This question is aimed at the countries where the graduate program admission decisions are normally made at the department level; the primary sources of funding are TAs/RAs and there is at least one year of coursework prior to the transition to full-time research (e.g., the US).
It is likely that I will be looking to apply to graduate programs in applied mathematics next year (however, the question can be generalized to certain other STEM disciplines, I believe). I have filtered a number of schools based on my research interests (somewhere around applied dynamical systems, control, bifurcation and stability analysis, applications in mechanics), but it is still a reasonably long list. I would like to understand how can I select a (fixed) number of graduate programs from this list so that my chances of admission somewhere are maximized.
I am looking at schools in a wide range starting from around 30 down to 150+ according to the rankings in the subject area, all of them being within the R1/R2 range. However, I have a concern that there may be little correlation between how selective a given program is and how well it does in the rankings. For example, some schools state explicitly that they admit exactly 5 students to their graduate program each year (while there seem to be others that admit well over 20 graduate students each year). In other cases, I would speculate that the location of the school might make up for its lower “reputation” and warrant fierce competition for positions. I could also speculate that private universities may be more selective than the public ones at around the same “reputation/quality level”.
Is it possible to devise a reasonably generic methodology that can be used to filter schools that, in all likelihood, will have less stringent or even reasonably lax admission requirements? Otherwise, I am looking for any helpful hints/advice.
A few notes:
- It is likely that I may be classified as a “borderline/weak” applicant, primarily, because I will be trying to make a transition from my undergraduate engineering degree to graduate studies in applied mathematics, not because I did not do well during my studies as an undergraduate. Also, by now, I am far from being young (I have spent quite a number of years working in the industry since graduation).
- This is not a shopping question, I am asking for a methodology for the selection of programs.
- I am familiar with the questions How does the admissions process work for Ph.D. programs in the US, particularly for weak or borderline students?, How should I choose which graduate programs to apply to for the PhD? and a few other similar questions on this website. However, I believe that they do not provide an answer to my question (in a certain sense, my question is a specialization of How should I choose which graduate programs to apply to for the PhD?).