I would like to get into a mathematics MSc or PhD program. My undergraduate degree is in physics and I have completed the most basic mathematics courses, like calculus, linear algebra.

In the final year of my physics degree I found a new interest in differential geometry. I even completed a graduate course on the subject and have been studying on my own. This eventually resulted in getting bad grades for my physics modules (few Fs).

What can I do to improve my chances on getting into a graduate program in mathematics? I don't really want to take any courses on analysis, or topology as I've studied them on my own.

  • What country is this?
    – Buffy
    Feb 6, 2022 at 15:32
  • Maldives. My general preference for a program is in North America or Europe including Russia.
    – riem
    Feb 6, 2022 at 15:39
  • 3
    See the following about graduate admissions. But a "few Fs" isn't helping. academia.stackexchange.com/q/176908/75368
    – Buffy
    Feb 6, 2022 at 17:01
  • 2
    You've studied analysis and topology on your own. Is there someone (a professor) who can confirm that you've learned these topics at a level that corresponds to the classes that you don't want to take? An admissions committee won't be impressed by your saying what you've studied on your own, but they might be impressed if there's evidence that you've really learned the material. Feb 7, 2022 at 3:32
  • 1
    I don't really want to take any courses on analysis, or topology as I've studied them on my own - I think this is the wrong attitude to take if you want to continue your mathematical studies. Yes, it may not all be new, but making sure you learn the foundations properly (in courses, with feedback mechanisms) is vital to pursuing higher math, and having official records is very useful for admissions.
    – Kimball
    Feb 7, 2022 at 14:52

3 Answers 3


You have to consider your competition -- that is, the people schools can choose from as they are applying at the same time as you are.

First, they will generally not have "a few Fs" -- that's going to look rather bad on your transcript, in particular since it is at the end of your studies. If you had had a semester of this sort at the beginning, it would be possible to explain it away in your essay as "I needed to grow up, but as you can see in my transcript, I have gotten through this phase of my life and my recent semesters were all As". So that is an issue you have to think about how you can address or remedy.

Second, most of your competition is from people who were math undergraduates, have taken all foundational math courses with good grades, and have typically taken a few graduate math courses. You have taken one -- that's good --, but it will remain unclear to anyone looking at your application how broad your math undergraduate education really is, and how you would do with the graduate math breadth requirement most departments have.

So, long story short, I'm afraid what you currently have isn't particularly safe as far as getting admitted is concerned. I would see whether you can stay at your home institution for another year, for example, to fill in the holes in your transcript (more breadth in your math courses, maybe more graduate math courses, good grades).

  • 1
    I generally agree, but I would add that, at least in the US, admission standards are pretty low for lower-tier Master's programs, especially if one doesn't need funding.
    – Kimball
    Feb 7, 2022 at 14:48

Impressive GPA

If your GPA is really impressive, then many universities will give you admission.


Mathematics MSc or PhD program may require you to take some undergraduate math courses as pre-requisite and then you can carry on with the program.

I would suggest that you contact the math department and ask them about your situation. Contact with more than one universities.


The best thing for you to do is apply to a Master's program abroad to raise your competitiveness for PhD programs down the line--and sadly, you can expect to fund it yourself. Simply consider that there are very few graduate schools that would fund a student from a foreign university in a small country, who has a few failing grades on their transcript (even if in a different field; after all, physics and math are very closely related). If you can get into a master's, you have the opportunity to really build up your mathematical background and make up for this deficit, hopefully making yourself more competitive. It will be a significant struggle, but it is possible.

To me, the most alarming part of your question is the fact that you don't wish to take analysis or topology. You should absolutely be looking to strengthen your math background, especially in such fundamental topics--I would suspect that, like any young student self-studying these topics, your background in them is not as strong as you expect. And if your background truly is very strong, and these classes prove easy, that's great! They will be a useful review and an easy A to add to your transcript (you need proof somehow that you know these topics, as no one will believe you've read the book), and you can use the extra time to focus on less familiar topics like algebra.

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