Applying to two departments

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
ScharlachRot
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:26 am

Applying to two departments

Postby ScharlachRot » Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:35 am

Hi everybody, I had a question I'd really appreciate if someone could help me with: what do you people think of applying to two PhD departments at the same university? I'm a foreigner living outside the US and I haven't found many people who could help me with this. Let me explain myself: I'll be applying to fairly competitive programs (top 20) and if I don't get to any of those I'd rather get into a different program (in Economics or Financial Engineering, since I hold a second undergrad degree in Economics -not a double major, that's not how it works here-) than do Maths at a lower-ranked university. Yes, those are my preferences and the point is not to argue about them, but to know whether it's advisable to apply to two programs at the same university... My fear is that the admissions people from the Maths department will have this information and deem that my commitment to do Maths is not that strong.

Any clues?

quinquenion
Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:34 pm

Re: Applying to two departments

Postby quinquenion » Mon Sep 29, 2014 11:39 pm

I cannot speak to the inner workings of admissions committees. However, it is not unheard of for students in my field to apply to both computer science and math departments simultaneously, as there is quite a bit of overlap. I did this, and it did not appear to hurt my applications.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should be able to articulate good, non-contradictory reasons for wanting to apply to both departments. It's unlikely that anyone will read both of your applications, except in the event that you put down the same professor of interest in both applications, but that chance is non-zero. Additionally, keep in mind that you will probably be asked at some point what other departments you've applied to. Although the two departments are unlikely to share applications*, it might look weird if you say you absolutely want to study symplectic geometry but are also applying to financial engineering programs.

*Unlikely, but not impossible. At one point, I had the off-putting experience of applying to a prestigious English university to study maths when the adcom apparently transferred my application to computational biology without telling me until the latter program sent me an acceptance letter; I chose not to attend. I've never heard of this happening in the United States though.

ScharlachRot
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Sep 29, 2014 1:26 am

Re: Applying to two departments

Postby ScharlachRot » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:50 am

Great answer, thank's a lot.
I didn't know I had to specify what other departments I'm applying to (I haven't checked the application forms in detail yet). I thought I could get away with it unnoticed hehe. Indeed, I probably will send some double applications to, say, Statistics (broadly speaking, my interests lie within probability and ergodic theory, but my interests are limited by the limited amount of time I had to read math, I would also like to learn more about dynamics in homogeneous spaces, for instance). I guess it is similar to the case of having an interest in logic, model theory or computability theory. The double application to CS makes sense there since there is an overlap of interests. However, an application to an Economics department can't be interpreted that way, they'll probably infer (somewhat correctly) that my interests are not limited to maths, and that my interest in doing math has no lexicographic priority over other variables such as prestige.

Thanks again for your answer!




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