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I got admitted to a bachelor's in EE at a public university in my country (Malaysia). In my country, to apply to uni, we rank our choices 1-10, and then the automated system goes one by one until we get accepted to one or none at all. I put maths and CS courses for my first 9 and only put EE as my safety because this safety school does not offer a CS or Math program. I guess I got unlucky and only got accepted by the safety school.

It really is sinking in right now that I might not be able to switch back to mathematics for grad school which is my passion. The general advice for switching is:

  • taking graduate courses (not really possible but I'll try asking),
  • taking more math courses (not possible because our math department only offers courses oriented toward engineering and I am already taking them all), and
  • getting research experience (I can try asking for this too but probably not possible).

I am determined to study a lot of mathematics on my own and also try and ask to shadow or assist in maths research at a uni near my home (higher ranked, dedicated math department) but I have no idea how to convey that in grad school applications or if it would even carry any weight. I'm worried the amount of mathematics I'm taking wouldn't even let me apply to some masters which are more lenient in requirements.

I've been looking into doing my masters in Germany, China, Canada or at my local uni with the top math department in the country. Unfortunately my math department doesn't offer proof-style courses and there are only 3 dedicated math departments in the country as it isnt a highly desirable degree here.

What's my best option? Would accredited online courses carry much weight? Or should I try to focus on switching to a math-adjacent field like CS or Physics?

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    This depends on where you intend to do graduate study: which country or countries.
    – Buffy
    Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 11:43
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    EE uses a lot of computational math; it doesn't necessarily use mathematical-style proofs or the sort of infinite dimensions that math graduate schools use. Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 20:23
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    Yes to @JosephDoggie ... you will need to take the standard proof-style math courses during your bachelors study. Including abstract algebra, real analysis, (and maybe topology). I don't know how possible this is for a EE student in Malaysia... especially at a school with no math program!
    – GEdgar
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 1:28
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    I've been looking into doing my masters in Germany, China, Canada or at my local uni with the top math department in the country. Unfortunately my math department doesn't offer proof-style courses and there are only 3 dedicated math departments in the country as it isnt a highly desirable degree here. Does anybody know how much weight online accredited courses would carry if i did those? Will switching to math adjacent disciplines like CS/Physics be easier? I am super grateful to anyone who took time to respond. :)
    – Ant
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 13:33

2 Answers 2

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Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Most of the options you list (attending "the top math department" in your country, or studying abroad in Germany or Canada) are extremely competitive even for the best students. Especially if you're not wealthy enough to pay $100K+ USD in tuition out-of-pocket.
  2. If you don't have a math degree, nor any coursework in proof-based math, then you will not be one of the top applicants. Sorry to be blunt, but it is better to know.
  3. An EE, physics, or CS degree is not easy to get. If you are not really interested in this material, then I suspect you will really struggle to perform well.
  4. It is unusual for undergrads in math to perform research. I do not expect that the professors at your local "top" university will have much interest in advising a student who is enrolled at a different university and is not even a math major.
  5. Self-study doesn't really count for much, since there is no way to measure what was learned.
  6. Online accredited courses are much better, since there is a clear syllabus and grade. I do not know how much time you would have to devote to taking courses at a different university, however. If you devote all your time to taking these online courses, then your "real" GPA is likely to be low, which could make it very difficult to proceed.

I am sorry that you are in this situation, and I don't know your country's educational system well enough to advise you. But I would certainly consider re-applying to other undergraduate programs that do offer math degrees. Not sure how (or if) this would work in your country, but it seems much more realistic in your case.

I would also urge you to keep an open mind. If you've never done proof-based math, I am not sure how it is possible to know that math is your "passion." It could turn out that EE is actually a great fit to your interests, and a better foundation for a future career. And there are parts of EE that are very abstract and "mathy" (even proof-based, in places); it's not all soldering capacitors together.

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I can mainly speak for the German system, but I suspect that others are somewhat similar. Regarding admission into masters, what you know or the name of your degree does not matter that much. What matters are mainly the courses you can prove you took.

The problem is that for any master in mathematics, the admission requirements will have a long list "classes equivalent to", which will include mainly proof based courses you will be unable to take if your university has no mathematics program. You might try with online courses, but this will likely be an uphill battle even if you hand in nicely printed paper certificates for all of them.

One option you already mentioned, which is reapplying, ideally to an actual math program. Normally I would say that even physics or cs are a step closer, but at an university without a math department, those will likely be as applied as your EE-degree, as they will still not have the classes that you need.

What I would suggest instead, is to look into programs at the intersection of fields. E.g. I know that some universities offer degrees named "computational engineering" or similar, at the intersection of engineering, cs and math. Getting in one of those should be possible with an EE-degree and the courses offered to you at your university. Once you are in such a program, ideally at a place also offering normal mathematics, you could then focus your elective classes in a mathematical direction and possibly even take additional courses offered to regular math students. If you do well, this would set you up for a PhD in some parts of applied mathematics, e.g. numerical analysis.

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