Presently I'm employed as an analyst at a consulting firm and have completed all of the exams for my first set of actuarial credentials. I've pubhlished product (e.g. reinsurance contract) pricing software and some other tools/reports (both internal and external), and I've been an official mentee to other employees - granted, under the company name. However, I'm looking to get back into 'real' (pure) math and I'm having a bit of trouble gauging the prospects of actually landing a spot in a phd program OR if I have any prospect, how to best leverage my somewhat unconventional story.
Some background follows if you're interested or you think it will help tailor your response, but generally, any words from someone a little closer to the academic side is appreciated. Thanks in advance.
My undergad performance was fairly strong (cum laude, merit in math, etc.) and while working full time, but my school is unheard-of and I've been out of it for a while. I've been able to nail down one strong rec from a previous professor and I'm pulling another from a consultant (with a masters and credentials, but no phd) from my employer. The third rec will likely be worthless (e.g. "yeah, I think I remember him getting an 'A' in some course I taught"). I have yet to take the subject test, but I'm guessing (if the practice tests are any guide) I'll be at a less-than-stellar 70-75ish% range.
My aim is to apply to about ten schools, a couple of highly rated public ones, and a host of ones that tend to be rated (by US News) around the 60-100 ranks for math phd programs. While I know that's less applicable given my specific interests, etc, I'm simply providing ranks as a very rough benchmark. In talking to my previous prof, I had the feeling I might aiming too high...
Thanks again to any of you that took the time to consider a response.
Also, here's a word from a program I contacted about applying to - very positive:
Thank you for your message and interest in applying to our graduate program again. Our program received over 400 applications this past year and admitted 16 students. As you can see, the competition is keen. We are looking for students who show potential to study advanced mathematics and consider a number of criteria when reviewing applications and considering offers. Many of our applicants do well on the GRE, have excellent letters of recommendation, have done well in advanced mathematics courses and write a convincing letter of support. The selection process is difficult, as many very well qualified students are denied admission. To highlight your potential, you should submit the necessary materials and write a compelling letter of intent.
I would strongly encourage you to look at other graduate programs as well. There are a number of great programs out there. The key is finding one that aligns well with your interests and goals and is able to admit you.