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Well, it is amazing to find some of the greatest figures of mathematics at MO (including Field medalists) and even more startling is the fact that they have put queries too. So, I was left wondering if I can get an improved chance of internship or admission to graduate school through some contribution to such questions asked by them. OK, it might sound overambitious given that I can barely understand most of such questions but I was eager to know(and maybe seeking some motivation by this) if there is any such feasibility.

NB I'm a distance learning student so it is harder(?) for me to get into good graduate school due to the lack of connections with good professors in real world and it might be impossible to obtain recommendation letter(s) unless I get some good internship.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't know what sort of internship you mean. $\endgroup$ – Douglas Zare Feb 4 '17 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ @DouglasZare academic internship in Math. $\endgroup$ – ankit Feb 4 '17 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ I've never heard of an academic internship in Math. $\endgroup$ – Douglas Zare Feb 4 '17 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ @DouglasZare look cmi.ac.in/admissions/internships.php and math.mit.edu/academics/undergrad/opportunities/index.php . These are just 2 tiny examples, there are abundant such opportunities(sadly mostly in US & EU). NB- I'm not talking about other restrictions over internships at US schools which mostly also comes with region/college restrictions but I've just added the link FYI. $\endgroup$ – ankit Feb 4 '17 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ It looks like "internships" in the MIT link directs one to nonmathematical internships in industry ams.org/programs/students/emp-internships (ones described by the companies as being in different areas like business or engineering) for which a math major might qualify. The first link looks like a program resembling an REU. $\endgroup$ – Douglas Zare Feb 4 '17 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about the scenario in US but most, if not all, of the top universities/colleges in India offers an internship in mathematics like the one by CMI given in the link above(eg- tifr.res.in/~vsrp). There are also separate programs which are being jointly run by multiple institutes like MTTS + there is also an option to contact professor (from a good university of course) individually for an internship. $\endgroup$ – ankit Feb 4 '17 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ I regularly get "applications for internships" (in fact mostly from India), but in fact, there is not such thing at German math institutes (as far as I know). The link to CMI at least explains to me (for the first time) why that happens. $\endgroup$ – Dirk Feb 5 '17 at 2:24
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A couple of times, I have seen applications for PhD places where the applicant had contributed to Mathoverflow and/or math.stackexchange.com. I (and my colleagues) have been willing to give credit for that, but it has never been a major factor. I have never seen an application where evidence from MO was not backed up by a lot of evidence of a more usual kind. I am not sure what I would do if I received such an application.

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Evaluation of various applications is usually a secret process, and the members of evaluation committees are not supposed to talk about it. But I do not see how mentioning MO in your application can possibly hurt the case. Any mathematics related activity is usually considered as a positive factor. I would include in my application my MO name so that the members of the evaluation committee could see my contribution, if they wish.

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Improved, yes. Improved significantly? That depends.

People on admissions committees have a goal of picking the most suitable candidates to go through their program. Usually, most suitable means most able to complete the program successfully and continue on in the chosen field of study. Participation in MathOverflow indicates an inclination, but by itself is not a good measure of suitability.

Such participation can lead to other things which are good measures though. If you get some decent results which are ArXiv-worthy, that gives these people something to measure. If you help enough people and do some collaborative work, those people can write recommendation letters. Most importantly, you get a lot of exposure to mathematics, which may be enough to inspire you to pursue study in one or two specific fields. This will allow you to direct your activities to the right schools to apply, as well as write a more focussed letter indicating your plan of study. People with a track record of making and accomplishing plans look good to admissions committees.

Gerhard "Currently Not In Academic Position" Paseman, 2017.02.03.

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