A Guide to Applying to Math Graduate School 2 – Megumi Asada ’17

Megumi Asada ’17, a former AWM officer, wrote the following short guide to applying to graduate school in math from Williams. They are currently teaching high school math through a teaching nonprofit called Blue Engine. The following year, they will be studying math at Cambridge on a Herchel Smith Fellowship. Feel free to contact them with questions!

I’ve found that a lot of information about applying has been word-of-mouth and can often feel like privileged information among those already in math circles or those who have “an in” at prestigious graduate departments. I thought that it might be helpful to share my experience of navigating the application process as a complete beginner.

  1. Creating a list & getting motivated
  2. Preparing for & taking the exams
  3. Applying & writing applications
  4. Costs & financing
  5. Visiting grad schools

2. PREPARING FOR & TAKING THE EXAMS

 PART A: Exams are fun if you can effectively fool yourself

There are a lot of practice exams available online!  Note that the mGRE gets harder each year (-___-), so don’t count on doing as well on the current exam as you might do on the ones from the 1980s.

ETS provides a free practice booklet online.  Here is the counterpart to this booklet from 1997-1999.  Here are some old exams:

If you want a systematic review of topics, here is a GRE course by a professor at UCSB.  There is also usually a Princeton Review GRE book lying around Bronfman (I guess Bascom now?).

PART B: The not-so-exciting logistical details

 Right from the Horse’s Mouth: Test Centers and Dates: https://www.ets.org/gre/subject/register/centers_dates/

Centers near Williams:

  • RPI, Troy, NY: about an hour away
  • SUNY Albany: also about an hour away
    • NB: The location of the testing room is kind of obscure. Look for a large courtyard with a fountain in the middle. Go down the stairs to the lower level where the fountain originates and the room is in that area. If it’s your first time testing here, recommend giving yourself at least 30min extra to find the testing center.

How to get there:

  • College van: if you sign up very early in advance (read: months ahead), you can get a college van for free. Ask the math department about sponsoring this. You cannot get a college van as an individual
  • Zip Car: moderately pricey for one person; sometimes unreliable; make sure to sign up for your rental a few weeks in advance and schedule your rental so that you can check to see if there are any issues with the car. The great thing about zipcar is that car insurance is included should anything go wrong.
    • Some have had experiences with stolen keys, malfunctioning lock system, etc.
  • Borrow a friend’s car: great and cost-effective as long as you don’t get into an accident. Insurance is NOT covered should anything go wrong.

Make sure to bring:

  1. Suitable identification (driver’s license or passport, though if you are an international student you need to bring your passport)
  2. Testing details
  3. A #2 pencil for the scantron sheets (this is for the subject test and for the general paper tests; most general GRE exams are on the computer)
  4. A water bottle
  5. Snacks
  6. All relevant information and/or meds if you will receive accommodations

Disability Accommodations:

If you receive accommodations of any sort at Williams, you can get them for the GRE as well!  For a basic overview, check out ETS’s page on disability accommodations.

There is a large range of accommodations. For those with testing anxiety or chronic illness, you may request extra time (double time, time and a half, etc.) and/or testing breaks.  If the only accommodations you request are 50% extra time and/or extra breaks, you will only need to submit a form from G.L. Wallace certifying that you receive these accommodations at Williams; otherwise, you also need to provide medical documentation.

Be sure to apply for disability accommodations far in advance (i.e. potentially weeks to months in advance of the sign up deadline).  It generally takes ETS 6 weeks to process applications, and it can take longer if you need additional documentation. You’ll need to give a form to G.L. Wallace in the Office of Accessible Education. The application is entirely online. Feel free to call and haggle them if they’re taking a long time to get back to you. This may speed up the process.

Feel free to email Megumi Asada (they/them, Williams ’17) with any questions about this process.

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