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Thread: Profile Evaluation for Econ PhD (current junior) ~ Very bizarre case

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    Unhappy Profile Evaluation for Econ PhD (current junior) ~ Very bizarre case

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    Hello everyone. This is my first post so please forgive me if I fail to follow some of the cultural norms. I'm thinking my case is a little more bizarre than the typical PhD applicant, so I was hoping you guys could give me some honest advice.

    School - University of Utah (Economics Rank Not Published) (#34 Mathematics Ranking by USNews)

    Type of Undergrad: Double Major. B.S. Mathematics (Statistics) and B.S. Economics (Statistical Analysis Emphasis)

    Undergrad GPA: 3.5/4.0 Cumulative, 3.96 in Math Major, 3.96 in Econ Major (I did very poorly in generals freshman year)

    Year - Second Semester Junior

    Type of Grad: N/A
    Grad GPA: N/A
    Econ Grad Courses: N/A
    TOEFL: N/A

    Math Courses in the undergrad: Calc I (A-), Calc II (A), Calc III (A), Applied Stats I (A), Applied Stats II (A), Discrete (A), Linear Algebra (A), Foundations of Analysis I (A)

    Before graduation, I will also be taking: Foundations of Analysis II, Probability, Statistical Inference I, Statistical Inference II, Real Analysis, Number Theory, and Intro to Optimization. Let's assume I'll earn A's in all of these courses.

    Econ undergrad Courses: Principles Macro (A), Principles Micro (A), Environmental Economics (A), Marxian
    Economics (A), Macroeconomics (A), Microeconomics (A-), Economic Research in the Community (A), Econometrics (A), Advanced Statistical Tools (A), Applied Community Research (A), China and the Global Economy (A).

    GRE: I will take next winter, but I usually test very well.

    Research Experience: Undergraduate Research Assistant for a Professor in the Educational Psychology Department (building predictive models on intelligent web browsers using mouse cursor coordinates). I have presented at a Data Science Conference, we are working on a paper, and we're hoping to have it published in some data mining journals. I have taken two community research courses in the Econ Department. One was advising a non-profit organization (Headstart). The other was researching the effects of mandatory financial literacy courses in the State of Utah. I am in the process of talking to my math analysis instructor about doing some research this upcoming summer (2017). I can also try to do more research with the math department during my senior year (fall 2017 - spring 2018).

    Teaching Experience: None yet

    Recommendation: I will be able to get a letter from the faculty mentor who supervised my research project. He's a young, non-tenured Professor in the Educational Psychology Department who publishes a lot in regards to data science and interactive learning environments. I can get another from the econ professor who taught my advanced statistical tools class (Bayesian Analysis in R), and who also supervised my community research project regarding the Utah State Board of Education. The problem is, he's not well published. He and the entire Economics Department at Utah are vHeterodoxy Heterdox. I am planning to get a third letter from the instructor of my Analysis course. He did his math PhD at Berkely. I am hoping to grow close to him over the next few semesters.

    There is also the possibility of signing up for a research class over the summer with the Econ Department. The department chair is teaching this class. He received his PhD from Michigan. This might be a good chance to build a relationship and get a strong letter of rec.

    Research Interests: Developmental Economics, Macroeconomics

    Working Experience: During my time off from school, I was the manager of an LA Fitness in Westwood CA. I've also been a server at a variety of restaurants. More recently, I've been a paid undergraduate student researcher in a data science type role. I also did an internship at a marketing agency, where I programmed automated marketing reports to be sold in their online store.

    SOP: n/a
    Other:

    Concerns:

    Brace yourself. Upon graduating high school, I wasn't sure whether or not college was for me. I foolishly applied to schools out of state. I was admitted to all that I applied to, but I couldn't find a way to finance them without taking out massive loans. I was unwilling to do this because I wasn't even sure what I wanted to study. My parents insisted I take 3 classes at the local community college, but for a variety of reasons I did very poorly. The following semester, I went to the University of Utah because I had family in Utah. Again, I did very poorly (I was suffering from depression at the time, which I think was the result of concussions I sustained playing high school football. My dad had also been charged with a felony and my brother nearly died from a drug overdose during this semester. It was a very, very dark time for me).

    After doing so poorly at the University of Utah, I took a year and a half off of school. I moved to Los Angeles and worked. During this time I lived on the UCLA campus and as my mental state recovered, I grew eager to give college another shot. I basically started fresh at a community college where I earned 60 credits with a 3.7 GPA. I then returned to the University of Utah, where I'm currently a double major in mathematics (statistics) and economics (emphasis in statistical analysis). I've earned a 4.0 each semester since I've returned, but due to my poor semester years ago, my cumulative GPA for the university of Utah is only 3.5

    In calculating their cumulative GPA, the University of Utah only counts classes taken at Utah (they don't factor transfer grades). But I know that upon applying to phd programs, I'll have to send all of my college transcripts.

    I'm also worried about my letters of rec not coming from professors in the Econ Department. As I mentioned, the econ department at my school is extremely heterodox (they boast about it in fact). It's been hard for me to build powerful relationships because I'm extremely influenced by the Chicago School from my personal readings, which clashes with their ideologies. I am usually the person (respectfully) debating against the entire class.

    Applying to: Do I have any chance of getting into PhD Programs? And if so, what rank programs should I aim for? I have some schools in mind, but I have no idea if they are realistic.

    All advice is appreciated. I have thick skin, so don't hold back.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Econ PhD (current junior) ~ Very bizarre case

    Your case isn't as weird as you are thinking. Your recent performance will be looked upon favorably.

    The econ department there is quite marxist. You should consider walking over to the business school and talking to the professors there, particularly in the finance department. They have several people with econ phds from good schools. They teach grad micro and metrics to the finance and accounting phd students themselves because they don't trust the econ department. You may want to take a few classes there, or maybe just talk to the professors to get advice. If your research interest was more in the applied micro or finance area, then I would definitely say to take some classes, but I'm not sure given what you list.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Econ PhD (current junior) ~ Very bizarre case

    Thanks for the advice!

    There's a lot of animosity between the business school and the econ department. The Business School has tried to absorb the econ major for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences numerous times. In light of your advice, I'll try to build a relationship with someone over there. Thanks a ton.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Econ PhD (current junior) ~ Very bizarre case

    Is there any way you could try to take a class in economics at Utah State? It's only about an hour from you. Their approach to economics is the opposite to the University of Utah and much more sympathetic to market-oriented Chicago and Austrian traditions. The key would be to take a class with one of the active research faculty and try to get a letter of recommendation that way.

    Utah seems to be a really unusual place.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Econ PhD (current junior) ~ Very bizarre case

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    Is there any way you could try to take a class in economics at Utah State? It's only about an hour from you. Their approach to economics is the opposite to the University of Utah and much more sympathetic to market-oriented Chicago and Austrian traditions. The key would be to take a class with one of the active research faculty and try to get a letter of recommendation that way.

    Utah seems to be a really unusual place.
    This makes sense. I think the big problem is that you ended up in such a weird department that you need to get exposure and letters from outside of it. BYU is closer and has a better record of placing students into top programs. I would probably try to take a class or two down there before going to Utah State. It would probably be harder to work out given that you are leaving the state system and trying to get into a private school. You also have the cultural aspects of BYU, which may or may not bother you. But if you are just going down there twice a week for class, I would think that you could deal with the difference.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Econ PhD (current junior) ~ Very bizarre case

    Thanks for your responses guys. I don't think I'm able to travel to Utah State. Logan is about an hour and 45 mins away from me because I live about 20 minutes from campus already. I can't see how I could make it work while taking 3-4 other classes at the University of Utah. I can look into taking classes at BYU, but to the best of my knowledge, they do not admit students who have left the LDS Church. I withdrew my name as a member of the church in 2013.

    I think I see the common theme in everyone's advice so far though. As I suspected, my current prospects seem grim. My parents recently moved to Wisconsin. I will check to see if there's any way I could study there for a semester.

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