Do you have any academic research experience?
Test Scores: (GRE): 169 V (99%), 166 Q (87%), 4.5 AWA
Undegrad GPA: 3.66
Graduate GPA: NA (B in random but hard Math Stats course)
Research Experience: Undergraduate Honors Thesis with Full Professor (received high marks; did not publish)
Teaching Experience: Teaching Assistant for OM course for 2 semesters
Work Experience: 3 years working as a data science consultant for relatively prestigious firm. I have also served as researcher at my company through our research arm.
Concentration Applying to: Operations Management
Number of programs planned to apply to: 13
Dream Schools: Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke
- How important are academic LOR versus industry?
- I currently have one LOR from the professor I did my undergrad honors thesis with that I anticipate being solid
- Other two LOR will be from higher-ups at my firm (one is a research scientist, the other a director)
- Is it even worth applying to the "elite" (Wharton, Kellogg, etc.) schools?
What made you want to pursue a PhD?
I have been interested in academia since graduating from undergrad. I enjoyed writing my thesis and working as a teaching assistant. I currently have a good job as a data scientist, but would love to be more a researcher/inventor. The academic lifestyle appeals to me as well (intellectual peers, college towns, conferences, etc.)
I also have a very specific set of research goals/ideas that would be hard to accomplish in a non-academic environment.
Questions or concerns you have about your profile?
- #1 concern is that my background isn't pure math or engineering but rather Business at major state university
- I have not taken Real Analysis, but have taken Calculus, Linear Algebra and several STAT/OR courses
- #2 concern is my Q GRE (166) score, while good, is slightly below the averages I keep seeing (167/168)
- #3 concern is that only one of my LOR is from an academic source (albeit a good one)
Last edited by anthem; 08-20-2020 at 11:23 PM.
Re: applying to elite schools, I would say that grad admissions are pretty much a crapshoot already, so if a professor(s) research at a top university really interests you, I would definitely go for it. I also wouldnít sweat being 1 or 2 points below average on GRE quant, as it really isnít worth retaking with scores as good as yours already IMO; your efforts should be placed elsewhere.
Academic LOR are usually much more important than industry LOR. Because academic researchers should be much better at evaluating your potential to be an academic researcher.
If that research scientist you mentioned knows about academic research, then maybe that can be still good enough.
I wouldn't expect your director to be able to tell much about your potential to be an academic researcher. The director may be able to tell other things (e.g., that you are hard-working), but that's not enough to make the LOR strong.
It's worth applying to elite schools if they are a good fit. Research fit is much more important than school rank. And many elite researchers are not at elite schools, so be careful about this "elite" concept.
Just 1 or 2 points shouldn't make much of a difference for a GRE score. Unless you really believe you can show a big improvement, like a perfect score, I don't see any reason to take the test again.
I think some of how your profile is perceived will depend on what your research interests are. You haven't really given a good indication of what you're interested in or why you want to study those things. If you give a bit more detail it might help.
In terms of your questions:
'Academic' letters are in general better, because the person writing the letter should understand what it takes to publish good research, and the qualities that a good PhD student would need. Industry references don't necessarily have that. If your industry references are doing publication level research, have PhDs, etc. then some of that distinction goes away. E.g. someone who works at Google Research would be as good as an academic reference (all else being equal).
As others have said, PhD applications are some what of a crap shoot, and a lot of it does come down to fit. For example, our PhD Program director for Operations tries to pick people who aren't just good, but coming to our school in particular will help them more than going somewhere else. So that means they might pass on some top candidates if they aren't good fits, or pick someone who on paper looks a little bit weaker but has a great fit. So if you think there is a good fit with those schools, then definitely apply. Unless the application fees are overly burdensome, there isn't that much to lose from applying.
With respect to the GRE score and your background, I see them as sort of a related factor. It isn't necessarily an issue, but some profs might see it as a concern. It isn't that you need to have taken real analysis (I didn't, and I got into some of the schools you listed), but the field is reasonably quantitatively demanding. In my case, not taking real analysis wasn't an issue, because I had a math degree from a school that is fairly well known for math. That meant that there weren't any questions about my quantitative ability. In your case, you don't have a math/engineering degree. That means you need to show your quantitative ability in other ways. Some of that can be taking courses like the ones you've listed. However, it would also depend on how those courses were designed - e.g. are they proof based probability courses or are they more stats for business type courses. If they are the former, and you took a bunch of them and did well, then that probably eliminates most (or at least some) of the potential concern about your quantitative skills. If they are the latter, then that is a bigger potential concern.
So how does your GRE play into this? Like Brazilian said, 1 or 2 points won't make or break you - if everything else is equal. The issue, is that if a prof isn't convinced by your quantitative skills and they think your GRE score is low, then they may not believe you have the right background for the program. In this case though, I don't think getting a higher (even perfect) score would help significantly, so it probably isn't worth it to re-take.
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