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Prospective Ph.D. Student FAQs

Q: What questions can the department help me answer?

A: Check with the graduate program for questions about:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • The application requirements, including deadlines (see below)
  • Status of your application’s review 
    • All decisions will be made by April 15th
  • All decisions will be sent to the e-mail address listed on your application
    • Please notify the department of e-mail address changes and update your Wolverine Access profile. 
  • The department is open M-F from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm 

The Department of Statistics and the Rackham Graduate School will be closed during dates listed below. During this time, there will be no response to email messages or phone calls. We will respond to communications in the order they were received when we return to the office. 

Thursday November 28

Friday, November 29

Wednesday , December 25 through Wednesday, January 1

Q: What questions can Rackham help with with? 

A: Rackham Admissions can help with questions about:

Q: For what terms are students admitted to the Department of Statistics?
A: Ph.D. students are admitted for Fall only.

Q: May I complete a paper application?
A: All applications must be submitted online.

Q: What is the deadline to apply for admission?
A: The deadline for admission is December 31st. For more information, see the Application page.

Q: Can the application fee be waived?
A: In some circumstances, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver from Rackham; see details here. Additionally, a limited number of fee waivers are available from LSA for US citizens or permanent residents who meet RMF eligibility criteria. If you believe you qualify for this waiver, please email at least 10 business days before December 1. Note that receipt of an application fee waiver will not have an effect on an admissions decision.

Q: What if I submitted all my materials but one of my recommenders did not submit their letter by December 31st?

A: The system will still accept letters of recommendation after December 31st, and if your application is complete apart from the letters, we will still consider it. However, if there are missing letters at the time your application is reviewed by the committee, it will reduce your chances for admission. Please make every effort to have your recommenders send their letters on time.  

Q: Is there a minimum GPA or GRE score required to apply?
A: No. All applications are reviewed and evaluated relative to other applications submitted in the same year. Applicants with relatively low GPAs may be admitted based on other factors (e.g. GRE scores, research accomplishments, etc.). Also, grades in relevant courses (math, stats, computer science, etc.) are much more relevant than the overall GPA. Conversely, applicants with low GREs may be admitted based on other factors. No single measure plays a deciding role in the admissions process.

Q: What are the average GRE scores for PhD applicants?
A: We do not keep track of GRE averages.

Q: How long are GRE scores valid?
A: GRE scores are valid for 5 years.

Q: Do you require both General GRE scores and the Advanced Math Subject score?
A: Only General GRE scores are required. The Advanced Math Subject score is not required.

Q: Do I need to take the TOEFL?
A: Non-native speakers of English have to take the TOEFL or IELTS unless English was the official language of instruction at the institution where they received their undergraduate degree. Applicants can qualify for an exemption from taking an English proficiency examination if one of the following criteria are met:

  • You are a native speaker of English.
  • You completed all of your undergraduate education and earned an undergraduate degree at an institution where the language of instruction is English only.
  • You completed all of your graduate education and earned a graduate degree at an institution where the language of instruction is English only. If you completed a Master’s degree that was strictly research and no academic classes, that degree does not meet the exemption. This type of Master’s degree is generally awarded at a non-U.S. institution.
  • You are a current U-M student.

For more information, see the Rackham English Proficiency Requirements on the Rackham website.

Q: How long are TOEFL scores valid?

A: TOEFL scores are valid for 2 years. We accept TOEFL scores expiring in late fall or early winter as long as the official report from ETS is received before the deadline.

Q: What is the minimum TOEFL score required?
A: The minimum TOEFL total score required is 84 on the Internet based test.

For more information, see the Rackham English Proficiency Requirements on the Rackham website.

Q: Do I send any documents to the Department of Statistics during the application process?

A: No. All documents should be included in your online application. Instructions for submitting transcripts either electronically (preferred) or via mail can be found here. Electronic submission of letters of recommendation is strongly preferred, and instructions for submission can be found here.

Q: Do I need to submit official or unofficial transcripts at the time of application?

A: Applicants should submit official transcripts to Rackham Graduate School at the time of application. Instructions for submitting transcripts either electronically or via mail can be found here.

Q: Do all admitted Ph.D. students receive funding?
A: Yes. We offer guaranteed financial support for 5 years in the Ph.D. program to all admitted Ph.D. students, provided they remain in good standing. The financial support comes in the form of Graduate Student Instructorships (GSI), Graduate Student Research Assistantships (GSRA), and fellowships. All forms of support include a stipend, a tuition waiver, and benefits. First year students are typically supported by GSIships and fellowships.

Q: Do I need to fill out a separate application to be considered for funding?
A: No. All Ph.D. applicants are automatically considered for funding.  

Q: Must all of the letters of recommendations be academic?
A: No, but the majority should be academic. All recommendations should address your ability and potential for Ph.D. studies in statistics.

Q: Do I need to specify the faculty member I want to work with for my Ph.D. in my application?
A: No. Typically, students do not need to choose their thesis advisor until their second year in the program.

Q: On average, how many students apply and are admitted to the Ph.D. program?

A: The number of students admitted to the Ph.D. program varies from year to year. In recent years, on average, we have received about 350 to 400 applications a year, made about 30-40 offers of admission, and enrolled entering classes of about 12-15.

Q: What is the percentage of international students in the Ph.D. program?

A: It varies from year to year, and averages out to about 60–70%.  

Q: What academic background do the students in the Ph.D. program come from?
A: The majority of our Ph.D. students come from mathematics, statistics, electrical engineering, and computer science majors, but some also come from economics, sociology, and marketing. Most Ph.D. students enroll immediately after completing their undergraduate or Master’s degree, but we also have some students who return to school after a few years of working in industry.

Q: What are the prerequisites needed to apply to the program?
A: As a general rule, a good background in calculus and linear algebra and some courses in probability and statistics are the prerequisites. A course in real analysis is also very useful, as are good computing skills. However, we evaluate each application from all angles and strengths in a particular area can compensate for lack of preparation in others. Students also have the opportunity to take some prerequisites in their first year of study if they did not take them as undergraduates.

Q: How many years does it take to complete the Ph.D. program?
A: Most students take 5 years to complete their Ph.D., although it is possible to do it in 4 years.

Q: What do the graduates of the Ph.D. program do after they graduate?
A: About half of our graduates go on to tenure-track faculty positions in peer institutions, many immediately after graduation and some after postdocs. In recent years, we have had students go on to jobs at Harvard, University of Washington, Columbia, University of Minnesota, Purdue,  North Carolina State, UC Berkeley, Cornell University, UC Davis, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and other well established universities both in and outside the U.S.. Other Ph.D. graduates go on to jobs in research labs, government, and industry, particularly in finance and technology companies.