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Overwhelmed by Search - Algebra

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Hi everyone.  This is my first post here or on any forum for that matter.

I am trying to find a Ph.D. program in Mathematics/Algebra and am overwhelmed with the search process.  I have both a BS and MA in Mathematics already.  Any suggestions for where to start this process or how to limit the scope of the schools I am looking at would be greatly appreciated.


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This is advice I give to people in my field, but it's pretty general stuff. Fill in the generic terms with relevant things for your field!

1. Determine which general research questions / topics are you interested in pursuing for your PhD.

2. Look through recent annual conferences for your field, usually those run by your society. Search for people presenting abstracts on your answer to #1.

3. Note down all of their names and institutions. Determine if they are faculty or students/postdocs/staff. If they aren't faculty, try to figure out who their advisors are.

4. Also look at the coauthors and do the same.

5. By this time, you should have a giant list and you might notice a lot of repeat names or institutions. 

6. If you have preferences in location, ranking, etc. then you might want to sort or filter the list by your preferences. This is also a good time to think about how these schools can help you achieve whatever your career goals are.

7. Maybe you have a good-sized list of schools now, maybe something like 30-50 schools that you would be willing to consider further. Look up each school and read about their program. Is it a right fit for you? Sort/filter/eliminate as necessary.

8. At this point, maybe you have 10-20 schools that you are really interested in based on the program descriptions. Go back to your list from Step 5 and note the names of faculty associated with each of these schools. I'd call this your shortlist.

9. Now, I think it's time to seek advice from others on your shortlist. Talk to your old advisors. Friends/colleagues, etc. They will likely have some insight about some of these people/program that you didn't consider. Or they might tell you about a cool program that you didn't find or had discounted earlier on. Modify your list.

10. If there are grad school fairs or some place where representatives from grad programs will talk to prospective applicants, go to those. Be sure to talk to the schools on your shortlist, but also talk to schools you hadn't considered before in case you learn something cool. In my field, our annual all-astronomy meeting always hosts one of these grad school fair events.



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