Get Ready for Graduate School
Preparing for graduate school
The courses you should take to prepare for graduate school will depend on whether you are considering pure or applied mathematics or statistics. Consult your advisor for a list of which courses are most appropriate for you.
Picking a graduate school
Consult with your advisor about whether you want to go into a masters or Ph.D. program and which schools are most appropriate for you. Also use the website http://www.ams.org/employment/asst.pdf This is a list of all the graduate programs in mathematics.
Deciding between a Masters Degree and a Ph.D.
People with a Masters Degree in mathematics most often 1) go into industry and get a more interesting job than they could have with a Bachelors Degree, 2) teach at a community college or 3) continue on to a Ph.D. People with a Ph.D. in the U.S. most often become professors at Universities, but sometimes go into industry and get a very interesting job. If you are quite unsure and are willing to commit the next two, but not the next five years of your life to graduate school, then start with a Masters Degree.
Applying to graduate school
You apply to a particular department, not a university. Three important parts of every application are GRE scores (Graduate Record Exam), a personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
One way to make your personal statement stronger is to use the website MathSciNet to find out what professors are working on in the department you are applying to. (This website needs to be accessed from on campus - ask your advisor if you have trouble accessing or using it). In your personal statement, you can mention which of these topics are of interest to you and which professors you might like to work with.
For letters of recommendation, be sure to give your letter writers sufficient notice. You will often need three of these. Make sure to get to know some professors. If you sit quietly in a class, do very well and never visit the professor, then that professor will not have much to say in a letter.
For most applications to graduate programs, you are automatically eligible for teaching assistantships or fellowships (ok, maybe you have to check a box on one of the forms). It is farily common for part of the acceptance package to include one of these forms of financial aid. In either case, you will receive something in the neighborhood of $10,000-$15,000 per year. This is enough to live on, but not enough to buy a new car or travel to Europe. In either case, tuition is often waived. So in a sense, you get paid to go to graduate school in mathematics. The funding package offered is often a deciding factor for choosing a graduate program. Another (fairly competitive) fellowship is offered by the National Science Foundation. Check the website NSF fellowship for deadlines and application materials.
After being accepted
Try to visit the departments you are most interested in. Some may even help pay for your visit. Visit the faculty you would like to work with. Talk to graduate students to find out about the atmosphere for students.