I have received a really good graduate admission offer from a reputable university in the US but without any funding offer. As I have to accept their admission offer by 15 April and since I haven’t yet received offers from some of the universities that I’ve applied to, so I wanted to know whether it is okay and legal to accept a later offer (e.g., which came after 15 April) with funding, despite having previously accepted an offer (without funding) from a university before 15 April. Thanks.

I posted a similar question at the following link yesterday; since, however, the focus of the question was different, I’m posting this question in a separate post.

It seems as if I’ll be taking the next year off and studying a lot of mathematics on my own and apply to graduate schools in the next cycle. There’s a lot of advice both on this website and Academia StackExchange for such students. However, I’d like to know how can students who have studied material outside of class better convince the admissions committee of the work they have done thus far. I know it’s generally difficult to do this as an international student; the situation must be different for U.S citizens, I suppose.

Assuming I don’t get to take courses which I’ll be self studying over the next few months, how should I go about making sure the admissions committee take due notice of the work I have done, and more importantly, they can recognize it, if not verify it completely. Of course, I will keep in touch with my math adviser. In addition, what else can I do? Say, I am studying abstract algebra on my own in the summer, working out problems in, say, Dummit and Foote’s book. Should I, perhaps, make a website (a Google site), periodically type the solutions to the work I have done and post it online, so when I apply to graduate schools, I can refer admissions committees to this portfolio of sorts.

In a nutshell, I’d like to know, especially for students who have gone through such a process/situation, of the list of best possible set of actions one can do to make sure the work one has done outside of class is duly considered, if someone who is interested in mathematics schools doesn’t have a large number of math courses.


I have an additional query: I’ll be taking next year off, but I’ll be able to visit my college. Even though I won’t be enrolled in classes, preferably with the instructor(s) who already know me, sit in their classes, work on problem, and perhaps even take exams. even though I won’t get a grade, I could ask the instructor to mention in the letter that I completed this task. She could also comment on how well I did relative to my peers. Thoughts?

I am applying for a Ph.D. position in a university. Their system required me to fill in the conferences I attended.

I published my paper on one conference although I didn’t attend it personally for some reasons. My advisor went on my behalf. However, if I denied that I had attended that conference, the system doesn’t even allow me to upload my paper. I think the paper is an important proof of my research ability.
What should I do? Should I just pretend I attended it. I don’t even think they will really check about this thing.

Most US colleges require three letters of recommendation from prospective Masters students. There are two professors that I have worked with extensively in my institute, and I am sure that they can give me excellent recommendation letters based on my research work with them. The only other professors who can recommend me are professors with whom I have not interacted with too much outside class, and may not be able to give me much more than a “He performed excellently in my courses” recommendation. I do not feel that they can add much to what the first two professors say, seeing that I performed well in their courses too.

I worked at a large software company as an intern and left a very favourable impression with my manager there. He has said that he would be willing to write me strong letters detailing my teamwork, coding ability, communication skills and ability to work with tight timelines.

I wanted to know which letter MS programs in the US would value more as a third letter – the impersonal “He is a good student” from my professor or the more personal and authentic one from my internship manager.

After I graduated university in an unrelated field, I decided I want to learn a couple of math subjects. So I’ve gathered the interned resources I could find and I studied them on my own. I’ve been doing this in order to increase my chances of being accepted to a masters program that would require these as prerequisites.

But how am I to prove in my application that I’ve been learning these subjects through self study? If it were coding, I could have provided some github projects, but regarding mathematics I find it hard to find some meaningful way to attest that you’ve covered some area unless you’ve taken a university degree in that field.

Someone I know (or maybe me) wants to audition to the instrumental music section of LaGuardia High School on tuba. Can anyone give an example of a piece of tuba music that would get a tuba player into Laguardia? (Of course this should be music playable by an 8th grader, so it would help to post a piece of music that actually got somebody accepted.)

Note: I could not find a fitting tag for this, and do not have enough reputation points to create a new one, so the the tag does not entirely match.

There are a lot of questions about admissions on this forum, including many which discuss the importance of the GRE. However, my question is a little more specific than most of them.

In short, what does it take to not get “filtered out” of graduate schools admissions, particularly in competitive engineering/STEM programs?

I have read some answers on this forum that mention that candidate profiles are divided into MAYBE/PROBABLY NOT/NOT groups, where applicants who belong on PROBABLY NOT/NOT groups may not have their applications read by faculty–which makes sense, given the hundreds of qualified candidates they can choose from. (See this and this). This practice is consistent with what I’ve heard from other professors. However, what does it take to not automatically fall into those categories?

JeffE, for instance, mentions that, in his school, candidates are/were filtered by GRE and GPA. How does this process work? Are GRE/GPA scores the only filters or are other qualifications taken into consideration during the initial triage (i.e., publications)?

For instance, I received unimpressive GRE scores (~90% Q / ~70% V / ~10% AWA, ran off-topic). Moreover, while I ranked first in my graduating class, I am an international applicant from a (top) Latin American school and the committee may not be able to interpret my GPA. While I could take the GRE again and score better, that would consume time, energy and money (getting to the nearest test center requires 10+ hours of travel as well as sleeping over), all of which could be better spent in other parts of my application. Nonetheless, I believe I have an otherwise very strong application, having various first author publications in top journals and conferences, very strong LORs, 5+ years of research experience, and regularly serving as a reviewer for a top journal in my field.

However, my concern is to be rejected in the initial triage, given that I have no idea about what would get me past it.

I graduated with a 3.61 overall GPA and a 3.68 CS Major GPA. I completed minors in Mathematics and Game Design and Development. I have not done any official research, but I did do a semester independent study with a professor conducting unofficial research on pattern recognition. I have spent the last three years creating a PC-based virtual assistant in which I had to teach myself C++, Python and the Win32 API. The project required a lot of personal research into machine learning, natural language processing, voice recognition, operating systems and more. The project placed 10th at a Consortium for Computing Sciences conference out of over 60 other projects. Currently, I am directing and teaching a major Computer Science program out of a library in a big city. I have designed a peer-reviewed curriculum individuals need to go through to obtain a job with local businesses in a related position. This past summer, I taught a lengthy college level course to high school aged youth. Through a controlled study, the youth improved an average of 60% from start to finish. I am a member of the Computer Science Teachers Association and attend their meetings in my state. I interned at a small startup company which develops a social media oriented app. I developed screens for them and worked with Neo4j to develop clustering models. Right now I am paying a machine learning professional to tutor me so I can get ahead and really grasp the material. Also, I was very active in my undergraduate program and took on Project Lead roles for long term projects as well as convinced the department by obtaining signatures to offer a machine learning elective.

I love what I do very much and want to challenge myself. I would like to get into the best graduate program I possibly can to study machine learning and conduct research in the topic. I do not have research papers under my belt though and I am having trouble with the GRE. My number one is Columbia, but I believe it would be very hard for me to get into their PhD program, but Masters may be possible. I would like to enter directly into a PhD program, but I have been thinking it may be wiser to do a thesis focused Master’s program then apply to a PhD program. Anyway, what programs should I be looking at? Can any link any noteworthy sites that would help me see where I fit in?

Thank you for the help!

TL;DR Applying for PhD and asked volunteer experience. I requested ADHD accommodations and am the first student in my alma mater to get extra time on exams. I didn’t do it solely for other people such as representing or assisting a mentally ill friend, for instance. I did it for me but expect it would be beneficial to other/future ADHD students. Could that count as volunteering?

Super long version of events:

Happy ADHD Awareness Month!


  • I’m applying for a PhD government funding in country A which asks for volunteer work as part of social responsibility or something like that.


  • In January 2016, I took my final semester of masteral studies in applied maths in country B. I had finished all but one (as the then-chair of my department pointed out twice) class, including thesis and was mostly tutoring undergrads at a nearby tutorial center.

  • Still, I exercised my rights and appealed just in case (turns out useful for GRE). This was for extra time on exams (besides other accommodations) based on my ADHD that I discovered I had in August 2015, after 15 and a half years lack of treatment after my apparently having been diagnosed.

  • I had no idea about disability offices or whatever. Apparently I had asked about it on stackexchange but forgot about it. Then for certain reasons (privacy likely but might be forgetting something), I asked elsewhere instead of stackexchange about this.

  • I told my professor about my ADHD who suggested #2 in appeals below who referred me to #3 then #4, who surprisingly brought in #5 to the discussion. (Good to know #5 remembers I’m from country A (then again I’m the only in class who doesn’t speak the language of country B) and #4 has a relative in country A.)

  • Result: I was denied extra time for my first exam.

  • (more details in revision history)

  • I went back to #2 and #3 below: They knew about disability offices but didn’t tell me because of I guess strong arming or whatever was that term from House of Cards (not a political guy, but I guess I soon will/should be if I were to become a PhD student). (Also #3 said ADHD isn’t a mental illness despite #3’s son having ADHD. I suspect #3 has ADHD as well.)

  • Result: I was granted extra time on my second and third exams.

  • (more details in revision history)

  • Thus I was able to show my newfound empathy to my university as it had shown empathy to me throughout the course of my graduate studies.

  • Thus, I was able to contribute to neurodiversity, understanding, empathy, mental health stigma reduction and the development of the disability office: This may be the first country B disability office.

For the events above, I appealed to (in order):

  1. my (one) class (left) professor,
  2. the head of the university counselling/guidance office,
  3. the head (and only member of) the (not yet set up) disability office,
  4. the dean of the graduate students,
  5. the chair of my department,
  6. the former dean of student services (and then dean of something else)
  7. the dean of sciences
  8. the soon to be old vice president (ended after my graduation) in person and impromptu with mediation from #4
  9. the new vice president (starting after my graduation) by email

    • (more details in revision history)

(Near) Future:

One university I’m applying requests a diversity essay.

Is it bad/unprofessional or something, besides redundant, to put these events in both volunteer work and (neurodiversity) essay?

Ignore if this doesn’t count as volunteer work in the first place.