Graduating students, perhaps applying for graduate school
Informal Advice
 

last edit Jan 30, 2014


Some informal advice if you are graduating this year or next year. Much of this material was presented at an information meeting Tuesday, April 3, 2012.

Are you graduating? Please fill in your intent to graduate forms. You don't want to be told in your final term that you are missing a course for graduation. You may wish to have your picture taken for those collections of photos on the hallway in the Mathematics Building. You may wish to attend the graduation ceremonies (or your parents will ask you to attend!) but remember to fill in the various applications.

A Mathematics degree is a kind of liberal arts degree. You will have developed transferable skills but not had much job training.
Some of you will go directely to work. Some will consider professional training, perhaps an Education degree or a professional masters, the kind of masters that directly prepares you for a job. I'm thinking of a Masters in Statistics, Finance, Operations Research etc. These are fields where a professional masters provides the training/education you need. Some of you will consider a research graduate degree (Masters or Ph.D.) and for that I suggest the alternate webpage for that purpose.

Letter writers (in general)

Many applications to schools (including Teacher Education) will require reference letters. Typically 3 letters. Choosing letter writers is a challenge but also remember that you need to give them time and information to compose a letter for you . You should be handing your letter writers a statement of purpose and/or resume, a transcript (unofficial is fine) and arrange to talk with them. Creating lists of information and deadlines for them (and addressed stamped envelopes if appropriate) is helpful even in the new world where most letters are submitted online. You may wish to send reminders of important due dates or have some way to keep track of letters they have entered on your behalf.
Choosing writers: They should know you in some nontrivial way (instructor of courses in which you did well; someone you have worked with outside of courses would be best) and able to write about skills required for what you are applying. Of course Hard work, diligence, smarts are all skills to be commented on. Some of your potential letter writers may not know you that well so that is why you help them with supplementary information as well as visiting them and talking to them in person. The reputation of the letter writer (typically the research reputation but could be whether the writer is known to the school you are applying to) would be important in graduate school applications. The comments in the letter are crucial for many graduate school applications.

Direct to work. I currently don't have a lot of information abour direct to work options. The quantitative skills you possess may be helpful in your new job. For example, students have gone directly into the financial industry.

For professional training there are a number of options.
  • I first think of teaching. Go to the UBC website:
    UBC Teacher Education and obtaining admssion information including
    worksheets to determine prerequisites for Secondary Mathematics specialty. These links change from year to year so you may have to search for the current information.
    Richard Anstee (anstee@math.ubc.ca) is the current Mathematics advisor for Education. Comments from a Math student in the B.Ed. program in 2012. The current job market remains very slow and some graduates have had success finding employment in other provinces or overseas.


  • There are many other professional training avenues that Math students have taken. I am always surprised at the diversity. Students have gone to a masters in Statistics, Operations Research, Economics, Finance, Financial Mathematics, accountancy. They vary as to their requirements. You should check up on these programs and get UBC specific advice about what courses would be useful. If you can handle it, MATH 320 would be great for Finance or Economics and is often a requirement for Financial Mathematics. Below are some comments from students on their experiences. Think of adding your comments based on your experiences.

  • The accountancy program has one new designation CPA-Chartered Professional Accountant which replaces the two designations CMA-Certified Managemenat Accountant and CA-Chartered Accountant. The website CPA information may be useful.


  • Operations Research is offered in many ways including research oriented programs or more professional masters. At UBC, the Sauder School offers a MM in OR (Masters of Management in Operations Research) through the Centre for Operations Excellence. The following site provides an introduction Operations Research and COE . Some UBC Mathematics students have taken this route and one offers some comments: Comments from a student who took MMOR from Centre for Operations Excellence in 2013.

  • Comments from a student taking Minor in Honours Mathematics within an Engineering Degree in 2012.
  • Comments from a Math student exploring options in Actuarial Science in 2012 It was noted that there are some jobs for actuarial students in Game Balancing, the actuarial problems of virtual lives within a game. A variety of Mathematical competenies are needed in Game Mechanics.
  • Comments from a Math student on applying to Law School in 2011
  • Comments from a Math student on applying to UBC Medical School in 2011
  • Comments from a Math student who came back to UBC for a BCS (Bachelor of Computer Science) second degree wriiten in 2011
  • How to become an (financial) analyst at a big bank in a big city written in 2008 by David Klppenstein.

    Personal statement/CV

    I am struck by Farzin Barekat's advice to prepare the personal statement early then think about it and edit it over time. Also adapt it to the University you are applying to.
    Try to get advice (and perhaps assistance in editing) about your personal statement.
    A boastful tone doesn't appeal to me but make sure you have discussed all your skills in a positive way. For example if you have presented a talk in some seminar you might mention that in passing. If you have a hobby where you have some significant accomplishments then it is wise to mention it. Your file makes you look more human and interesting. Moreover if the file shows that you are driven/hardworking then, because this is quite an important attribute for a graduate student, your file may be taken more seriously.

    Advice for those pursuing Research Graduate degrees.

    For a research degree in Mathematics you probably should have prepared for this through an Honours degree. MATH 320 is a useful barometer of your preparedness. This may sound harsh but research in Mathematics is challenging. A majors degree without a few successful honours courses is not going to be sufficient. We have discussed other career options above. There are levels of graduate schools but I would imagine at least 85% would be required for UBC (75% is the minimum for admission to graduate school but there is competition) but 80% with good letters should be plenty for some schools. Since typically research graduate students are financially supported by the supervisor/University, the supervisors/schools do not wish to take risks.
  • I prepared a separate webpage: Informal advice for those pursuing Mathematics research website
  • with more information.
  • Presentation by Kevin Luk at grad session March 29, 2011 power point presentation outlining this information in student language.

    Best wishes Richard Anstee

    anstee@math.ubc.ca