I am starting a 1-year masters course in pure math this academic year in a UK university and afterwards I would like to apply for PhD in US. I am considering two options:
1)Applying this year for Fall 2012 entry.
2)Taking a gap year and applying next year for Fall 2013 entry.
I am inclined towards two for 2 reasons:
1)I have taken the math GRE and did not do all too well (scaled 730, percentile ~70) so I would like to take it again. I would not like to take it in November as I do not want it to interfere with my studying but then there are no seats available for October testing in the UK (checked 1-2 weeks ago)!! I guess I could take a plane to my country (there are seats here and ticket is not too expensive) but it seems like too big a hussle.
2)My undergraduate institution is really small and unknown and I think that I could get better LORs from the grad institution which is well-known and recognised (subject to satisfactory performance of course). The problem is though that there are no formal exams until May so getting LORs from there before then will be difficult.
I also applied last year to US universities but things went downhill. So considering 2, basically the only thing that could change in my application this year could be the enrollment in the masters course along with a possibly better math GRE score.
On the other hand, I am thinking that if I wait a year and supposing I get good results in my masters, it could help my application a lot. Plus I would probably have some better LORs in hand.
However, I am thinking that maybe a gap year is looked upon negatively by admissions committees. Is this true? Does anyone know what the admissions committees think of gap years?
And if I do take it, should I be prepared to explain what I did during it in my SoP? Should this "something I did during it" be math-related or can go to the military for 1 year (it is compulsory in my country and at one point or another I will have to go to the army for 1 year)?
Sorry for the long post and all the questions.
Any help is greatly appreciated.