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Thread: Some Reflections

  1. #1
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    4 out of 4 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Some Reflections

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    Hi Gang: Well, my third year is winding down. I write this passage as many of you have already signed on the dotted line, while some of you are waiting on your dream school to accept you from their wait list.

    This year was the most trying as well as the most rewarding. The difficult aspect was due in part to my institution, U. Chicago. As aforementioned, we are in the midst of a tough budget cycle, and we had to cut back on our offers significantly. This, combined with the fact that the applicant pool was probably the strongest in decades, made it very hard because the opportunity cost of denying admission to the marginal person was higher than ever.

    The rewarding aspect arose in two forms. First, as I noted earlier, with a stronger pool come very interesting candidates. Yes, we had the typical math genuises, physics gods, and wordly philosophers, but we had a wealth of talent on the dimension of those who understood how to do good economics. This includes posing well formulated questions, and understanding how to attack that question in a reasonable manner.

    Yet, that was not even the most rewarding for me this time around. What has stood out for me is the incredible understanding and sympathy that prospective students had with our situation at UC. We were forced to run our recruitiment in a very unconventional manner, but candidates were gracious and made the process much easier than I had anticipated.

    For this I would like to thank you as a group. What could have ended as a nightmare, I will look back on fondly in some years--though not yet because I am still bushed from this process.

    In the end, some marginal tidbits that might help future TMers, or those on the forum who will try again next year:

    A. Try to take graduate classes in economics. They will help you alot, especially if you are at a non-top 10 school and you can place at the top of the grade distribution.

    B. That extra math class will help tremendously, especially if it is at the graduate level. In the end, if possible do a double math/economics major.

    C. Having outside money will never hurt. During difficult times, some committees place more weight on this aspect than one would first suspect.

    D. Great GRE scores are a necessary but not a sufficient condition. For example, as I recall nearly a third of our pool typically has an 800 on the math component.

    E. Letters from people who others know and respect are much more important than you might realize. This is especially true if they can say: as good as XX who I sent to this top 5 place, and better than ZZ who I sent to this top 5 place.

    F. Spend time polishing the personal statement. I have seen good people receive bad overall marks because of this bad start.

    Enough for now. Make the right decision if you have yet to decide--that is, find the best match for you and the rest will work out. If you have decided, have a great year.

    For all, if I am ever in your neighborhood or you in mine, let's have a coffee, or beer, your preference. Just let me know.

    Best,
    John

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlist View Post
    A. Try to take graduate classes in economics. They will help you alot, especially if you are at a non-top 10 school and you can place at the top of the grade distribution.

    B. That extra math class will help tremendously, especially if it is at the graduate level. In the end, if possible do a double math/economics major.
    Did (B).

    Currently shooting myself in the foot on (A). So far the graduate(PhD) GPA is 3.82. The weather is just too nice to try any harder. Knocking the econometrics series out of the park though. That's the only class I really like.

    I'm a short-sighted idiot. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get up early to go surfing tomorrow.

  3. #3
    Go HOYAS! ibanez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlist View Post

    For all, if I am ever in your neighborhood or you in mine, let's have a coffee, or beer, your preference. Just let me know.

    Best,
    John
    Hey I might take you up on that. I am from Southwest Michigan and often come to Chicago.

    I am planning on attending Boston University in the fall, but would love to make some contacts at UC.
    Attending Georgetown University PhD Economics!

  4. #4
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    Hi Ibanez: Congrats on a great placement. Sure, you are welcome down anytime. One focal point might be the summer school (~early July) that we do on price theory. I usually participate in that and so do others around campus.

    Best,
    John

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    Within my grasp! rvalchev's Avatar
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    I wish I knew many of those points earlier, because from my own experiences they seem to make the difference between TOP10 and TOP20. I myself suspect A) and E) are of tremendous importance. If people are in situation similar to mine (undergrad with no econ grad program and 0 history of sending people to TOP50 programs) I would definitely recommend applying to Master's programs (I would say Canadian rather than European) and RA jobs at the Fed/NBER to get A) or E) or both. The exposure to active top researchers and/or graduate grades will help a lot.

    That said, I am very happy with my TOP20 admissions. I suspect most people would be too, so don't necessarily assume you are shut out of good admissions just because you don't have A) or E). But still I have to admit that if I had to do it all over again, the perfectionist inside me would have applied to Canadian Master's and RA jobs and may be even take one of those over Duke/Wisconsin (or may be that's my gambling side ... who knows .
    No more admissions decisions ... was fun while it lasted, but now it's to make up my mind.

  6. #6
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    Sorry Gang, this is the price theory camp I referred to in my last post:

    Price Theory Summer Camp - Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the advice jlist. When your investing such a large amount of time in a process (Ill probably spend the next year getting my head around this stuff and the following year putting that into action), it's reassuring to see someone on the inside mention as salient, some of the stuff I thought to be so (coming from an undergrad that will be little known in the US but well known in Europe, im trying to get in plenty of grad econ and grad maths courses).

    Thanks again.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlist View Post
    Hi Gang: Well, my third year is winding down. I write this passage as many of you have already signed on the dotted line, while some of you are waiting on your dream school to accept you from their wait list.

    This year was the most trying as well as the most rewarding. The difficult aspect was due in part to my institution, U. Chicago. As aforementioned, we are in the midst of a tough budget cycle, and we had to cut back on our offers significantly. This, combined with the fact that the applicant pool was probably the strongest in decades, made it very hard because the opportunity cost of denying admission to the marginal person was higher than ever.

    The rewarding aspect arose in two forms. First, as I noted earlier, with a stronger pool come very interesting candidates. Yes, we had the typical math genuises, physics gods, and wordly philosophers, but we had a wealth of talent on the dimension of those who understood how to do good economics. This includes posing well formulated questions, and understanding how to attack that question in a reasonable manner.

    Yet, that was not even the most rewarding for me this time around. What has stood out for me is the incredible understanding and sympathy that prospective students had with our situation at UC. We were forced to run our recruitiment in a very unconventional manner, but candidates were gracious and made the process much easier than I had anticipated.

    For this I would like to thank you as a group. What could have ended as a nightmare, I will look back on fondly in some years--though not yet because I am still bushed from this process.

    In the end, some marginal tidbits that might help future TMers, or those on the forum who will try again next year:

    A. Try to take graduate classes in economics. They will help you alot, especially if you are at a non-top 10 school and you can place at the top of the grade distribution.

    B. That extra math class will help tremendously, especially if it is at the graduate level. In the end, if possible do a double math/economics major.

    C. Having outside money will never hurt. During difficult times, some committees place more weight on this aspect than one would first suspect.

    D. Great GRE scores are a necessary but not a sufficient condition. For example, as I recall nearly a third of our pool typically has an 800 on the math component.

    E. Letters from people who others know and respect are much more important than you might realize. This is especially true if they can say: as good as XX who I sent to this top 5 place, and better than ZZ who I sent to this top 5 place.

    F. Spend time polishing the personal statement. I have seen good people receive bad overall marks because of this bad start.

    Enough for now. Make the right decision if you have yet to decide--that is, find the best match for you and the rest will work out. If you have decided, have a great year.

    For all, if I am ever in your neighborhood or you in mine, let's have a coffee, or beer, your preference. Just let me know.

    Best,
    John
    John List is GREAT!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlist View Post
    For all, if I am ever in your neighborhood or you in mine, let's have a coffee, or beer, your preference. Just let me know.

    Best,
    John
    Will do. I've got a friend attending UC for a mathematics Ph.D, so I may come visit her occassionally, as well as a colleague doing his Ph.D at Northwestern. Should you be north of the border, I'll be at Toronto next year. I'll definitely keep an eye peeled to see if you're coming my way.

    Canuck
    Canuckonomist, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto '15

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jqmyy View Post
    John List is GREAT!
    No doubt. I hear he's a pretty good economist as well.

    I can't wait to tell anecdotes when I'm safely tenured about how the first time I ever heard of John List he was dishing out advice to potential PhD students on an internet message board.

    I hope everybody that has interacted with this board uses Dr. List as a model when they are professors in their own right. Seriously, if somebody that consistently gets their name and "Nobel" used in the same sentence can find the time to help the little people regularly then we all can.

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