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Thread: is 3.44 gpa unforgivable?

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    is 3.44 gpa unforgivable?

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    Hi,

    I'm a graduating senior at top 10 univ and I'm planning to apply to phd programs for 2011 fall.
    I had many regrettable moments during first two years of my undergrad (my gpa shows that) and due to personal circumstances I left school to work after my sophomore year. Now I am determined to do what I really want to do, and I would greatly appreciate if you guys can advise me on, well, anything.

    GPA: 3.37 as of now. Hoping to end with 3.45.

    Major: Economics (GPA: 3.7~3.8)/ Minors: Computer Engineering and Philosophy

    Coursework:
    - Math: Calculus sequence (B), Linear Algebra (A), Optimization (A), Analysis I (P/F), Algebra 1 (taking now; probably A), Knot theory (taking it now; probably A-/A)

    - Econ: Int Micro/Macro (A-/A), Econometrics(B+), Adv Micro (A), International Monetary Theory(A), Environmental Economics (B), History of Chinese Econ (taking it now). Audited: History of Modern Economics

    - Etc: Probability and Statistics (B+), Analysis of Algorithms (B+), Computer Science theory (A), Discrete Mathematics (A), Decision Theory (B), Logic (A), many programming classes and philosophy classes

    Work experience:
    - about 2 yrs of teaching SAT's
    - summer internships in investment banking and foreign affairs
    - numerous part-time jobs (mostly in the area of teaching and translations)

    I'm planning to do post-bac after graduation and hoping to take the following courses:
    - Summer: Analysis II, ODE, Game theory
    - Fall:
    1-yr Phd course in Microecon
    1-yr Phd course in Macroecon
    Adv Econometrics
    Algebra 2
    Measure Theory

    Recommendation:
    - two from econ and one from philosophy. not superb but very good.
    - I have three extra rec's(all very good) from my employers/internship supervisors. Should I submit them?

    Someone suggested me to apply to 1-yr masters in statistics (at Columbia) instead of doing a post-bac.. would a master's be more helpful than doing a post-bac and take more tailored set of classes?

    I haven't taken GRE (will probably take this summer). I got 176 in LSAT if that helps.

    Should I also take a look at business phd's since my coursework is better (or I was told) suited for business (decision and risk, etc.)?

    Any feedback/advice is wholeheartedly appreciated.

  2. #2
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage walt526's Avatar
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    I really don't think that aggregate GPA is all that important relative to other factors. Your grades in Math look solid.

    I would strongly discourage you from sending a letter of recommendation from a philosophy professor. Regardless of what he/she says, adcoms are looking for someone who can vouch that you can survive the first year and/or show promise as a researcher. I would suggest getting one from a professor of a proof-intensive course that you have taken.

    I don't really think that a MS Statistics or post-bac is necessary or an optimal use of your time. Rather than taking more courses, I'd suggest doing RA for a year or two (and hopefully get a stronger letter of recommendation from an academic economist).
    I'm not procrastinating. I just happen to have a very high discount rate.

  3. #3
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage AREStudentHopeful's Avatar
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    I'm also thinking that you may want to specify what your goals are here. Judging from your comment that you may be better suited for a business degree (MBA?), I'm not sure that you are looking in the right places. An econ PhD is generally good for those who wish to do research in economics, those who may wish to do quantitative work for the government, something along those lines. If your interest lie in investment banking and the like, I'm not sure an econ PhD is the right place to be looking.

    That being said, if you still wish to do a PhD, I would focus on getting a few upper level courses with A's under your belt (not necessarily as many as you mentioned) and like Walt said, do some RA work. You really should have at least 2 of your letter of recommendation writers be academic economists and RAing for them is the best way to show your ability so that they can write you a letter. You could also consider RAing at the Fed or something along those lines where you could take courses (and have them paid for) and still get good RA work in with researchers. Admittedly they're not technically academic economists (well, most of them aren't), but they're involved in research and their recommendations historically seem to be well-counted (as best we can tell from the imperfect info on this forum).

  4. #4
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    My profile(listed in the stickied threads) might be a decent indicator for you, but I'd consider it a lower bound(without knowing much about your LoRs, research, etc)-your undergrad is higher ranked, and your performance in 'key courses' is better.

  5. #5
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    I barely scraped above a 3.0 and apparently had little problem getting funded offers. Didnt exactly break into the top 10 but Im extremely happy with where Im going (as soon as I decide). I had a double math/econ major, but again, prob about a 3.0 in each.
    Last edited by stillhopeful; 04-02-2010 at 03:38 AM. Reason: MATH/econ

  6. #6
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    You have a decent profile and is a quite a bit stronger than mine (you can look up my old profile on roll call, and I had several offers). But most likely if you would be shut out of any top-20 school. That being said I think you definitely have a shot at top-50 programs. It also looks like you are planning too continue beefing up your profile. You have enough math to be successful, and I agree with walt526 that an letter of recommendation from a philosophy (humanities) professor won't do much to strengthen your profile, adcoms want to see how good of a potential economics researcher you are.

    As for econ vs business I thin you really need to have some set of specified research goals. I personally think an econ phd is a little more versatile as in there are a lot of economist who do asset pricing and some who do insurance etc.
    Attending Florida State

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    I went to an Ivy undergrad and gave up a bunch of the outside options (banking, top law schools etc.) that you seem to have available. In my experience, most people who apply from top-ranked US schools are the ones who coast through the hardest math and quantitative classes and end up getting into top PhD programs--because the rest decide that the alternatives are better than an econ PhD. For me, and maybe for you, I wasn't as strong in the toughest courses and looking back, I sort of regret giving up all those outside options that typically only undergrads from elite schools get in favor of the incredibly difficult econ PhD. I'm sure a ton of your classmates will be getting top banking/consulting offers, top law school admits and med school admits, so if you go down this path you may have to be prepared to live with a so-so PhD offer like BU which won't garner a lot of respect from Ivy Leaguers.

    More substantively, I had a couple of question marks on my transcript but had a lot of quality research experience and good recs from economists, and I struggled to get into a top 20 program. Everyone here loves to talk about quality letter of recommendation's but I think that unless they're truly stellar, you need almost straight-A's in the tough classes to get into a Top 15. And btw you'll get an 800 GRE if you have a 176 LSAT.

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    I went to a top school for undergrad as well, with grades significantly worse than yours, and have gotten good offers. You probably aren't going to get into a top 5 school, but, assuming the rest of your application is strong, your GPA isn't going to prevent you from getting in somewhere in the top 20. And getting in somewhere in the top 20 will give you a perfectly challenging curriculum, surround you with plenty of interesting people doing exciting research, and give you the chance to get any job you could have gotten out of Harvard or MIT if you perform at a high enough level.

  9. #9
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    Should I also take a look at business phd's since my coursework is better (or I was told) suited for business (decision and risk, etc.)?
    If your interest in this you should look into PhD's business, and the category you should be looking in is most likely finance. Especially if you want to do empirical studies (regression) in this areas, then your job prospects will be actually better and you'll get paid better for doing a PhD in this field.

    If your interested in theoretical work in this area, you probably need to look at programs who are strong in Microeconomic Theory, that have connections to Business schools.

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    Quote Originally Posted by frankramsey View Post
    - two from econ and one from philosophy. not superb but very good.
    - I have three extra rec's(all very good) from my employers/internship supervisors. Should I submit them?
    I would be shocked if any school actually accepted – let alone actually read – six letters of recommendation. Even if they'll take them, there is little reason to send them; letters from people who are not familiar with the rigor, material, etc. of economics PhD programs simply cannot carry much if any weight. In fact, sending them might hurt you (e.g., they may signal that you, as the applicant, don't know what you're getting into).

    In any case, you should clarify what your career/academic goals are. What do you see yourself doing with an economics PhD?

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