I am having a big problem finding a master program in mathematics for which I can apply. My background briefly:

I grew up in Brazil. I started learning physics and mathematics as autodidactic in high school. When I started college in physics, I already knew the whole content of the bachelor degree, plus master subjects (quantum field theory, general relativity, etc). Before that I did a proof for a master program and passed, but was not admitted because I needed the Bachelor. In the following 6 years I had to attend classes and make graduate coursework in a Brazilian university. I earned my physics degree in 2015, and moved to Germany in the beginning of 2016 to live with the other half of my family here.

I learned about the Bologna process and the importance of a master degree for the first time in my life. In the beginning of the third of the six years of college in Brazil, I had decided not to go through with academia, but had to finish the degree to have what is called a "superior education" in Brazil and have better chances in any job market. Here on the other hand I finally discovered applied maths and it's applications to industry, and felt in love with it.

But I find four big obstacles to being accepted in any master course:

1- Having a physics and not mathematics bachelor

During the college, I didn't have to open a book of college physics. This gave me much time to study subjects of mathematics, as Analysis, Abstract Algebra and Group and Representation Theory.

But, as much as I have already the pre-requisite knowledges to a master program, they won't be recognized because I don't have them in my academic records.

2- Having earned a grade in Brazilian system, which is considered very bad in international grading system.

I was always the best student in every class I took in my life. I had always the best results in examinations. But in the Brazilian system, the results in examinations do not matter a lot: people loose many points if they do not watch all lectures or do not do all the exercises. I couldn't do any of this because I worked full time to survive together with the college, both in daily time. Plus, I never in my life heard that a better grade would have any use. A grade in Brazil is exclusively a passing criteria, and no employer or graduate program takes it seriously. My final grade was 72%, I was ranked second in my peer group, but with this seems like I can't be accepted in any university in the EU.

3- I only have one recomendation letter. I didn't want to follow academia and research, and this would be the only reason in Brazil to commit to research programs and be in contact with researchers. Also, it is not allowed to do so while having a job.

4- I don't have any money. I figured out that the perfect solution for that would be to make a distance learning master and work during the day where I currently live. But this makes the possibilities more restricted. Having to attend a presential full time university, I don't even know how would I pay for rent.

Anyway, I am sure that if I could take courses in mathematics I would have very high grades in european system and would be able to proof my potential. I haven't found any university in Germany which offers this possibility though.

My general question is: how can an autodidactic go for a career in mathematics? I just want any possibility at all that does not involve starting a whole new bachelor again.

Thanks in advance fellows

1 Answer 1


Because of your financial situation it sounds like you will need to either gain full time admission to a masters program that includes a scholarship offer


Attend part time while you work

Many admissions officers will not be familiar with the Brazilian grading system. In addition to enclosing your transcripts and cover letter, submit proof (if it is not already on your transcript) of your impressive class rank. Use your cover letter to further explain you academic history.

You may need to prove some of what you learned as an autodidact in order to demonstrate your preparedness for the graduate programs you apply to. Either produce research or find a relevant test that you can use to prove your knowledge. If there is not a standardized test relevant to any alleged deficiencies in your knowledge base (judging you based on transcripts) ask the school you are applying to for the right to take a final exam of a capstone bachelor level math course to help prove your knowledge base.

You will have to prove to the schools you are applying to what you learned as as autodidact. If you can do that you may be able to gain admission without the need to take more undergraduate coursework

  • I have a question about the part time thing. When I make a course that have, say, 120 ECTS modules, and it says that it would take 2 years full time to complete... what is this "full time" for? Or, in other words... They say that the expected dedication is 36 hours a week, for example. Dedication to what? To study a book, to watch lectures, to make exercises? I just want to understand what does a certain number of dedication hours mean, so that I can know how much faster could I do it.
    – DDCrat
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 2:04
  • If, for example, I have to make a bachelor in mathematics again, but don't need to learn anything anymore as happened with the bachelor in physics, would I still need to dedicate 36 hours a week?
    – DDCrat
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 2:05

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