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Profile Eval for Biostats

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Hi everyone, I will applying for biostatistics PhD programs in the fall, and I just wanted to know if I would be a good candidate for programs. 


Undergrad institution: Top 20 public university

Major: Statistics

Overall GPA: 3.95/4.00

Major GPA: 3.92/4.00

Type of student: Domestic female

Courses: Intro stats (A), Regression (A), Experimental Design (A), Time Series (A), Nonparametrics (A), Stochastic Processes (A), Stats Programming (A), Math Stat 1 (A-), Sampling (A), Stat Consulting (A), Calc II (A), Multivariable Calc (A), Intro to Proofs (A), Sequences and Series (A), Linear Algebra (A).


I've taken some of the stats courses at the graduate level. In the fall, I'll be taking a graduate linear models course, real analysis, and abstract algebra. I registered for real analysis last fall but had to withdraw because the professor was terrible (he gave everyone 20s/30s on the first exam). Hopefully when I take it again, I'll be able to get an A. Will my withdrawal hurt my chances at getting into top programs? I'm worried that my reason for withdrawing will be seen as a weak excuse. 


GRE: I haven't taken it yet (I will take it in August), but hopefully I do well :)

Research Experience: I did SIBS after my freshman year, worked at a federal stats agency after my sophomore year, and I'm doing a stats-related REU this summer. I also do biostats research with a professor at my home institution. We have published one paper together, and we're currently working on another. The paper wasn't published in a super prestigious journal, but I don't care. I'm just happy that it was accepted :)

Awards/Honors: Math Department Achievement Award, Best Statistics Consulting Student 

Jobs/Volunteer Activities: I work at the school cafeteria (lol, that won't really help my application...), and I volunteer with a math outreach organization. 

Rec Letters: I will be asking my research mentor that I've been working with for ~2 years, my undergrad advisor (who has written letters for me in the past), and probably my stat consulting professor, who I established a really great relationship with this past semester. I may also ask the professor I'm working with this summer. 

Research Interests: Infectious diseases, cancer stats, mixed models, survival analysis, clinical trials. These aren't set in stone, but I've had exposure to these areas. In my statement of purpose, how specific should I be about my interests?

Other info: I'm actually pursuing a joint BS/MS, so when I graduate in Spring 2016, I'll be graduating with two degrees. It's been challenging, but I really enjoy getting into the theoretical underpinnings of stats. I want to go into biostats because I want to apply the methods I've been learning. 


Schools I plan to apply to: Washington, Hopkins, Wisconsin, Berkeley, Harvard, Michigan, Florida, Ohio State, Emory, UPitt, UGA, Minnesota, Columbia. Is that too many? Should I look into other schools?


Overall, I'm just looking for feedback on the strength of my application. I'm really worried about the withdrawal from Real Analysis, so any advice about that would be helpful. I'd also appreciate any general tips on the application process. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this!


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My two cents:



Will my withdrawal hurt my chances at getting into top programs? I'm worried that my reason for withdrawing will be seen as a weak excuse.


I wouldn't cite your professor as a reason for withdrawing. In fact, the best way to handle such a situation is probably to ask your letter writers to address the matter. They can lend credibility to a general claim that it was not a good time for you to take the course. If you can do well in a future analysis course and have a letter writer explain your withdrawal, I don't think a W on your record will matter much.


Is that too many?




In my statement of purpose, how specific should I be about my interests?


Somebody once told me to state my interests specifically enough to suggest to the adcom why I would be a good fit for the department, but not so specifically as to risk saying something an adcom member who works in the relevant field might find offputting.


It's generally understood that your interests will likely change. IMO, discussing your research interests in your SOP is more an opportunity to communicate in your own voice that you are mature enough to do original research than it is a declaration of what, specifically, you will be researching.

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I wouldn't even mention the withdrawal from analysis; it's a W, not an F, so there's no need to explain it.  If you do well in analysis this semester and ace the math section of the GRE, your profile is great and I think you'll be very competitive for any biostat program in the country.  I don't think you need to apply to nearly that many programs.

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