I go to an Asian undergraduate school. It is probably the third best place to do undergraduate mathematics in my country. Which means it is basically unknown to graduate admissions committees in top 6 schools in the US. Still, alumni of my school have gone to Chicago, Michigan, Maryland, UCLA, Northwestern etc. There is another school in my country. This is very well known abroad and their alumni have gone in the best of graduate programs. There is an exchange program between this and my school. I can do a semester or two in this school in my 4th year (Mine is 5 year integrated BS-MS course.)

However I am unsure how graduate schools - especially top 6 - would view this.

I have some evidence that this won't have a drastic effect on my application.

The other school also has a MSc program in Math. Every year few people get top grades in that. But no one of them get good PhD positions. Apparently only BSc graduates get amazing offers.

If I take the most advanced graduate courses in two semesters in that school will I be comparable to their BSc graduates who go to top programs and how would faculty there view this ?

  • It's surely not going to harm your application in any way, and it will probably help a bit (even if it doesn't help ypur admission, it will help you as a mathematician). So I say go for it. Sep 5, 2018 at 20:41
  • I can't think of any reason why this would be negative; moreover it can help you develop as a scientist significantly.
    – xuq01
    Nov 6, 2018 at 9:04

1 Answer 1


First of all, UChicago is a top-6 school, with a great grad program. The other places you've mentioned are also good places for doing graduate studies, with many graduates getting NSF postdoc grants and getting into good places.

Second, some Chinese schools are known in the West (definitely Tsinghua and Peking, I personally also know some faculty in Fudan and Sichuan). You need to understand that someone from a lesser known school would always be in a disadvantage compared to say graduates of good US universities, as I would not necessarily know the letter-writers and how to evaluate them accordingly (being top of class is nice, but I need to know about the class). This is relevant even for people from the best schools in China, as not all the faculty of even the schools I have mentioned are widely known in the west. Considering the fact that there are ~100 places in the top-6 grad programs per year, and you are competing with the best graduates of US universities, Canadian universities and some European, Israeli and Indian universities, you see that it is EXTREMELY HARD to get into those programs, even for really good students, and a lot of this rides on your letters of recommendation and pure luck.

I would say that your best strategy would be to transfer to the better school as soon as possible (and obviously don't do the 5 year program, maybe only the first 3 years for BSc and then move to the better school for the MSc), as this will raise your chances, as you will be able to write the name of the better school on your CV later with the MSc degree. Moreover, doing grad courses (and hopefully some research) there will get you recommendations from professors at the better school, so most likely they are better known. Anyhow, especially with your remark about the master graduates, I suspect the graduate program is not very good/not perceived like one in the West, so it is best to move to other places even for the masters as soon as possible.

If you want even more chances, pull out your cheque book and go to Princeton (I personally believe that you will get better mathematical education for BSc in Tsinghua, but it will be hard to deny a good letter from a Princeton professor, simply the way it is).

I don't think that continuing asking this question with epsilon-changes any week will help you or be productive. A lot of good mathematicians got their education from not top-6 schools. There are many upsides for going to top-6 schools, but also some downsides. Again, if you are not happy where you are, you should move ASAP, and definitely not stay there for 5 years, as this will lead to depression and for you being counter-productive.

Good luck.

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