<p>How adversely will early class withdrawals effect my chances for PhD admissions?
I am a math major at a small state school near my home town which has unusually strong course offerings (e.g. algebraic topology and model theory), and I have done well in my upper-level math coursework thus far. I intend to apply to PhD programs in mathematics (at CUNY, Notre Dame, Dartmouth, Brandeis, Rutgers, Florida State, Utah, USC, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana, and Michigan, perhaps among others). However, early in my academic career (sophomore year) I underwent some changes in my personal situation (moved from home, became financially independent, etc.) which caused my to temporarily lose focus on my academics. I am a very strong student, but during that period I withdrew from a number of courses (six total) and had to retake them later. My withdrawals are all under the heading of "WF" on my transcript (institutional policy; I wouldn't have dropped the courses if I had been passing them), but when I retook the courses I mostly received A's (with an A- in linear algebra).</p>
<p>How much might my early mistakes in college (I remained an extra year in order to do well in upper level coursework) hinder my ability to be admitted to decent graduate programs in mathematics? I have been left with the impression, in reviewing graduate admissions, that upper-level coursework is far more important than introductory courses (i.e., in my case, the calculus sequence), and that having done well in the courses the second time around with consistency in those and my other classes might work in my favor.</p>
<p>I had seen that post; however, my circumstances aren't necessarily comparable--I didn't drop a block of courses during a single semester. Mine were more disbursed, and I had a lot of graduate-level coursework very soon thereafter. So I will probably be weaker in the former regard, but I was wondering how much the other things might mitigate those issues and improve my admissibility. Thanks!</p>
<p>Your grades are very good but grad admissions at Dartmouth, ND, USC, etc, are so competitive that you will also need excellent rec letters and high GRE scores as well. From everything I've seen, GPA isn't nearly as much of a factor in graduate admissions as it is in undergraduate. I know quite a few people who have gone to WashU and Vandy with 3.2ish GPAs (and several Ws) because the admissions departments were so impressed with their rec letters and senior theses. A truly amazing senior thesis can make up for almost anything.</p>
<p>Thanks for your insights; this is just what I was looking for. I've been preparing my research proposals and senior thesis for three years; I intend to impress adcoms with my thesis on algebraic stacks, plus an inordinate amount of GRE subject test prep...</p>
<p>Excellent! One thing though -- it's not an "adcom" that you need to impress. Graduate admissions is very different from undergraduate admissions; particularly, it will not be a detached committee reviewing your application but rather the research professors and department chairs in Mathematics at each of the Unis you're applying to. If you pulled 3.6+'s in MVC, complex analysis, partial diff eq, etc., then none of the Dept Chairs will care that you got a "W" in Women's Studies or Calc I. </p>
<p>The three-year-in-the-making thesis sounds very impressive. That, along with a glowing rec letter, could easily get you into Dartmouth/ND/FSU/wherever. Best of luck! :)</p>
it's not an "adcom" that you need to impress. Graduate admissions is very different from undergraduate admissions; particularly, it will not be a detached committee reviewing your application but rather the research professors and department chairs in Mathematics at each of the Unis you're applying to.
<p>Yes and no. Many programs have an "adcom" of faculty members within the program. They do the initial screening of applications, and then may bring them to the entire department to determine who gets offered admission. If you apply to a program that interviews, then you not only get interviewed by faculty in your area but also several members of the admissions committee, who may or may not work within your specialty. You do need to impress the "adcom" to make that first cut.</p>
<p>Some programs/fields are so small that applicants are admitted to work with a single, funded faculty member. In this case, only one person need be impressed.</p>