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Will I be able to get into any Stat PhD program?

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Hi,

I know I have a very weak academic profile, but I was wondering if I'd have any chance to get into a Stat PhD program, say top 30-40 ish.

I'm currently majoring in Mathematics and Statistics at UChicago. To give you a little explanation about my low GPA, I was not thinking about academia and was mainly looking for a job in Finance until 2nd quarter of my junior year. The job I was seeking for doesn't really care about what kind of courses I take, so I took a lot of junk classes in order to compensate for my low math grades. UChicago by itself is a pretty harsh grader (GPA 3.25/4.00 makes deans list), and our math program is known to be pretty hard (have to take 1 full year of real analysis and 2/3 year of abstract algebra), but I wonder if PhD program admission's office care about this at all...

 I recently got interested in Statistics, so I decided to double major in it. Luckily, there are a lot of overlaps, so it's very feasible for me. I think the rigor of the classes that I took and am planning on taking are not bad, but I wonder if I'll be able to overcome my low grades. I'm willing to work a couple more years as a research assistant after I graduate if that'll make a significant difference. 

So to summarize, I just want to know if I have any shot to get into top 30-40 stat PhD program. If so, I still have one more year left, so I'll try my best to get grades and work as a research assistant. 

Thanks a lot in advance!

Undergrad Institution: University of Chicago
Major: Math and Statistics
GPA: 3.65+ (overall), 3.3+ (Math)
Type of Student: Asian international student
Courses/ Background:
Math: Honors Calculus 1 (B+), Calculus 3 (A), Intro to Analysis & Linear Algebra (A-), Multivariable Calculus (A), Real Analysis I (B), Real Analysis II (B+), Real Analysis III (took twice, pass/failed the first one, and got A- second time), Abstract Algebra 1 (B+), Abstract Algebra 2 (A)
 
Stat: Elementary Statistics (A), Statistical Theory/Method-1 (B), Analysis of Categorical Data (B+), Mathematical Probability (Accelerated) (A)
 
Others: Computer Science with Applications 1 (Pass), Computer Science with Applications 2 (B+), Computer Science with Applications 3 (A)
 
Planning on taking:
Math: Complex Analysis, Ordinary Differential Equations
Stat: Nonparametric Inference, Machine Learning, Time Dependent Data
 
GRE: Haven't taken it. (1600/1600 SAT)
Research Experience: 3 months of research assistant at Booth School of Business at UChicago, helped with data mangement (wrote STATA algorithms)
Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Dean's List

 

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im just an applicant as well, but I've been skimming through these forums for the last few weeks and reading questions and answers from people who know far more about this than me. IMO (and im biased because chicago was my second choice fro undergrad so I think very highly of it) you are totally fine and probably could shoot a bit higher with a good gre, which seems very possible if you dropped a 1600 on the SAT (even though they are very different tests). 

most people respect chicago as one of the best at math in the country. You have a 3.3 math GPA, which is in and of it's itself Dean's list material. Again, I'm biased because I study pure math, but after studying math your foundation is solid, much more so than if someone studied say biology in undergrad at some less rigorous institution and got a 3.9 GPA.

Someone else pipe up if im off base here...

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What you have going for you is the UChicago reputation both in terms of being a world-class institution and in terms of the departments of math and statistics are top 5 ranked. The experience doing data-related work at Booth is also good to note in your application. Yes, UChicago is known to have lower GPAs but you still have the disadvantage of consistent B range grades both in math and statistics (as opposed to consistent A, A- with a B here or there). Also, the taking twice of Analysis III my be a subtle red flag.

So, at this stage, it would be unlikely to land a top 5-10 department for a PhD. You state that you are interested in academia. The problem is that academia placement from statistics departments drops dramatically when you look at departments in the 2nd tier (go to a variety of departments and see their placement records; once you are out of the top 20, academia placement is far and few between). Thus, I would be very hesitant to just go to a top 30-40 department because you can at this stage (which you can given decent enough grades and from UChicago).

With this said, I think you can leverage the UChicago background to get into a well ranked master's program (in math or statistics) and then use that as a stepping stone to a better PhD program n statistics. I am thinking schools like Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc.

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On 9/5/2016 at 11:11 AM, Residuals said:

What you have going for you is the UChicago reputation both in terms of being a world-class institution and in terms of the departments of math and statistics are top 5 ranked. The experience doing data-related work at Booth is also good to note in your application. Yes, UChicago is known to have lower GPAs but you still have the disadvantage of consistent B range grades both in math and statistics (as opposed to consistent A, A- with a B here or there). Also, the taking twice of Analysis III my be a subtle red flag.

So, at this stage, it would be unlikely to land a top 5-10 department for a PhD. You state that you are interested in academia. The problem is that academia placement from statistics departments drops dramatically when you look at departments in the 2nd tier (go to a variety of departments and see their placement records; once you are out of the top 20, academia placement is far and few between). Thus, I would be very hesitant to just go to a top 30-40 department because you can at this stage (which you can given decent enough grades and from UChicago).

With this said, I think you can leverage the UChicago background to get into a well ranked master's program (in math or statistics) and then use that as a stepping stone to a better PhD program n statistics. I am thinking schools like Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc.

I have a very similar background except I'm a domestic student. I'm not looking at getting into academia, but I have enjoyed studying Statistics a lot at UChicago and would be very interested in spending my 20s learning far more on the subject, mastering it to a greater degree and pursuing an independent research project through a Ph.D. I'm looking at applying to master's programs and using them as a stepping to better Ph.D programs but I'm unsure of which schools I should target at this stage. Would you say Duke's, Yale's or Columbia's are out of my reach? Wisconsin and Minnesota's look pretty interesting as well - are those within my range?

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On 9/5/2016 at 2:11 PM, Residuals said:

The problem is that academia placement from statistics departments drops dramatically when you look at departments in the 2nd tier (go to a variety of departments and see their placement records; once you are out of the top 20, academia placement is far and few between). Thus, I would be very hesitant to just go to a top 30-40 department because you can at this stage (which you can given decent enough grades and from UChicago).

I would add to this comment that it is becoming increasingly the norm that PhD graduates in Statistics must complete a postdoc in order to land a tenure-track professorship job (some exceptions might be if you go to a top 20 program *and* have a strong publication record upon graduation). And if you do complete a good postdoc, that outweighs your PhD institution byfar. There is one alum from my school who did a postdoc at CMU and is now an Assistant Professor at Duke. So going to 30-50 school is not as likely to yield a TT job right away, but your chances improve dramatically if you do a good postdoc (and obviously, you're productive during the postdoc years). My department has just hired two new faculty members who got their PhDs from UCSC and University of Cincinatti, but their postdocs were at Duke University. Hiring committees look at candidates' most recent position and publication record when they decide whom to shortlist.

So I would agree that getting a TT job immediately upon graduation from a PhD program outside the top 20 range is more difficult, but this can be compensated with a prestigious postdoc. So if you want to go to the academic route but attend a somewhat less "prestigious" school for your PhD, work with the best advisor you can and try to land the most prestigious postdoc you can.

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42 minutes ago, RemyD33 said:

I have a very similar background except I'm a domestic student. I'm not looking at getting into academia, but I have enjoyed studying Statistics a lot at UChicago and would be very interested in spending my 20s learning far more on the subject, mastering it to a greater degree and pursuing an independent research project through a Ph.D. I'm looking at applying to master's programs and using them as a stepping to better Ph.D programs but I'm unsure of which schools I should target at this stage. Would you say Duke's, Yale's or Columbia's are out of my reach? Wisconsin and Minnesota's look pretty interesting as well - are those within my range?

I think you can probably get into most Masters programs, as the bar tends to be lower for Masters admissions and the you have the additional plus that you attended UChicago. I also attended a "prestigious" school for undergrad (an Ivy) with a reputation for grade deflation and had little difficulty getting accepted into Masters. You can probably get into the Statistics MS program at University of Chicago. Would that interest you?

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30 minutes ago, Applied Math to Stat said:

I think you can probably get into most Masters programs, as the bar tends to be lower for Masters admissions and the you have the additional plus that you attended UChicago. I also attended a "prestigious" school for undergrad (an Ivy) with a reputation for grade deflation and had little difficulty getting accepted into Masters. You can probably get into the Statistics MS program at University of Chicago. Would that interest you?

Yeah that would interest me a lot! I really enjoyed the Statistics classes here and the fact that they require a thesis option for their Masters is really appealing to me as I look forward to applying to a Ph.D in the future. I do have a slew of Bs (low points being a B- in Linear Algebra, C+ in Statistical Theory II) in mathematical/statistical courses so I'm really not optimistic at all about my chances of getting into the MS program here. But I did do two Research Assistantships at different institutes here and managed to snag a B+ in a graduate level Stat class of my interest (Machine Learning) so I'm holding my head high. Would you recommend taking the GRE Subject Test in Math to supplement my application? Even if I don't get in here, I'd love to attend the Masters programs at Duke, Columbia or Washington but am worried that those may be reaches. 

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@RemyD33 I attended the University of Chicago as a domestic student as well and I applied to PhD programs this cycle. I had a similar GPA to the original poster and also worked at Booth as a research assistant, but my math/statistics GPA was slightly higher. You can see my profile here (except I retook the Math GRE and I got a 900, so the 760 is old). I ended up being accepted to some pretty great schools, including Berkeley and Washington, and several math PhD programs as well (UCLA, Michigan, etc.). I'm trying to stay reasonably anonymous, so I'm trying not to give away too much personal info, but I hope this is helpful!  

Edited by Radon-Nikodym

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I don't think you'll have huge issues, but international student admissions are pretty rough. If you were an American, I'd say you would be a top 20 candidate. 30-40 sounds doable.  I had very similar grades to you and my results have been all over the map (accepted at some very high programs but also rejected at much lower ranked schools).

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On 6/11/2018 at 11:14 AM, RemyD33 said:

Yeah that would interest me a lot! I really enjoyed the Statistics classes here and the fact that they require a thesis option for their Masters is really appealing to me as I look forward to applying to a Ph.D in the future. I do have a slew of Bs (low points being a B- in Linear Algebra, C+ in Statistical Theory II) in mathematical/statistical courses so I'm really not optimistic at all about my chances of getting into the MS program here. But I did do two Research Assistantships at different institutes here and managed to snag a B+ in a graduate level Stat class of my interest (Machine Learning) so I'm holding my head high. Would you recommend taking the GRE Subject Test in Math to supplement my application? Even if I don't get in here, I'd love to attend the Masters programs at Duke, Columbia or Washington but am worried that those may be reaches. 

I would not apply to Columbia’s Statistics masters program.  It has the reputation of being a cash cow that accepts a lot of students. You could definitely get in, but I am not sure if it is worth it.  I am not familiar with masters admissions so I won't comment on your chances.

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