am i screwed for math grad school?

<p>Rising senior at a top tier Ivy (HYP).</p>

<p>GPA: 3.45/4.00
Major GPA: 3.56/4.00 (Largely thanks to one particular class) Without freshman real analysis, it would be a 3.67.</p>

<p>Math and stat courses taken:
Freshman year, I took the honors sequence:
Advanced linear algebra: B+
Real analysis: C+</p>

<p>It would have helped if I had done multivariable calculus and linear algebra before college because I had no intuition for what was going on. They told me that the courses weren't necessary for the honors sequence but I disagree.</p>

<p>Sophomore year:
Functional analysis and optimization theory: A
Non-Euclidean geometry: A-
Probability theory: A
Graph theory and Combinatorics: A
Differential Equations: A-</p>

<p>Junior year:
Probability theory (graduate course): B+
Abstract Algebra I: A-
Complex Analysis: A-
Stochastic Processes: A-
Algebraic Combinatorics (junior tutorial): B+</p>

<p>Senior year:
Planning to take topology I and graduate real analysis. Also likely doing a thesis.</p>

<p>I also did an REU after my freshman year in graph theory.</p>

<p>I want to know if I can kiss top 20 grad schools goodbye. I'm hoping to get into UBC (British Columbia) or UCLA.</p>

<p>Also I'm considering just going into finance after next year and working as a quant at a hedge fund. If anyone knows about that, please let me know. I plan to take a few CS courses senior year.</p>

<p>u d be fine...
just get good letters of rec, u still have shot for top 20 grad schools</p>

<p>Shooting for a "top 20" school is the wrong way to go about finding a grad school for math. I don't mean to put you down...I was doing the same thing at one point. But the thing is that going to a department where there are a few professors doing research that you're interested in is significantly more important than needing to be at the highest-ranking school. Additionally, admissions to the tip-top schools can be a bit of a crapshoot because most applicants have near-perfect GPAs and stellar research experience. Each of the top 40 or 50 or so departments have great programs, and you'd do much better in a program ranked 40th that has some professors you really want to work with than throwing yourself into the crowd at UC Berkeley fighting for advisors and funding (unless you're a rock superstar and want to fight for that top algebraic geometer...).</p>

<p>Figure out what sort of math you're most interested in, as specific as possible (which might just be something as generic as "geometry" or it might be something more specific like, "mathematical biology and oceanography"), and talk to the professors in your undergraduate department that are related to that field. See what schools they might recommend. They'll likely have a great idea of (1) what schools have good programs for your area of interest and (2) which ones you've got a shot at getting into. You'll be much happier in the long run than if you hold your breath until you get an acceptance letter from MIT.</p>

<p>That sounds like very good advice, emengee. In fact, it echoes what Steven Krantz wrote in A Mathematician's Survival Guide: Gradute School and Early Career Development. That is, do some research on schools and, in particular, professors that could serve as potential advisors in areas that interest you. However, even his book was a bit unclear when it came to the matter of how one would go about doing this. On the one hand it is good advice to say "find what area(s) of math interest you and then tailor your search for grad programs accordingly." On the other hand, Dr. Krantz wrote, and I've read numerous other (anecdotal) sources, that it is very likely that your interests will change upon entering graduate school. Should a prospective grad student just try to find a place that has a broad selection of research fields?</p>

<p>I suppose I have two questions here.</p>

<p>1) What is the best approach for an undergrad to take in an attempt to narrow their area(s) of interest?</p>

<p>2) How can a prospective graduate student take the likelihood of shifting research interests into account when searching for graduate programs?</p>

<p>1) What is the best approach for an undergrad to take in an attempt to narrow their area(s) of interest?</p>

<p>Different people go to different lengths here. I spent only three years as an undergraduate, so I didn't have as much time. That said, I knew by my second year that I liked geometry a lot, and I did a differential geometry REU between my second and third years that I really enjoyed.</p>

<p>That said, there was another student there who was on his second REU and knew much more specifically that he wanted to do differential geometry. He had the experience to know that he wanted differential geometry, whereas I just knew that I liked geometry.</p>

<p>2) How can a prospective graduate student take the likelihood of shifting research interests into account when searching for graduate programs? </p>

<p>Since I wasn't sure which area of geometry I was interested in, I applied to schools that had professors researching in several areas of geometry. It turned out that the differential geometry professor was a grumpy old man, so I ended up focusing more on low-dimensional geometry and topology.</p>

<p>Since my friend knew very much what he wanted to study in grad school, he picked programs that had at least two very strong differential geometers.</p>

<p>You do what you can in undergrad to explore your interests as much as possible, and you find a grad school that's appropriate for the scope of interests that you're considering. And even then, your interests might change, so picking a program that's a bit well-rounded never hurts.</p>