I am an undergrad math major (minor in applied stats) set to graduate next month. I have been considering graduate school for a long time, and I know I want to pursue at least a Master's in the near future.

For a while, I wanted to pursue a Master's in Applied Statistics and aim for a corporate career in analysis. However, this past summer, I worked as an intern at a large company and came to the realization that the corporate setting was not for me. I now know that I want to further my education in Mathematics, and it's a goal of mine to attend the University of Michigan's Master's program for Mathematics. However, it is not feasible for me to apply for U of M (for Fall 2014) as I have yet to take my Math Subject GRE, and the next test date is April of next year- which is too late.

My goal, then, is to apply for the Fall 2015 semester, but this will leave me with 1.5 years of no school in between. I guess my main question is what should I do in the meantime to better my chances of being accepted? I have taken the following upper level math courses:

Abstract Algebra, Combinatorics, Numerical Analysis, Real Analysis 1, Stochastic Processes, Complex Variables, Linear Algebra, Mathematical Modeling

and my current cumulative GPA is 3.56.

I know that I'm not up there on the GPA scale and it doesn't help that I don't have any research experience, and I'm afraid this will greatly hinder my chances of being admitted to U of M's Master's program. Can anyone give me advice on what to do from here? How can I better my chances of getting in? I'm not the best math student, and I can't deny that there exists a fear at the back of my mind telling me that I am not cut out for this. Is there anyway to know if you're qualified for graduate mathematics?

I apologize for the lengthy post.

Thanks in advance..

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if everyone has the feeling they aren't cut out for math but I bet you can succeed. $\endgroup$
    – user43138
    Nov 23, 2013 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


First, please be assured that if you were able to complete the undergrad courses you mention, you can succeed in a masters program. To do so, you must do whatever work it takes -- it is that simple.

The best way to succeed in mathematics is to work problems. No amount of theory can replace problem solving. In fact, the problems are where you find out your didn't really understand the theory (sorry, but it's often true). For your grad courses you want to do every problem you are assigned, and then seek out more problems on the topic. Keep pounding at each topic until the graduate level problems are coming with some ease -- or at least without trauma.

In terms of the 1.5 year gap, there are a number of alternatives. One is to formally audit some graduate courses in mathematics. Most schools are happy for you to do this, and are not picky about your qualifications. If you are willing to pay them, they are willing to let you attend their classes.

If you could manage to audit at the U of M that would be best. You would meet some of the professors, and if you take a sincere interest in their courses (and make sure they know it, by asking questions), they would probably recommend you for entrance. Apart from potential recommendations, your applications for grad school would show that you did this work, which tells people you really are interested. That helps a lot.

If U of M isn't practical for auditing, go someplace else.

I suggest that you take courses you've already had, such as real analysis, or whatever most interests you. Having taken the course once, you have a good start on the graduate level of the same material, so you would likely do well (helping you round up recommendations).

Have you considered applying for winter semester 2015 instead of waiting for the fall? It may be possible -- worth asking anyway.

Have you given thought to what you want to do with your masters in math? You can use some of your time to check out possibilities that may interest you more than what you've tried so far.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer and advice. I can't apply for the Winter because they only accept in the Fall. I have never heard of auditing before, what is it exactly? $\endgroup$
    – A A
    Nov 24, 2013 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ For now, I wish to be a math instructor- teach lower level math courses and such. $\endgroup$
    – A A
    Nov 24, 2013 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ Okay I looked it up, I understand now. Thanks again for your help, I will keep your advice in mind :) $\endgroup$
    – A A
    Nov 24, 2013 at 6:42

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