irreducible wrote:1. You need letters from faculty (not DWIC letters). Get talking to your professors. Ask lots of questions in class, ask them about their research, get to know them. This will help with my second point. The unfortunate fact is that letters from PhD grads will not likely be of any use.
2. Research. Unfortunately nowadays research experience is almost a requirement. Normally if you have talked to faculty and are acquainted they will be more than happy to help you get started. Even if you're just volunteering with some calculations it still looks good. This relationship will in turn help with my first point.
My advice for finding a school is to initially ignore the rankings.
1. Make a list of 20-30 schools.
2. Look at each individual professor's website and see what her research is. Glance through the abstracts of their papers etc. Does this interest you?
3. Note each school where people are doing interesting things.
4. Now you can sort this list by ranking.
5. Apply to every school on this list plus a handful of safeties.
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