I am currently an undergraduate student in mathematics at a US university, I am looking to go to graduate school and my dream is to be a mathematics researcher. I am currently in my second year and I am finishing up the second semester of my (graduate level) algebra, (undergrad level) analysis, and (undergrad level) topology sequences. I scored Bs on algebra and analysis in the first semester due to the hard transition (I also began doing research) but I expect to earn As in all classes this semester. Mathematics is my passion.

For my classes next semester, I have the option to do something unusual. Instead of enrolling in 3-5 classes as usual, I can get away with only taking one traditional class. This is because I am partnered with a professor to do an undergraduate thesis in hyperbolic dynamical systems. So, I would end up taking Abstract Algebra I (the third course in the graduate algebra sequence) as a traditional class and taking about 8 credit hours of directed individual study in dynamical systems under my thesis advisor. This is very appealing to me as it would allow me to get very deep into this field which I am very interested in.

So, how would this decision bode for my graduate school application? Would they look at this as being a decision of someone who is highly motivated and interested, or as someone who is maybe lazy? Is this a good decision in general?

1 Answer 1


I doubt this will have much impact on your graduate school applications, in fact it could have a beneficial impact since that professor will be able to write you a strong recommendation letter.

But there might be other drawbacks:

  • You might get discouraged since you've only got one topic to think of. See What do you do when you're stuck at a problem? (for which one of the best possible things to do is "work on another problem for a while") and How should I deal with becoming discouraged as a graduate student?.
  • You might take longer to graduate, which means paying another semester's tuition fees.
  • It assumes you do well in the directed individual study. If you don't, you might be screwed. (That's the pessimistic view. The optimistic view is that you might realize you don't want to do graduate study early.)

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