I just graduated with a bachelor's in mathematics and I want to pursue mathematical logic. After being rejected from all the programs I applied to, I am left with wondering how to move forwards. My goal is still to pursue graduate school, and I have some thoughts on how to improve my application, namely:

  1. Take the Subject GRE: I didn't take the subject GRE last application cycle since I was assured post-COVID very few places cared. My aim here is to strengthen my application and combat my lackluster GPA (~3.4 out of 4).
  2. Get additional letters of recommendation: My undergraduate thesis advisor suggested that all the parts of my application that he saw seemed decent, so he suspected I had a bad letter writer. This time I will get one, hopefully two more letter writers and cycle them among applications just to prevent a single lackluster letter from tanking my application.
  3. Apply earlier: My understanding here is that applications are read as the come in, so hopefully by having an application come in far before the due date it will stand out. I suspect this shouldn't make a huge difference, but hopefully it's sufficient.
  4. Reapply to the NSF GRFP: I applied last year and got "not recommended" but the feedback I received was constructive and actionable. Again, this is a longshot, but anything that might marginally improve my odds I will do.

With all this in mind, what else can I do to improve my chances at an admission? Are there any new things I should be thinking of as a now nontraditional applicant?

Specifically, I am looking for things to do in the interim period between my undergraduate and graduate that would benefit my academic career, mainly by increasing the likelihood that I get into a graduate program in the first place.


1 Answer 1


Little that you suggest is guaranteed to help and you are missing an important component. The GRE might help, or not, but you have to do well, and it is a difficult test.

You can't predict what letter writers will say and "better letter writer" really means someone who knows you well and can honestly and confidently predict your future success. That means more than "I did well in their course".

Earlier application has no effect in the US, except that it might lead to earlier rejection. It does, however, give time to correct errors in the application if they are pointed out.

Yes, reapply to the NSF program, but it is unlikely to have much effect since committees look at other things.

But the thing you need to do, and haven't addressed, is to cast a wider net. If you only apply to a few schools or only to similar schools then your chances aren't very good. If you get rejected by one school you will probably be rejected by similar schools. In particular, don't focus just on top-ranked schools when applying.

  • Last application cycle I applied to 11 schools from what I thought was a very wide range, but it's hard to tell. The average USN&WR ranking (which I have an issue with but might be one of the best metrics) of the mathematics graduate programs I applied to was almost precisely 25 with all falling into the t50. But otherwise the only commonality between the places I applied was faculty in logic.
    – tox123
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 4:44

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