Statistics graduate school advice

19 Oct 2016

It’s that time of year again, the time where I find myself meeting with students thinking about graduate school in statistics. Since I often end up sending people the same things, I figured I’d pull them together into a blog post. You probably already know about the grad cafe, the professor is in, and PhD comics. These other links might not be as common.

One of my favorite PhD comics

Q: What is grad school in statistics like?

A: Here are some resources to help you get a taste:

Q: Where should I go for grad school?

A: Wherever seems like a good fit!

I really think statistics is such an in-demand field that you can get a job with a degree from virtually any school. These show my personal research interests and biases, but a couple of my favorite programs to recommend to students are:

Fun fact I recently learned– Iowa State was the first US university with a department of statistics, and Johns Hopkins the first (in the world?) to offer biostatistics!

Q: How do I get in to grad school?

A: You need lots of things to be a strong candidate, including:

  • good (but not necessarily perfect) grades
  • a decent GRE score (particularly on the quantitative section of the regular GRE)
  • a compelling story in your personal statement (email me if you want to read mine, I don’t feel like posting it on the web)
  • solid letters of recommendation, particularly from faculty members who know you well from a variety of contexts, like class, research, etc.
  • I also always recommend reaching out to people from the program you are applying to, whether current grad students, alumni, or professors to get a better sense of a program and whether you would be a good fit. Female Science Professor has a great post about what to say (and not to say) in an email to a professor.

Q: How do I succeed in grad school?

A: I recommend the following:

Q: How can I learn more?

A: I recommend getting involved in some online communities.

  • There is a ton of activity in statistics and data science on twitter. Most of the faculty and students I mentioned above have twitter accounts (some linked above, the others easy to find), and if you are into R you can get a taste by looking at the #rstats and #tidyverse hashtags.
  • Roger Peng and Jeff Leek (mentioned above) and Rafa Irizarry have a blog called Simply Statistics with all sorts of interesting statistics discussions.
  • Hilary Parker and Roger Peng (mentioned above) have a podcast called Not so standard devations, available on SoundCloud, iTunes, and many more podcast distributors.

What did I miss? What are other questions you have?