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I am a rising junior, looking to apply for Ph.D. programs in Math or CS when my time comes. I heard that my friend got into the two prestigious universities for a Math Ph.D. program without much research. All he had was an undergraduate senior capstone paper in Mathematics (written in the fall semester of one's senior year to complete your math major) -- that is all for research --, a decent GPA (3.55), and I'm assuming decent recommendations. He graduated from a top 30 liberal arts college. I've seen people emphasizing the importance of research to get into Ph.D. programs but why are some undergraduate applicants accepted with very little experience?

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    We do not know details about your friend. There may be so many factors influencing the decisions, that we cannot possibly know. But the important question is: why do you care? it is only one anedoctal point, aiming at a PhD you should know that even many anedoctal points do not add up for statistics. If you had infinite anedoctal points, well, then maybe yes ...
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 3 at 4:47
  • Graduate admissions in the US is based on many factors besides research experience and is often somewhat subjective. See academia.stackexchange.com/questions/38237/… for a general overview of what's involved. Sep 10 at 22:42
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Because undergraduate research in pure mathematics is usually not worth very much, so most PhD programs don't expect it of applicants.

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  • what about Computer Science? Do PhD programs expect of it a lot? Sep 3 at 4:05
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    @heythere987, not in the US. An undergraduate degree, in any field, here is not a research degree and so it isn't expected. Some research can be a bonus.
    – Buffy
    Sep 3 at 11:25
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    For CS, don't many of the top programs like UIUC or GT have competition where undergrads are applying with a bunch of research experience? Also I'm pretty sure people have posted where having some sort of research experience is ideal if you want to enter a PhD program, unless you are talking about a MS/PhD or a program where you earn an MS along the way?
    – Daveguy
    Sep 10 at 21:16
  • For the top engineering programs I’m familiar with, “does this student have research experience of some form?” is a first-pass filter on the grad applicant pool
    – RLH
    Sep 11 at 4:23
  • Well as a prospective applicant, I would pass this first filter. But in fields like ML/NLP, which I want to pursue, don't people generally need publications, or is this only for places like MIT, etc.?
    – Daveguy
    Sep 11 at 4:41

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