Graduate Program: Frequently Asked Questions
This page contains answers to questions commonly asked by current and future
ETSU math graduate students. The questions and answers are broken into the
- Financial Aid
- Thesis and
- What background do I need for admission to the Math Department's
The only formal requirements are: (1) a bachelor's
degree in mathematics or in a related area, with (2) an undergraduate grade
point average of 2.5 or better (on a four point scale) for domestic applicants and 3.0 or better for international applicants, (3) 3 letters of
recommendation, and (4) general GRE scores. From a practical point of view,
you should have taken classes in calculus, linear algebra, differential
equations, and proof techniques. An exposure to Real
Analysis is also desirable. If you lack some of this background, then you may
be "conditionally admitted" into our program. You would then be required to
take appropriate remedial classes. In fact, you can take Introduction to
Modern Algebra (MATH 4127/5127) and Analysis (MATH 4217/5217 and 4227/5227)
for graduate credit.
- Do I have to take any standardized tests?
Yes. Effective Fall
2003, you must take the general part of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
However, you don't have to take the subject test. International students must
take the TOEFL test (unless their native language is English) see FAQs for
international students below.
- In addition to the graduate application and GRE scores, what else must
I submit for admission?
The application fee is $35 for domestic
students and $45 (U.S. currency) for international students. In addition, if
you want to be considered for financial assistance, then you need to submit an
Application for Graduate Assistantship (see Financial Aid FAQs). The
Graduate School also requires (1) two official transcripts of all previous
undergraduate and graduate work, except previous coursework taken at ETSU and
(2) a personal essay addressing your areas of interest in graduate school,
especially your proposed field of study, abilities or strengths you bring to
the program, and your career objectives. You also need to submit three letters
- What is "conditional admission?"
Often times, an applicant may
not have sufficient mathematical background to begin graduate study. In this
situation, the applicant is "conditionally admitted" and required to make up
the background work as soon as possible. The most common reason for
conditional admission is an insufficient background in real analysis (you need
the equivalent of our Analysis 1 and 2 classes - MATH 4217/5215 and
FINANCIAL AID AND ASSISTANTSHIPS
- How many hours must I take? How many hours of thesis?
of 30 semester hours of credit is required for a degree. No less than 3 credit
hours nor more than 6 credit hours of Thesis (MATH 5960) may be applied to the
30 hour total (see the Graduate Catalog for details).
- Are there required "core courses?"
Yes! You must take Real
Analysis 1 (MATH 5210) and either Modern Algebra 1 (MATH 5410) or Statistical Methods I (STAT 5710). You
must take at least one two-course sequence (see the Graduate Catalog for
- Is there any sort of "entrance exam?"
Yes, in a sense. You are
required to pass two comprehensive exams: one in calculus and one in linear
algebra. The purpose of these exams is to force you to review undergraduate
material so that the material is fresh in your mind. In this way, graduate
classes based on this background (such as analysis, applied math, and
statistics) can go more smoothly. These exams are each offered twice every
Fall and Spring semester and once during Summer. You should take these exams
as soon as possible (preferably during your first semester). You must take at
least one exam each time they are offered (during the Fall and Spring) until
you have passed both exams. A grade of B or better (83% or better) is required
to pass. It is important that you pass these exams early on, since you may not
register for Thesis (MATH 5960) until you have passed both tests. For sample
tests and study guides, see here.
- The graduate catalog lists "co-listed" and "graduate only" classes.
What is the difference and may I take classes from both of these
Classes co-listed may be taken by both undergraduates and
graduates - they are numbered 4xy7/5xy7. Graduates and undergraduates sit in
the same class, but graduate students have additional requirements beyond that
of the undergraduates (to be determined by the instructor). You may count up
to 9 hours of these cross listed classes towards the required 30 hours for
your master's degree. You may take more than 9 hours of cross listed classes
(and you may have to if you need to do more remediation), but only 9 hours
- What are the classes "Supervised Teaching," "Supervised Research," and
The classes "Supervised Teaching" (MATH
5019), "Supervised Research" (MATH 5029), and "Supervised Administration"
(MATH 5039) are 1 credit hour classes intended for math graduate students on
assistantships (who are expected to take one of these per semester). In
particular, students preparing for teaching associate positions during their
second year of graduate school, should register for Supervised Teaching (MATH
5019). These classes do not count towards the 30 hours of required
credit for the master's degree. These classes are required by those on assistantship or scholarship (see the Graduate Assistant/Tuition Scholar Handbook, Section II.A.1).
- What types of financial assistance are available?
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics offers tuition scholarships and several types of assistantships. The stipend for the assistantships range from $7,200 to $9,000 for an acedemic year. There are four 12-month assistantships which pay $10,250. Tuition scholarships and assistantships come with a ttuion waiver for the period of the scholarship/assistantship.
Tuition Scholarships are available to first semester graduate students only
(but may be renewed), cover tuition, and require the student to work 8 hours
per week. Teaching Assistants are required to work 20 hours per week.
Graduate Assistants who have successfully completed 18 hours of graduate study may have the opportunity to teach their own class.
Contact the gradaute coordinator for more details on available positions.
- What are the requirements to keep a scholarship or assistantship?
Students must register for at least 9 hours per Fall and Spring semester,
and 3 hours per supported summer term. Students on Math Department support
must not be employed elsewhere on campus, unless special permission is given.
A minimum grade point average of 3.00 must be maintained. You must also register for the 1 hour class Supervised Teaching (MATH 5019) in order to keep your assistantship (this is a rule of the School of Graduate Studies - the class does not count towards the required 30 hours for the degree). This requirement is described in the Graduate Assistant/Tuition Scholar Handbook (see Section II.A.1).
- How do I apply for an assistantship or tuition scholarship?
you fill out a paper application for the Graduate School, then check the
appropriate box(es) "Tuition Scholarship" and "Graduate Assistantship" at the
upper right hand corner of the form. Fill out an Application for Graduate
Assistantship form (available here) and mail
or FAX (423-439-8361) it to the Math Graduate Coordinator.
- What other fees am I responsible for?
As a holder of an
assistantship or a tuition scholarship, you are responsible for debt service,
a post office box fee, technology fee, and Student Government Association
(SGA) fees. These fees total around $700 (based on spring 2015). For the latest numbers, see Graduate fees website.
You also must pay for your books and related supplies.
- How long may I hold an assistantship?
The standard length of
time a student may hold an assistantship is 2 years. Under extraordinary
conditions, an assistantship may be renewed for one semester beyond the two
- As a recipient of financial aid, how am I evaluated?
At the end
of each academic year, the Math Graduate Coordinator will fill out a
Graduate Assistant/Tuition Scholarship Performance Appraisal form (a
copy is available
here). The coordinator may elicit input from other department members (such as the CFAA Director and the Department Chair) when filling out these forms.
- When is payday?
Assuming all paperwork is processed on time
(usually by the 10th day of the first month of work), assistantship paychecks
are distributed on the last working day of the month. A Fall
semester assistantship will pay 4 paychecks, one for each of the months
September, October, November, and December. A Spring semester assistantship
will pay 4 paychecks, one for each of the months January, February, March, and
April. (NOTICE that this a NEW policy which started during academic
- What forms does a graduate assistant need to complete in order to be
processed for payroll?
Domestic students must submit: a current ETSU
Employment Application, an I-9 form with copies of your social security card,
a W-4 card, and an approved graduate assistant contract. International
students must complete these forms along with: an international
employee/student tax status questionnaire, a copy of a current foreign
passport, employment authorization forms (I-20 and I-94), and any applicable
tax treaties and statements. These forms are available in the Human Resources office and online here. International
students should contact the International Student Advisor, Maria Costa
(e-mail: email@example.com) of the Office of International Programs
- Can I get my paychecks directly deposited into my bank account?
Yes - in fact, effective January 1, 1998 direct deposit must be
used by all newly hired employees and re-appointments except for students and
temporaries. This includes regular full-time, regular part-time, adjuncts,
graduate assistants and residents. An Authorization for Direct Deposit of
Pay form can be obtained from the Payroll Office.
- How many hours must I register for to keep my financial support?
You must register for at least 9 graduate hours per Fall and Spring
semester. If you are on summer support, then you must register for 3 hours per
summer term. The exception to this rule is that if you are in your last (Fall
or Spring) semester, then you may register for only 6 hours, provided that you
have filed an Intent to Graduate form (available on the web here).
- If I am a non-math graduate student, am I still
eligible for a math graduate assistantship or tuition scholarship?
Yes! However, you must realize that the priority of the Math Department is
to fund and assist math graduate students. After this has been done, and if
there are still positions, then you may be considered for such a position.
Even then, though, you will be expected to have the ability to tutor
introductory statistics and freshman level calculus. As a consequence,
non-math graduate students will not be considered for scholarships or
assistantships until the very last minute.
THESIS AND GRADUATION
- As an International student, what paperwork must I do and who should I
contact for help with this?
You must have a passport and visa. These
are obtained from your government and the U.S. embassy in your country
(respectively). Maria Costa (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the ETSU Office of International Programs
can help you with additional paperwork, such as the I-20.
If you are on an assistantship or scholarship, then there are several forms which you must complete before you can start working. A checklist detailing the specific forms is avialable online.
- As an international student, what is the deadline for my application
As stated in the ETSU Graduate Catalog: "International student application materials should be
received by: May 1 - fall semester; October 1 - spring semester; February 1 -
summer session. The School of Graduate Studies must be notified of any change
in the entering date after admission has been granted... International
students admitted to graduate study are encouraged to arrive on campus two
weeks prior to the beginning of classes and should contact the Office of
International Programs as soon as they arrive."
- What tests on the English language must I take?
You must take
the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and score 550 or better on
the paper version, or 213 or better on the computer-based version. Once in our
program, you must take the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) during the first
two weeks of classes of your first term. Contact Dr. Yousif Elhindi (e-mail:email@example.com, phone 423-439-5992) of
the ETSU English Department for
details on taking the test.
- How does my performance on the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) affect
my assistantship duties?
The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is a
test of assessment developed by the American Council on the Teaching of
Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Your performance on the OPI will determine the
level at which you may interact with ETSU students in fulfilling your
assistantship duties. You may have (1) "High Contact" in which you are solely
responsible for teaching a class, (2) "Medium Contact" in which you may run
study sessions, teach labs, or tutor, and (3) "Low Contact" in which your
duties will involve assisting an instructor with paperwork or research, or
working in a computer lab. The category of contact is determined from you OPI
score as follows:
Superior or Advanced-High
Advanced or Intermediate-High
Intermediate and Below|
- From which countries have you had international students in your
The ETSU math masters program has had students
from China, India, Vietnam, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nepal, Ukraine, Jamaica, Canada, South Africa, and Bangladesh.
- As an international student, are there any insurance requirements?
Quoting from the ETSU Graduate Catalog: "All international students are required to have acceptable
insurance coverage against illness and accidents. The health and accident
insurance must be maintained throughout the student's enrollment at ETSU." All
international students must purchase the health insurance at ETSU, unless they
have a scholarship that purchases health insurance for them. Information
regarding health insurance is sent with the I-20 and it is recommended that
you do not purchase coverage at home, unless you are certain that ETSU can
accept it. For details, see the ETSU Health Insruance webpage.
- As an international student, must I have some demonstrated financial
Documented evidence of financial resources sufficient to support the student is required. The amount as of 2015 is around $40,000 U.S. For detials, see the International Programs'
estimated expenses webpage.
Financial documentation may include any documentation of tuition scholarship, graduate assistantship,
personal funds, etc.
This webpage is maintained by Bob Gardner (firstname.lastname@example.org). Last updated:
August 29, 2015.
- What steps must I follow to graduate and what forms must I
A checklist of steps are contained in the Checklist for
Math Graduate Students available on the web in PDF form here. The
general steps are:
- Pass "Calculus Comprehensive Exam" (for a study guide and sample tests,
- Pass "Linear Algebra Comprehensive Exam" (for a study guide and sample
tests, go here).
- File "Program of Study" form with Graduate Coordinator (should be done
on or before completion of 12 hours), available here.
- Pass Analysis I (MATH 5210).
- Pass Algebra I (MATH 5410) or Statistical Methods I (STAT 5710).
- Take an approved sequence.
- File the "Appointment of an Advisory Committee'' form (in your 3rd
semester), available here.
- File "Preliminary Thesis Presentation" form with Graduate Coordinator,
- File "Application for Candidacy" form with Graduate School with a copy
to the Graduate Coordinator, available here
- File "Notice of Intention to Graduate" form with Graduate School with a
copy to the Graduate Coordinator, available here.
- File "Memorandum of Oral Defense" form with Graduate School with a copy
to the Graduate Coordinator, available here.
- File "Results of Examination - Thesis Defense" form with Graduate
School, with a copy to the Graduate Coordinator, available here.
- Deal with the creation of an electronic version of your thesis.
- Must I write a thesis? Traditionally, how long is a math thesis? Must
the thesis contain original research results?
Every successful Math
Department masters student must write a thesis! The non-thesis masters degree
was eliminated in the early 1990's. The length of the thesis is not as
important as the content of it. Theses with original research results tend to
be shorter (say 25-40 pages). However, not all theses contain original
research. Students sometimes survey a particular research problem without
contributing new results. These types of theses tend to be somewhat longer
(say 40-60 pages). The topic, content, and length of the thesis are up to the
student, the thesis advisor, and the thesis committee.
- When should I submit a program of study?
From a practical point
of view, it is a good idea to talk with the Math Graduate Coordinator and
prepare a "pencilled in" version of the Program of Study during your second
semester. By your third semester, you should have your Program of Study pretty
much finalized. The scheduling of classes, though not set in stone, is layed
out according to the plan described in the ETSU Math Department Class
Offerings, Even and Odd Years document (available in PDF form here) - this
schedule should be helpful in planning for future classes to take.
- Which classes should I list on my Program of Study?
of Study is only for the coursework you wish to use to fulfill the
requirements of the program. You may take as many classes as you like, but the
Program of Study should only include a list of 30 hours.
- When should I select a thesis advisor and committee?
beginning of your graduate studies, you should be thinking about which classes
appeal to you most and which area you would like to explore in your thesis.
Your area of interest will determine who should be on your thesis committee (a
list of math faculty and research interests is available here). By the beginning of
your third semester, you should have some idea of the area in which you want
to do your thesis work. During (or before) your third semester, you should
file your Program of Study and Thesis Committee forms (copies in PDF form are
available on the web: Program of
Study and Committee).
In order to finish in the preferred two year time frame, you must have your
thesis well under way during your fourth semester (the deadline for defending
the thesis is around November 1 for Fall and March 20 for Spring).
- Must my committee consist exclusively of Math Department members?
No. Your committee must consist of members of the graduate faculty, but
they may be from other departments. Your committee should include members of
the Math Department and your thesis advisor should be a member of the Math
Department (although previous students have had two "cochairs" of their thesis
committee, one of which was not a member of the Math Department).
- How many people should serve on my thesis committee?
have at least three graduate faculty members on your committee (a chair and
two members) - this is the most common situation. You may have four members,
but more than four members is uncommon.
- Can I change my thesis committee?
Yes, if there is a good
reason (such as unavailability of a committee member), then you may change
your committee by filing a Application for Change in Graduate Advisory
Committee form (available in PDF form here).
- Once I have chosen a thesis topic with my advisor, do I just start on
Not exactly. You need to meet with your thesis committee
and give a preliminary presentation of your thesis topic. In this way, the
committee knows what you are working on and can critique the topic before you
get too involved in the work. After the preliminary presentation, you should
complete a Preliminary Presentation form (available in PDF form at here) and
submit it to the Math Graduate Coordinator.
- If I fail to finish my work the term listed on my "Intent to Graduate"
form, then what paperwork must I do?
You should contact the School of
Graduate Studies and tell them that you will not be graduating on the
predicted time, and you need to file an updated "Intent to Graduate" form.
- Do I have to register for classes if I have completed the required
hours, but have not finished the thesis?
Yes. You should register for
Readings and Research (MATH 5990) until you have finished (you MUST be
registered the term you graduate). MATH 5990 cannot be counted towards the 30
required hours, though.
- What word processing software should I use to write my thesis?
There is no required software package, but you are strongly, STRONGLY,
STRONGLY (get it?) encouraged to use the software package
LaTeX. This is the "industry standard" for typesetting mathematics - it is
used by textbook publishers, research journals, and mathematicians worldwide.
Though a bit different from other typesetting software (such as Word and
WordPerfect), it is much less frustrating and much more efficient to use in
typesetting mathematical symbols and formulae.
- If I use LaTeX, can I easily conform to the Graduate School's required
Absolutely! A sample LaTeX thesis file is available for
downloaded (complements of Jason Lachniet, ETSU Math masters graduate, 2007):
You may download this file and edit it as you like. In fact, once you have
learned LaTeX syntax and typed your chapters, your thesis becomes a "fill in
the blank" task! Just paste your chapters in the sample file, insert committee
member names and a few other details, and LaTeX will do the rest! You also
need the etsu_thesis.cls.txt
file. Download it and save it as "etsu_thesis.cls" (DON'T OMIT THIS STEP!!!)
in the same directory as the template file.
- Once my thesis is in LaTeX (or other typesetting software) and is
approved by my committee, am I finished?
No! Your thesis must be
converted into PDF format and approved by the Graduate School. A checklist of
steps to Graduate School approval is available here.
If your thesis is in LaTeX form, then it is easily converted to PDF form.