My initial goal 5 years ago was to do an applied math PhD, but I had to find a job to pay off my loans. I've been working in data science for a couple years. I'm now planning to apply again.
1. Different Academic background
My academic background is in France, but I'm now living in the USA where I'd like to do my PhD. The French system is very different from the American one - for instance the name of your school mattering much more than grades, different grading system, very few interactions with the faculty. Almost all the people I've seen from France that have gone to study in the US have done so from specific institutions (engineer schools mostly) that have close ties with American academia and adapt to their requirements. I graduated from a top French institution - but which has few ties to the US.
2. Difficulty leveraging it in application
Grades and recommendations
As such, most of the elements on the applications look to me quite very foreign - recommendation letters, GPAs etc... Simply translating my French grades to GPA gives me quite mediocre grades in the American system.
My undergrad (French prépa) was very math heavy and gave me solid foundations. Yet I don't have a degree for this, and going into business school after simply gave me a "business degree".
To recap, coming from a system which is very different and makes it quite difficult to compete in a selective environment, especially if I'm aiming at a top school.
How could I best apply for a top math PhD program given the above constraints ? If I apply as is, I feel my skills wouldn't be reflected in the application.
Thanks for your input, a bit lost as to how best to approach this