I am a mathematics undergraduate. I would like to get into a top 10 PhD school and might not do so this year. I would like to apply again and want to do what whatever is necessary to maximize my chances.

I have always heard that a masters in math is terminal and it might be too late to apply for one this year anyway(please correct me if I am wrong here).

What are my options?

Edit: I am currently in India, finishing my bachelors from one of the top schools here. I applied to places like UCB, Columbia, Chicago, Michigan-Ann Arbour and Wisconsin - in the area of algebraic number theory. I now realize that it was a little out of reach as of right now.

I have slightly low grades overall and good but not great math GPA(8.5 and 9.3/10 - 10/10 in graduate courses) and Subject scores(88%). I also do not really have research but from what I understand, undergraduate research is rare.

  • 1
    Hi there. We need to know more, at least where are you and where are you applying.
    – yo'
    Feb 21, 2015 at 0:12

2 Answers 2


You've got a couple of options

  1. See what happens with the current applications. You may be surprised.

  2. Try to get a job as a researcher at your current university. If a prof. has worked with you and can vouch for you this will be much easier.

  3. Have really awesome GRE or equivalent scores.

  4. Cast a wider net. Searching "top 10" on this site gets you 200 results! You may want to apply to schools outside of the top 10 in your field as this seems to be the cut-off most well-qualified applicants use.


First, of course, it would be nice to know more. Exact field you are interested in (applied math, mechanics or CS?), which school are Top-10 for you, what is the experience.

I would say that best advice would be to go and try to find a job in academia or research-related area. It might be harder in Math, but in bio-related labs one can often find job or volunteering opportunity.

Is there any lab/professors who publish something that you are interested in? It would be great to contact them and describe your situation, maybe suggest why you failed this year and how you can improve, ask for advice. In my experience, many might reply, and almost everyone reads emails.

I don't believe there are terminal degrees or positions, just lack of will and energy to present yourself and seize the opportunity.

If you aced your tests (I assume), then you might lack in area of personal communication (can't present yourself as a strong and relevant candidate, can't show interest in PhD program of choice, appear to just trying to escape the "real world"), or you lack experience and research-related extra curriculum activities in your CV (volunteering in lab, working along grad student of your school etc).

PS: I come from bio so by "lab" here I mean any research center/group/PI, academic or not.

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