I am a rising senior at college in US actively pursuing the mathematics and microbiology majors. I am deeply interested in the arts of topology and set theory, and their applications to the machine learning and biological data analysis. My plan is to apply for graduate programs in mathematics, but I did not decide pure or applied as I like both aspects of the mathematics.

Started out as a microbiology major, I did not begin to pursue mathematics until the end of sophomore year. Started from my freshman year, I have been haunted by a severe case of OCD, which seriously interfered with my study and undergraduate research, and subsequently my grades and research performance were not good (my current GPA is below 3.00....). When I first noticed the signs of OCD, I thought I can handle it with my mental strength, and the they will go away by their own (like a cold virus), which I realized are big mistakes!! Starting on this Summer, however, I started to receive psychological counseling and medical treatment, which have been helping me a lot.

Although my grades are not good, I took some graduate-level courses in microbiology and advanced courses in mathematics and got A's. On this semester, I am going to take the advanced classes in both math and microbo, including one graduate-level course in mathematics. I also got several opportunities in the undergraduate research and mathematical reading courses with professors of my big interest. Although OCD is still affecting me, I am in a much better position now as I started to regain a control of myself.

My question is that if it is too late to start preparing for graduate programs in mathematics. If preparing for mathematician is late, then I would like to search other opportunities. Another worry is that I fear the admission committee might look down on students with mental disorders as people who have weak mentality and cannot handle their problems properly, thus are not suitable to learn mathematics. Could you provide me some advice about preparing for graduate programs in mathematics?

I am planning to stay one more year after my senior year, or possibly two years.

closed as off-topic by scaaahu, Cape Code, Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩, user2390246, Bob Brown Aug 19 '16 at 22:50

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Disclaimer: I'm not in the field of mathematics, but I have been in a similar position

I think it is still possible for you to switch to math. It helps to get some more research experience if your GPA is not that great. A good reference and research experience will make up for a lower GPA in a lot of programs. I had some mental health issues during undergrad, and took an RA position for a year before applying. I cited health issues as a reason for my poor grades (< 3.0 GPA), and asked the professor I worked with during undergrad to mention this in his letter of recommendation. I don't think you have to explain your mental health issues in detail during the application process.

  • Thank you for your advice! I actually got two research opportunities (one in topological approach to machine learning, and one is pure topology). Furthermore, I also acquired three reading courses in mathematics, where one of the professors there will be my research mentor. Do graduate programs also consider what I learned from the reading courses? – MathWanderer Aug 19 '16 at 18:03
  • They definitely can take that into account. You have a lot of room to guide the committee towards the things you want them to see, by writing an effective research/personal statement. For example, you can mention something about how you learned so much in the reading courses and they inspired you to pursue a certain research topic or direction. Use your statement (and CV) to paint the picture you want the committee to see. For a lot of programs, the statement is the most important part of the application. Your research mentor can probably help you in the writing process. – what Aug 19 '16 at 18:12
  • Is it a great idea to try to identify specific topics of specific branch (i.e. dimension theory of topology) that really interests me, and express that to the committee? I heard that committee do not expect that the prospective applicants to identify their interests, but I am not sure. – MathWanderer Aug 19 '16 at 18:41
  • If you have a specific faculty member in mind who you would like to have as an advisor, and the interest aligns with theirs, then go for it. It's not necessary to identify specific topics, but as long as they are relevant to the program you're applying to it can help. Especially if you already have relevant research experience. (Again, from my personal experience, not in math). These are all good questions to discuss with your advisor once you start writing your research statement. They can probably suggest some people you may want to work with as well – what Aug 19 '16 at 18:46
  • Also, I forgot to mention that some public universities do have specific GPA cut-offs that they can't always be flexible with. Check the university websites and ask the admin staff about it if the website isn't clear (most of them are very clear on the requirements). – what Aug 19 '16 at 18:49

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