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Thread: Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

  1. #1
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    Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

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    Hello All,

    A while back ago this forum was very helpful to me and I am hoping that it will hold true this time as well. I will try to make this short.

    Basically I am a Community College business student preparing to transfer to a four year university. I have a GPA of roughly 3.5. I am interested in pursuing a PHD in economics. The issue is that at this point, it is really only possible for me to go to a few local in state college. None of these colleges are known for their economics programs and really most of them are not known at all if you live outside the state. My plan is essentially to get a double major in economics and mathematics from one of these state colleges.

    I guess my first question would be as follows: As a student coming from a little known college where can I realistically hope to place assuming that from this point on I receive a mix of A's and B's in my mathematics major and pretty much all A's in my economics major? Also assume a good GRE score, no research experience, and good letters of recommendation from little know professors.

    My second question is a little bit more subjective. I realize what an extremely rigorous path a PHD in economics is compared to other careers. I also cannot say that I am without my doubts. In the past my mathematical skills have been sub-par, (something I have been trying to make up for over the last two semesters) and I know that such a statement in damning. What I really want to know is whether or not I am really cut out for this path if I do take it. Is there any way I can know without going through this whole process so I can avoid making a costly mistake.

    Just to clarify I have enjoyed economics more than any other of my college classes up to this point but I also realize that my experience is limited and that I am nowhere near the most challenging parts of it. I also really have trouble thinking of something else I would rather do with my life.

    Sorry about length but help would be appreciated very much.

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    Re: Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

    I have a few comments about this, but to start out I'll say if you have above a 3.5, double major, and get a good GRE score you could probably get in somewhere.

    With that said, the one thing you have that people currently applying don't have is time. You say things like assume A's and B's in math classes. The math classes you'd need to take you can get A's in if you could get B's with just more time studying. This should be priority 1A.

    Priority 1B is to go to one of those in-state public schools that gives you the opportunity to do summer research. Get to know your professors the first day and throughout your time there, tell them you are interested in moving further, and ask them what you need to do to be successful. I am guessing they know of at least 1-2 students who have gone on to a graduate education in Economics from the school.

    If you aren't willing to do these things on the outset, then maybe committing 5 years of your life post undergrad isn't worth it.

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    Re: Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

    Thank you for your answer. The reason I said A's and B's was largely because I really do not have a full comprehension of how difficult the upper level math courses can be. I assumed there would come times when I would not get the grade of an A just out of recognition that many of these courses would be difficult. Also do you have any idea of what range of schools I could realistically get into? I obviously am not going off to Harvard given my background but what can I realistically expect?

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    Re: Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

    Despite the title of your post, you are in fact asking quite mature questions.

    You don't really know yet whether you are interested in an econ PhD because you don't know enough about what's involved. What you are suggesting though is exactly the right move. You're expanding your option set, whether it leads to a PhD or elsewhere.

    As others have stated, you want to do as well as possible in terms of grades, especially math, and you'd like to get engaged with faculty. Since you ask specifically about the range of schools, the only answer at this early stage has to be based on what you've done--not what you might do next. Your record isn't likely to lead to a top-40 admit. Probably not even near. But if you really get turned on by your next stage and do well, then you could certainly get into a good PhD program.

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    Re: Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

    Hey Dutch,

    As someone roughly four years ahead of the point you're currently at, let me offer the following advice

    1) Most Universities offer some sort of math tutoring program up until Calc 2 - Take advantage of this

    2) Take one tough math class per semester in your first 3 semester so you can establish a solid math GPA. During this time make sure you take all the stats/econ classes you can realistically handle.

    3) Have a growth mindset. I dropped calc 1 in HS but now I'm pulling an A in Real Analysis. In my case, it was my love of economics that made me persevere in my math classes.

    And most importantly - Don't let the prospect of retaking a class demotivate you from this path.

    Finally, the next four years will pass anyway, is there realistically a better outcome you can imagine in that time frame than obtaining a a degree in Math/Econ?

    Anyway, from one guy in need of a reality check to another, I wish you the best of luck.

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    Re: Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

    Quote Originally Posted by dutchdisease View Post
    Thank you for your answer. The reason I said A's and B's was largely because I really do not have a full comprehension of how difficult the upper level math courses can be. I assumed there would come times when I would not get the grade of an A just out of recognition that many of these courses would be difficult. Also do you have any idea of what range of schools I could realistically get into? I obviously am not going off to Harvard given my background but what can I realistically expect?
    I applied right out of undergrad with a similar profile and got into Oregon and Colorado. The 40-70 range would probably be possible. I'd really focus on getting to know those professors though and seeing what they think.

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    Re: Daft Undergraduate in Need of a Reality Check

    Sorry about the late replies to all of this but I want to thank the three of you for your answers, they were very helpful.

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