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Re-applying next year, advice appreciated


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Moving this from the other thread to prevent clutter.

 

 

 


Undergraduate Institution: Top 10 UK university, top 3 department
Major: 4 year BSc integrated Masters programme in Statistics
GPA: Overall 66%, 4th year 69%
GRE: Verbal 164, Quant 169, AW 4.5
Citizenship: Non-American international student
Graduate Institution: N/A
Important Classes: Measure Theory, Probability Theory, Stochastic Processes, Biostatistics and Medical Statistics modules
Research Experience: Summer attachment in my undergraduate institution, summer attachment at a research institute in my home country, Fourth year dissertation on multiple testing, currently doing a 6 month attachment in machine learning at the same research institute in my home country
Publications: First author publication in peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal (from summer attachment in my UG school), second author in conference paper (from second summer attachment)
Grants: None
Teaching experience: None
LORs: 1 from my personal tutor (well-known professor) who pretty much knew what I was doing both in and out of the classroom in those 4 years. 1 from my dissertation supervisor/first summer attachment supervisor (relatively young American PI) who liked the work I did under him. 1 from my current supervisor who was my co-author on the conference paper.
 
Applied: Boston (Biostatistics), Berkeley (Statistics), Carnegie Mellon (Statistics), Duke (Statistics), Minnesota(Statistics), Michigan (Biostatistics), Stanford (Statistics), UBC (Statistics), UCLA (Biostatistics), UWash (Statistics and Biostatistics), Warwick (Statistics).
 
Accepted: None
Waitlisted: Michigan (have been told they are full already though)
Rejected: The rest
Attending: None, obviously!
 
Comments: I was pretty upset after being told by Michigan that they are full, as I was told previously that I was high up on the waitlist. 
 
I'm not sure which part of my application I should focus on improving. My first 2 LORs should be pretty good, as they both have experience of writing LORs and know me well. My third letter writer is pretty junior, and isn't familiar with the US system at all, but knows me well enough as well. I'm also unsure what to do with the extra year now - current supervisor suggests that I should try for an RA position in one of my target schools, but I'm pessimistic wrt visa issues etc. Another friend working in the local health ministry has suggested the possibility of a statistician type position, and would be happy to help me to secure one.
 
And obviously, relook at my choice of schools to apply to for next year.
 

 

Perhaps cyberwulf and biostat_prof could give some advice?

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I'm not sure how your GPA translates into the American system (like, how much out of 4.0) but I will assume it was above the cut-off point of all universities you applied to. Your GRE scores are pretty solid.

 

Assuming that all your LORs were solid, my belief is that you were rejected because of your SOP. Perhaps you should try reworking it because it plays a considerable part in an application and that's where you can tip the balance in your favour.

 

Also : getting any form of research experience will help you.

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Contrary to what MikKar said, your probably weren't rejected due to your SOP unless you blew it off and showed lack of effort in writing it. This is largely because most of us entering Stat/Biostats from undergrad don't really have a clear idea of the exact topics we're interested in yet. Also, significant research experience as an undegrad is rare for stats/biostats, so again, that probably was also not the reason.... With that said, I know they still read SOPs. At one of the schools I interviewed at in person, 5 out of my 6 interviewers had clearly read mine and referenced it in our discussion. Basically, I said in mine why I like statistics, what my career goals are, what specific topics seem interesting to me (but left it open in the sense that I need to gain experience before deciding exactly what I want to further sepcialize in) and why that specific school was a good fit...

I don't know how your grades convert to the 4.0 scale, but if I had to guess, it would be that your GPA coupled with being a foreign applicant that kept you out this application cycle given that everything else appears solid. You also don't mention what your grades in your Calc and linear algebra classes were, so that could also have played a role.

As for next year, I'd say throw in a few more lower ranked safeties because your list this year looks a bit top heavy

Edited by Noco7
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Contrary to what MikKar said, your probably weren't rejected due to your SOP unless you blew it off and showed lack of effort in writing it. This is largely because most of us entering Stat/Biostats from undergrad don't really have a clear idea of the exact topics we're interested in yet. Also, significant research experience as an undegrad is rare for stats/biostats, so again, that probably was also not the reason.... With that said, I know they still read SOPs. At one of the schools I interviewed at in person, 5 out of my 6 interviewers had clearly read mine and referenced it in our discussion. Basically, I said in mine why I like statistics, what my career goals are, what specific topics seem interesting to me (but left it open in the sense that I need to gain experience before deciding exactly what I want to further sepcialize in) and why that specific school was a good fit...

I don't know how your grades convert to the 4.0 scale, but if I had to guess, it would be that your GPA coupled with being a foreign applicant that kept you out this application cycle given that everything else appears solid. You also don't mention what your grades in your Calc and linear algebra classes were, so that could also have played a role.

As for next year, I'd say throw in a few more lower ranked safeties because your list this year looks a bit top heavy

 

As a reference, UW had >70% as a 4.0 (which seems reasonable as that's a first class honours in the UK system), and 65-70% as 3.7.

 

I wouldn't say I did stellar for my calc and linear algebra classes (~65%) but it's not too bad either. I did do more real analysis than the average student in my programme - most don't even touch measure theory. 

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I've heard that grades at UK/Australian universities are typically very deflated (e.g. an 80% equates to an A or something). Adcoms might not have appreciated the fact that your ostensibly low grades are actually quite respectable.

 

That's the only red flag I see.

 

Best of luck next season!

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I've heard that grades at UK/Australian universities are typically very deflated (e.g. an 80% equates to an A or something). Adcoms might not have appreciated the fact that your ostensibly low grades are actually quite respectable.

 

That's the only red flag I see.

 

Best of luck next season!

 

But that can't really be the case because most people are aware of this (distinction is 70+), and these are adcoms.. they should be very familiar with the grading system in the UK. Maybe the LORs weren't as good as you thought they would be? Or maybe it was just "bad luck" this cycle.. I mean theres a lot of noise in the admissions process, and you only applied to top schools.

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But that can't really be the case because most people are aware of this (distinction is 70+), and these are adcoms.. they should be very familiar with the grading system in the UK. Maybe the LORs weren't as good as you thought they would be? Or maybe it was just "bad luck" this cycle.. I mean theres a lot of noise in the admissions process, and you only applied to top schools.

Well, the adcoms might be aware of the grading scheme at the top 3 UK universities or so, but they may not necessarily think that other UK universities have the same grade 'deflation', unless explicitly told by a professor.

 

Really surprised that you didn't get into any schools--your list was no doubt top heavy, but would have expected a more favorable outcome. Maybe bad luck too.

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Based on my experience, only a tiny fraction of applicants to U.S. stat and biostat programs come from the U.K., certainly less than 5% and possibly less than 1%. So adcoms just aren't very familiar with the British grading system, and might not have a good feel for the quality of various universities beyond the big names (Oxford, Cambridge, University College London/Dublin, LSE, etc.). This 'feel' is particularly important in your case, since your grades would appear to put you in the 'good but not exceptional' category along with a large number of other English-speaking (mostly U.S.) applicants with GPAs in the 3.5-3.8 range. Within this range, the strength of the school you attended, your specific course grades, and your letters of recommendation are going to be the difference between admission and rejection at many of the more realistic places you applied (basically places other than Berkeley and Stanford). If the faculty reviewing your application didn't quite know what to make of your academic record, they might have moved on to other applicants they could more easily evaluate.

 

Given your prior mathematical coursework, I think you might help your application for next year by taking the math GRE. Scoring well on that would provide more objective and comparable evidence of your mathematical abilities.

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Given your prior mathematical coursework, I think you might help your application for next year by taking the math GRE. Scoring well on that would provide more objective and comparable evidence of your mathematical abilities.

 

What percentile should I be aiming for then? 

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  • 1 month later...

So, back to choice of schools. I'm currently involved in research in the area of machine learning. There are some obvious top choices like CMU, UWash, Berkeley. However, I'm not exactly sure which schools are reasonable "safeties" that I could consider, perhaps some of you might have some suggestions?

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Is it possible to get some sort of rank letter from your university - an official note demonstrating you are in the top X% could mitigate the risk of the adcom not being familiar with your GPA scale.

 

Focus a bit more on refining your choice of schools and in turn tweaking your SOP so that the fit between your goals and that of the program are more clearly apparent. I do not know how specific or generic your SOP was, but if it was not very specific you may want to try focusing it a bit more. For the next 1 yr., try to work in more focused areas that will help you improve fit with your preferred schools.

 

Did you contact any POIs at the schools you applied to. If so, dont be coy in asking them for feedback on what to improve / what was missing in your application. Even one or two relevant answers could help you a lot. Also ask them how your time now (next 1 yr) is best spent.

 

Best of Luck !

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So, back to choice of schools. I'm currently involved in research in the area of machine learning. There are some obvious top choices like CMU, UWash, Berkeley. However, I'm not exactly sure which schools are reasonable "safeties" that I could consider, perhaps some of you might have some suggestions?

Maybe some lower ranked Biostat programs? Pittsburgh might be one since it's right next to CMU and they are (probably) well connected. Looks like their dept has some people doing machine learning. Also think Minnesota Biostat might be somewhat easier to get into than Minnesota Stat (not sure how true this is though, and might not cater to your research interests).

Your list does look pretty top-heavy but probably a lot of bad luck involved as well.

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