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Somewhat nontrad. student looking to transfer to phd program, thoughts on programs/chances?


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I'm currently in a PhD program in mathematics (first semester) and for any number of reasons I'm looking to transfer to do a PhD in statistics elsewhere.


I have a BA in Mathematics with a 4.0 GPA from a small state university, and an MA in Mathematics also with a 4.0 GPA from the same small state school. My GRE scores were 99% verbal 169) 71% quant (158) (I know). I did research in graph theory during my masters which is being published in a peer-reviewed journal this fall, and I've given research presentations on it at the Joint Mathematics Meeting and MAA MathFest. I'm studying graph theory currently at a well-known but not superbly ranked (at least in math) public research university.


Programs I'm looking at are Ohio State, UC Davis, Colorado State, and others in that general vicinity of rankings. What do people think? I feel that my mathematical ability is strong enough (4.0s in all math courses, including a year of graduate measure theoretic analysis, published research etc.) but I have no stats courses (outside of probability measures)

Edited by aanimo
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FWIW, at the program I am at now, there are several students who took no stats classes before entering the PhD program in stats who had Masters degrees in pure mathematics. I don't think lack of stats courses should really be a problem for the schools that you are targetting. For most stat PhD programs, it is better to have a lot of mathematical preparation than it is to have undergrad stats classes. (my school is also ranked in that vicinity of schools you have listed)


That being said, you have barely just started your current PhD program! Just make sure you have thought it through very carefully before jumping ship.  If your goal is to get a job in industry, a degree in mathematics is usually acceptable too, provided you have some computing experience and statistical knowledge. I know several folks with PhDs in math who now work in data science jobs that stat PhD graduates also find work in.

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Although I am by no means an expert on the matter, I have heard that switching programs requires a delicate explanation as to why there is a desire to change "mid-program", which may be more so in your case due to the similarities in the programs and the potential overlap in career options.

I know of a few people who are getting their PhD in Mathematics but doing their dissertation in statistics and taking more statistical classes, so I agree with the point Applied Math to Stat made that it seems feasible to accomplish similar things with a Mathematics PhD.

That being said, if you really want to switch, I'm sure it's not unheard of. I would consider taking the GRE again, and emphasizing your research might be good approach. The schools you are looking at don't seem unreasonable, but as it was explained to me, they turn away a lot of 4.0 students in favor of those with "research potential" (often represented through letters of recommendation) and those they feel will pass the qualifying exams (at least partially represented through the GRE).

Best of luck in whatever you decide!

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