances (tier wise)

-I've also considered returning to my 'psych' roots - so something in quant psych or even evaluation/measurement programs -- I know UNC is big on this..any idea on chances here?

-in terms of American schools, how much (in general) do they care about the GRE?

thanks so much


Also, I forgot to add. I realize most schools say to have courses in adv calc, linear algebra and even real analysis. My Msc program said that as well, and though I didn't have all of them, I was admitted. What are the chances that will fly with other schools? Will it even be an issue since I'll have my MSc in biostats when I apply?

Edited by jamesmartinn
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1) As far as the math requirements go, it depends on the school you're applying to for the PhD. Some institutions might just make you take real analysis the summer before you start the program, others might let you skirt it knowing you'll be at a disadvantage in some classes, but if your application is strong, very few would reject you for simply not having taken the class yet.

2) Do well on the verbal and analytical writing sections of the GRE. For biostatisticians, who have to communicate with physicians and researchers across disciplines, strong oral and written communication skills are essential, but often overlooked by the students. Admissions committees, however, love to see demonstration of good communication skills. Top tier math scores are usually expected (i.e. it can hurt your application to do poorly on this section), but stellar verbal scores can put your application towards the top of the pile (because most students again don't focus too hard on it).

Good luck!

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