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Thread: Fun with Econ: Would Steven Levitt get into MIT today?

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Fun with Econ: Would Steven Levitt get into MIT today?

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    We all keep trying to figure out what gets you into the top schools. So, to break some of the tension around here, I thought I'd throw out the question to see what kind of responses people have.

    Profile: Harvard undergrad (summa cum laude), econ major
    Math courses: one calculus class, nothing else
    Honors: Young prize for best senior thesis in economics dept

    LOR: I'm guessing thesis advisor, probably two other well-known Harvard profs


    ***Levitt won an NSF, but I think he won it during his first year at MIT. (NSF Fellow '92-'94, and was awarded his PhD in '94. I'm pretty sure he finished his PhD in 3 years, but that means he entered in Fall '91, and won NSF the following spring... the point here being that an NSF Fellowship didn't help him get into MIT, since he was already there).

    About only having one calc course, that was mentioned in the JEP article announcing the Bates Clark Medal going to Levitt.

    So, what do you all think... would Steven Levitt get into MIT if he applied today?

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    I think its pretty fair to say that, holding their backgrounds constant, most economists would have a hard time getting into grad school these days. As applicants, we've got better information, and, IMHO, the applicant pool gets a little better and hence more competitive each year. So I'm going to say no on Levitt.

    There's still the "you got it or you don't" factor. It can buy you an awful lot. Levitt's got 'it', though, no question.
    University of Wisconsin - Madison: Took my Masters and ran.

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    ManBearPig ramlau's Avatar
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    Backdoor admission. Yea.

    Connex is all you need.

    Ram

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    I would wager a cautious yes because the alma mater, grades, LORs and thesis seem to outweigh the math thing. Would be interesting to know what GRE he had...

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    Within my grasp! planetes's Avatar
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    Backdoor admit.. duh. These happen all the time. Work those CXN with top profs

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    I keep going back and forth on this one. While I think the connections may have gotten him in, I can't help but think the total lack of math background would have gotten him into the auto-reject pile, even before they read the recommendations. But, then again, maybe the Young prize was the signal that he had 'it'. My final answer is no, he wouldn't make it... and if he still would, then I know we'd all get depressed knowing that the investments we've made were overlooked in favor of a backdoor admission. (Not that I stood a chance of getting into top schools in the first place, but still...)

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    [quote=OneMoreEcon]
    ***Levitt won an NSF, but I think he won it during his first year at MIT. (NSF Fellow '92-'94, and was awarded his PhD in '94. I'm pretty sure he finished his PhD in 3 years, but that means he entered in Fall '91, and won NSF the following spring... the point here being that an NSF Fellowship didn't help him get into MIT, since he was already there).

    quote]

    He graduated from Harvard at 1989, he spent 5 years on PhD?

    http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/LevittCV.html

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Ross, his CV doesn't say when he started at MIT. I know we usually assume that people begin a PhD right after the BA, but I seem to recall reading that Levitt finished his PhD in three years. Also, if he was an NSF fellow from 92-94, he didn't hold the fellowship for three full academic years (92-93, 93-94, and maybe an extra semester). Since NSF is good for three years of study, it seems that he finished very quickly.

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    [quote=OneMoreEcon]

    Math courses: one calculus class, nothing else

    /quote]

    Calculus can mean many things, i.e., it might have been on the level of an intro to analysis class.

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    Well, his CV says he was working for two years in private sector before attending MIT.

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