Getting Into Graduate School

For the discussion of math. Duh.

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Suffusion of Yellow
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Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:15 pm UTC

Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Suffusion of Yellow » Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:45 pm UTC

Hey guys, new. If you could entertain my shamelessly self-interested query for a second, that would be awesome:

I'm going to finish up college soon, with a pretty bare-bones math major (was premed too) and a 3.6 GPA. I haven't taken the GRE yet, but I tend to do well on standardized tests, and I don't have any research experience or math professors I really know well. Realistically, am I looking at an applied math graduate program here? Thanks.

Buttons
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Location: Somerville

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Buttons » Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:55 pm UTC

You'll probably get in somewhere, sure. With no research experience and a bare-bones major, it'll depend a lot on your GRE scores. I assume, since it's January and you haven't taken the GRE yet, that you're planning on applying next year? See if you can get some research experience under your belt before then. That will help a lot.

Also, are you taking the math subject test? Just being good at standardized tests isn't really enough to do well. You also know your stuff, especially the subjects you haven't taken in a while like calculus and linear algebra.

Suffusion of Yellow
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:15 pm UTC

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Suffusion of Yellow » Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:48 pm UTC

Buttons wrote:You'll probably get in somewhere, sure. With no research experience and a bare-bones major, it'll depend a lot on your GRE scores. I assume, since it's January and you haven't taken the GRE yet, that you're planning on applying next year? See if you can get some research experience under your belt before then. That will help a lot.

Also, are you taking the math subject test? Just being good at standardized tests isn't really enough to do well. You also know your stuff, especially the subjects you haven't taken in a while like calculus and linear algebra.


Yep, next year, I'm a junior now. I'm going to try for research but the odds are slim.


As for the math subject test...I'm taking the majority of my math courses (six of them, including subject tests topics like analysis and abstract algebra) my senior year. I'm definitely going to take the subject test, but as I understand application schedules, even if I take all its topics first semester senior year, I'm only going to be able to use it to apply the year after senior year, right?

Buttons
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Location: Somerville

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Buttons » Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:38 pm UTC

Definitely look into research. REUs aren't the only option. Is there a professor you can work with, perhaps in an independent study?
Suffusion of Yellow wrote:As for the math subject test...I'm taking the majority of my math courses (six of them, including subject tests topics like analysis and abstract algebra) my senior year. I'm definitely going to take the subject test, but as I understand application schedules, even if I take all its topics first semester senior year, I'm only going to be able to use it to apply the year after senior year, right?

Not necessarily. Most people take the subject test in October or November, and if you're concurrently enrolled in the relevant courses, you're bound to have covered the important stuff by then. I took the GRE while enrolled in analysis, and there wasn't anything on there that I hadn't seen yet. Yes, the GRE does test material from higher-level courses, but nothing deeper than the most introductory results. If you know what a ring is, what a metric is, what "analytic" means, and what it means for a topological set to be connected, you're pretty much there. The important thing is whether you're comfortable with those terms and can apply them quickly. The hard questions usually require less background, and are more of the how-well-do-you-remember-calculus variety.

Suffusion of Yellow
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:15 pm UTC

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Suffusion of Yellow » Thu Jan 01, 2009 9:32 pm UTC

Buttons wrote:Not necessarily. Most people take the subject test in October or November, and if you're concurrently enrolled in the relevant courses, you're bound to have covered the important stuff by then. I took the GRE while enrolled in analysis, and there wasn't anything on there that I hadn't seen yet. Yes, the GRE does test material from higher-level courses, but nothing deeper than the most introductory results. If you know what a ring is, what a metric is, what "analytic" means, and what it means for a topological set to be connected, you're pretty much there. The important thing is whether you're comfortable with those terms and can apply them quickly. The hard questions usually require less background, and are more of the how-well-do-you-remember-calculus variety.


That's excellent :) What courses do you recommend taking concurrently with the test? Everywhere I research tells you that you need mostly Calc and Linear Algebra, and then in the 'also might appear' they list every math course ever. I've had Calc, L Algebra, Diff Eq, and Combinatorics so far.

Buttons
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Location: Somerville

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Buttons » Thu Jan 01, 2009 10:01 pm UTC

You'll want to be familiar with the basics of topology, real analysis, algebra, complex analysis, and number theory. Personally, I had taken three of those prior to the exam and was concurrently enrolled in real (as I'd mentioned above). I hadn't taken complex, but fortunately there were only two or three questions where that mattered, and my brief knowledge about analytic functions was enough to get me through them.

A good idea right now might be to take the one actual practice test available on the ETS website to get a feel for where you stand. Plus, when you're seriously prepping for the exam in ten months, you'll probably have forgotten the details of this test enough that you can try it again and have it still be meaningful.

Suffusion of Yellow
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:15 pm UTC

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Suffusion of Yellow » Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:59 pm UTC

Buttons wrote:You'll want to be familiar with the basics of topology, real analysis, algebra, complex analysis, and number theory. Personally, I had taken three of those prior to the exam and was concurrently enrolled in real (as I'd mentioned above). I hadn't taken complex, but fortunately there were only two or three questions where that mattered, and my brief knowledge about analytic functions was enough to get me through them.

A good idea right now might be to take the one actual practice test available on the ETS website to get a feel for where you stand. Plus, when you're seriously prepping for the exam in ten months, you'll probably have forgotten the details of this test enough that you can try it again and have it still be meaningful.


Ahh...I could cram those, teaching myself some, but my GPA would likely take a serious hit. Would I be disadvantaged taking the test in the Spring?

Buttons
Posts: 858
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 3:27 pm UTC
Location: Somerville

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby Buttons » Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:55 am UTC

This spring? Sure you'd be disadvantaged--you'd have six fewer months of experience backing you up. Next spring? Not disadvantaged per se, but you'd miss the application deadlines (circa December or January for most schools) by a long shot, so you'd have to apply the following year.

This might not be a bad idea, though. If you're really serious about applying to grad school (Point of order: are you? Those reading your application will wonder why you're coming at the math major so late. What's your answer to that?), then taking a year off and getting some more experience (research or otherwise) under your belt could be useful.

deconvoluted
Posts: 94
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:40 pm UTC

Re: Getting Into Graduate School

Postby deconvoluted » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:51 pm UTC

The answer is: master's degree, baby. That's what it's for :) It's the extra year where you do research, firm up what you didn't learn, etc. when you pick your real major too late.


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