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Statistics PhD: Profile Evaluation (Yet Another!)


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Hi all,

 

I am aware of how irritating these profile evaluation threads can be, but I need advice regarding my chances in getting into PhD programs in Statistics (Fall 2015).

 

Undergrad Institution: Canadian University
Program: BSc, Mathematics and Computational Finance
GPA: 3.85 (w/ 2 semesters left)
Type of Student: White Male

 

Quantitative Coursework:

Actuarial Mathematics and Computational Finance: 

Actuarial Math. I, Actuarial Math II, Math. of Finance, Stochastic Calculus for Finance I [grad], Stochastic Calculus for Finance II [grad].

 

Mathematics Coursework:

Advanced Calculus I & II, Linear Algebra I & II, Numerical Analysis, Operations Research, Analysis I & II, ODE, Graduate Real Analysis [grad], Measure Theory [grad], PDE [grad].

 

Statistics Coursework:

Probability I & II, Statistics, SAS Programming, Linear Models, Advanced Probability Theory [grad], Stochastic Processes [grad], Time Series [grad], Simulation [grad].

 

Computer Science:

Intro. to Programming, Object-Oriented Programming I & II, Data Structures and Algorithms.

 

Finance (from my University's Business School):

Theory of Finance I & II, Options and Futures, Advanced Derivatives Markets.

 

(*Note that prior to entering University, I went through the 2-year CEGEP (French-Canadian) system where we do preparatory courses. I was in the "Pure and Applied Science" program.

My quantitative preparatory coursework: Calculus I-III, Intro. to Lin. Algebra, Intro to Diff. Equations, Intro to Prob. and Stats, Mechanics, Waves and Optics, Electricity and Magnetism, Modern Physics, Intro. to Programming, Chemistry of Solutions I & II, General Biology.)

 

Research/Work Experience:

I do not have any research experience, but have a personal project where I am writing from scratch a software to analyze financial time series.

I am also in a co-op program and had 2 internships as an actuarial programmer in a consulting firm and had some exposure to (equity) market research for my second internship.

I am also completing a C++ Programming Certificate for Financial Engineering (@ a US University). 

 

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 

I was nominated for the co-op student (of the year) award.

Never applied for any scholarship so far.

 

Letters of Recommendation (3):

1 from my program director (PhD in Stats), 1 from a Stats professor (PhD in Stats from Berkeley) and 1 from a computational finance teacher I had (PhD in Math. Finance)
 
GRE Scores:
TBD (Taken next October)

__________________________________________________________________

 

So basically this is pretty much my profile.

The American (PhD Stats) programs I am interested in are the following: Columbia, NYU, Cornell and Berkeley. (These programs are very active in math. finance and do research in what I am the areas I am interested)

 

My main concern are that my University is not particularly well known and that it might affect me. I looked up a lot of profiles of students from these schools and most came from either well-known US programs or from top schools in China. Although this is the case, of the class that graduated from my program last year, I know that 1 went on to Princeton to do a master in finance and another to Columbia to do an MFE (master in Financial Engineering) as the undergraduate coursework we go through is very rigorous and only 15 students in my program are admitted each year.

 

My drop-back plan if I dont get admitted to these schools is to do my graduate studies at the Univ. of Toronto as they have a strong department in Statisics and I am nearly certain I would get admitted (for the MS at least, and eventually to the doctorate).

 

But I would hope that some of you who have gone through the whole Stats-PhD admission process (or who have been in admission committees for such programs) could give me an honest evaluation of my profile.

 

I apologize for the long post and look forward to your assessments,

Thank you!

Edited by StatsGuy92
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You would definitely be competitive anywhere I would imagine. 

However, things are competitive. My main suggestion would be to apply to UC Santa Barbara, which is a heavily financial department that would seem to fit your interests. I would be surprised if you didn't get in there.

So my overall suggestion would be to start now, put your name in the hat at those 4 schools (and anywhere else that interests you), but be sure to apply to safety schools, including Santa Barbara. 

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You would definitely be competitive anywhere I would imagine. 

However, things are competitive. My main suggestion would be to apply to UC Santa Barbara, which is a heavily financial department that would seem to fit your interests. I would be surprised if you didn't get in there.

So my overall suggestion would be to start now, put your name in the hat at those 4 schools (and anywhere else that interests you), but be sure to apply to safety schools, including Santa Barbara. 

 

Hey StatFall2014,

Thanks for responding!

 

I will definitly look into UCSB, and possibly a few others as a safety (although I am almost certain to attend U of T if I don't get admission in my targets). 

Judging from your experience, is my concern that I go to a "non-target" undergraduate institution founded, or if the coursework/program is rigorous, it doesn't matter at all? Or is it somewhere in between?

 

StatGuy92.

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I think some people on this forum think it's a pretty big deal where you go to undergrad, but I don't think it's make or break. 

I know where I'm going next year was one of my reach schools, and my incoming class has people from a lot of less well known programs. I think the three main important things are:

Grades, Letters of Rec, and GRE scores, just to get you in the ball park. 

Since you're starting fairly early, I would recommend just getting crazy into the application process, here's pretty much everything I have to say about the topic:

http://statisticalsignal.com/?p=5

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Judging from your experience, is my concern that I go to a "non-target" undergraduate institution founded, or if the coursework/program is rigorous, it doesn't matter at all? Or is it somewhere in between?

My guess is that your weakness isn't so much uncertainty about the rigor of your undergrad program -- hopefully your references will be able to put your grades and accomplishments in context -- but just that the process is really competitive, especially for international students, who face single digit acceptance rates at top programs. (cyberwulf, a biostat professor of Canuck origin, has commented a bit on Canadian students applying to US programs and perhaps elsewhere.)

 

The four programs you've identified are all particularly selective. Columbia and Cornell are both pretty good statistics departments that attract a disproportionate number of applicants because they are in fancy Ivy League universities. Columbia additionally has its NYC location (almost all the PhD students I talked to there cited that as their main reason for applying/going) and Andrew Gelman as maybe the most public-facing academic statistician in the US to draw in even more applicants. Berkeley is like the #2 statistics department in the world, and even if that weren't true, it would still draw a lot of applicants because of its location and overall university reputation. The best applicants from the US and around the world are all going to be sending applications to Berkeley, Columbia, and to a lesser extent, Cornell, but these schools can only admit so many people. As for NYU, the statistics PhD at Stern appears to have literally just TWO students. Who can begin to guess what separates those individuals from everyone else who applied?

 

My point is, your profile sounds pretty good, but even if you had gone to the best university in Canada, you're still going to be one of many well-qualified international students who want to study statistics and finance applying to these popular programs. It sure would be nice if one of those four worked out for you and I think that's absolutely a possibility, but it's very good that you have Toronto as a backup.

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