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I am looking into applying for Statistics PhD programs, and I was hoping for some feedback/input. My background was originally in Psychology. I have a bachelors in Psych with minor in Math, masters in Psych, worked for 5 years in psych hospitals and social work. I've always loved Math, though, and I came back to school for a Masters in Math with concentration in Statistics. I'm loving the program! I graduate in December, and I am considering applying for PhD programs in Statistics.


1) Given my profile, if I was going to apply to 10 PhD in Statistics programs, what would be some recommendations of schools that I should look into? What programs would be within my range, maybe some reach, and some "safety" programs (if any?).


2) My GRE scores are from 3 years ago. I studied extremely hard for the Verbal portion, and that's my absolutely highest verbal score that I can get. In the Quant portion, I'm sure I could get a better score if I retook it now. However, if I do that, it is very likely that my verbal score will drop. Is it worth retaking it?


3) Part of my debate is applying this year vs waiting an extra year to apply. Pros of applying now: I would love to start the PhD program ASAP, it will probably be an easier transition than getting back to school after 2 years of working. Pros of waiting a year to apply: Less stress than applying for schools while finishing my thesis, maybe retaking the GRE again to improve my Quant score, a couple of years of experience working. However, I have read some comments where people recommended against waiting an extra year to apply because programs are becoming very difficult to get into. Thoughts regarding applying now with my current profile vs later?



Small state university in FL
Psychology with minor in Math


Courses: Undergrad Math classes: Calc II (A), Calc III (A), Ordinary Diff. E. (A), Foundations of Math ( B), Modern Geometry (A), Linear Algebra (B-), Real Analysis (A), Prob/Stats (A).




Small university in FL
Masters in Math with concentration in Statistics


Courses: Grad classes: Computing Intensive Stats (A), Probability (B+), Advanced Linear Algebra (B+), Stats Methods I (A-), Design of Experiments (A), Numerical Analysis (B+), Sampling (B+), Math Stat I (A).



General: Verbal 157/74%, Quantitative 162/83%, Writing 4.5/80%


Research Experience: I am currently working on a thesis on missing data, and I am finishing a 9-week internship in research in education.  

Research Area Ambitions: Not sure. My current thesis is on missing data, and so far I'm enjoying it, but I don't have a strong preference towards any particular topic.

Letters of Recommendation: I am pretty sure I can get at least one strong letter from a professor, and hopefully another strong letter from my thesis adviser. The third letter will probably be the typical "got an A in my class".


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1) Given your background, I think you could get into and do fine at some of the larger, third tier programs.  Some schools that I believe could be in your sweet spot include places like Ohio State, Penn State, UF, Pittsburgh, Iowa, or UCLA.  Reach schools include NC State, Michigan, Texas A&M, or Minnesota.  The tough thing is there aren't many safety schools here...unless you want to consider programs that might not be able to offer you funding.  


2) Your quantitative score isn't bad, but it's at the lower end of the spectrum for PhD applicants, so I can't imagine your score will help you.  If you don't mind blowing 150 bucks to take it again, I would recommend retaking it to try to get the Q up.  A decrease in your verbal score won't matter; programs generally care only about the quant.  I think the only time verbal really comes into consideration is when it is at the extremes.  Your personal statement will let admissions committees know that you are an articulate human being :) 


3) If you know this is what you want to do, apply as soon as you can.  However, if you are hesitant as to whether you want to pursue a PhD in statistics, it might make sense to take a year off to make sure that this is really what you want to do.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

I would probably retake the GRE if you have the time/money. I've spoken with an admissions officer and she said that they do actually consider the GRE/GPA by itself before even considering the whole application.


In regards to schools, maybe the masters will help but I think the various B grades you've gotten might hurt you a little bit despite the decent GPA. Plus, graduate GPAs tend to be higher than undergrad GPAs. I think Bayesic's list of schools are decent but I think Penn State and UCLA are reaches and not targets. UCLA is pretty tough to get into given its location (I was rejected from there, and I was accepted to some schools in the reach list he provided). You may wish to broaden the range of schools to include schools like Michigan State, for example.

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Footballman,  thank you!

Yes, I have been studying for the GRE and plan to take it by the end of the month. Thank you for suggesting Michigan State, I had not considered it initially, and I'm now looking through the faculty/research in the department.

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Yes, I have been studying for the GRE and plan to take it by the end of the month.


I HIGHLY recommend Magoosh. The best $99 I ever spent on test prep materials. Bumped from a 161 to 168 on Q in about 4 weeks. 

Edited by efh0888
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