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Thread: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

  1. #1
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    Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

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    Hello all,

    As the title says, I got rejection from every school I applied this year.
    It was very disappointing, but I still want to work as a researcher/professor at universities in the future and don't want to give up at this stage.

    Could you share any opinion/advice how I can improve my profile over the year and have a better result?


    Here's my profile:

    Type of Undergrad:
    US Top 10 UG, US Top 10 Econ
    Undergrad GPA: 3.94 (Econ Major)
    Type of Grad:
    US Top 5 Public Policy
    Grad GPA:
    3.95
    GRE:
    156/168/4.0
    Math Courses:
    Real Analysis (A), Linear Algebra (A+) (both recent), Calc 3 (A-), Intro Stat (A-) (both long time ago)
    Econ Courses (grad-level):
    None
    Econ Courses (undergrad-level):
    Intro Econ (A), Intermediate Micro (A), Intermediate Macro (A), Econometrics (A+), Financial Econ (A), Industrial Org (A-), Corporate Finance (A), Macro seminar (A+), policy school micro (advanced) (A), policy school macro (advanced) (A+)
    Other Courses:
    Lots of policy school courses (mostly A)
    Letters of Recommendation:
    Two from policy school professors and one from undergrad
    Research Experience:
    One summer for political science professor
    Teaching Experience:
    3 semesters as TA (all econ; undergrad level)
    Research Interests:
    IO, Political Economy
    SOP:
    I briefly explained my motivation for transition from policy to PhD Econ. Otherwise, fairly standard.
    Concerns:
    Well, rejections and rejections
    Applied:
    Brown, UCSD, Columbia, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Chicago, Yale, Northwestern Kellogg, UCLA Anderson, NYU Stern
    Rejected: Same as above


    As you can see, I was overly optimistic (and therefore severely punished by the result). I plan to apply much more broadly next year.

    In addition to applying more broadly, I would like to do something to improve my profile.

    I'm currently thinking of one of the following options:
    1) doing one-year Economics master in the UK and take graduate econ courses
    2) working as an RA for a year (I'm not sure whether I can find a prof though) while taking graduate econ courses & some math courses

    However, I'm open to any other option available.

    I would like to hear your opinion and thoughts.

    Thank you so much in advance. Also, I wish the best luck for those who are still waiting!

  2. #2
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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    Apply to any full-time econ/development RA jobs you can, and do it quickly. (they're usually rolling, and many of the 2017-2018 positions would have started hiring around Feb).

    It's not surprising you got rejected by all top 10 econ schools, but I'm not sure what you're doing applying to PhDs in Kellogg/Anderson/Stern. Anderson and Stern's PhD programs should be nowhere near your interests, and Kellogg expects you to be theory-oriented and have a strong math background, neither of which is true.

    To be honest, from what I can tell, it's not clear you even have enough grad courses or research experience to understand what research-level IO/political-economy entails, so I suspect most programs will still project you as an applied/empirical micro candidate. (And, you might as well accept that fact, and portray your MPP as a positive/neutral asset, not a career mistake)

    Next year, after a semester of RA work, you should be applying to #11-#25 PhD econ + Chicago Harris / Harvard Kennedy PhD public policy.

  3. #3
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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    I think it's better to apply to RA positions than doing a one year MA in the UK or anywhere else for that matter. You wouldn't get most of your grades in time for applying next year and I'm not sure how much it could add to your profile. I think the best bet is to work as an RA and also ask your letter writers for their advice on what range of schools you should be looking to apply to. Aside from that, don't take the rejections too much to heart. Sometimes I think folks just get unlucky. Grad admissions can be a bit uncertain sometimes I think.

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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    Apply to any full-time econ/development RA jobs you can, and do it quickly. (they're usually rolling, and many of the 2017-2018 positions would have started hiring around Feb).

    It's not surprising you got rejected by all top 10 econ schools, but I'm not sure what you're doing applying to PhDs in Kellogg/Anderson/Stern. Anderson and Stern's PhD programs should be nowhere near your interests, and Kellogg expects you to be theory-oriented and have a strong math background, neither of which is true.

    To be honest, from what I can tell, it's not clear you even have enough grad courses or research experience to understand what research-level IO/political-economy entails, so I suspect most programs will still project you as an applied/empirical micro candidate. (And, you might as well accept that fact, and portray your MPP as a positive/neutral asset, not a career mistake)

    Next year, after a semester of RA work, you should be applying to #11-#25 PhD econ + Chicago Harris / Harvard Kennedy PhD public policy.
    Not that this isn't good advice but the profile I see is fairly solid (although no one should apply to only top 10 schools). I think the OP can consider top 10s again next year but they must address the way the profile is "framed" (as you said) and consider if the LORs held them back (two PP and one from undergrad). I think RA work that lead to a good letter of recommendation from an active researcher in economics rather than one of the PP letters would likely help a lot.

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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    I know people with a similar profile as you who also have RA experience and have been shocked by the competitiveness of the application process. I think your Master's in public policy sends the wrong signal given the schools that you were targeting (also why Kellogg and not Northwestern Econ??). As usual, chateauheart gives good advice. Every applicant's mantra should be to apply boldly but broadly.

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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, chateauheart, 2017applicant, tm_member, and specious.

    This really means a lot to me.

    I think I was very naive in the entire process (even in school selection) and didn't really make an informed decision in many stages of my application. I will try not to repeat my mistakes this year. Thank you so much again for all of your suggestions.


    chateauheart:
    I think what you told me makes a lot of sense; perhaps I wasn't really prepared to discuss my research interest. Hopefully, I can accumulate more research experience beforehand so that I can at least "know what I'm talking about" before submitting my next application.

    2017applicant:
    Thank you so much for your encouragement. I was so disappointed at first, but I'm hoping that I can learn something in this one additional year.

    tm_member:
    You are totally right. One of my letter writers actually told me that perhaps their letter might not work well compared to one from an econ professor. As you said, that kind of research experince would definitely be a great asset. Again, thank you so much.

    specious:
    Yes, the signaling problem is something I have to work on. I decided to apply to PhD in economics very late compared to other applicants (I was initially thinking of a public sector career initially), so I wasn't really prepared well. As you and chateauheart said, I will definitely apply more broadly with careful selection of schools.

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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    Apply to any full-time econ/development RA jobs you can, and do it quickly. (they're usually rolling, and many of the 2017-2018 positions would have started hiring around Feb).

    It's not surprising you got rejected by all top 10 econ schools, but I'm not sure what you're doing applying to PhDs in Kellogg/Anderson/Stern. Anderson and Stern's PhD programs should be nowhere near your interests, and Kellogg expects you to be theory-oriented and have a strong math background, neither of which is true.

    To be honest, from what I can tell, it's not clear you even have enough grad courses or research experience to understand what research-level IO/political-economy entails, so I suspect most programs will still project you as an applied/empirical micro candidate. (And, you might as well accept that fact, and portray your MPP as a positive/neutral asset, not a career mistake)

    Next year, after a semester of RA work, you should be applying to #11-#25 PhD econ + Chicago Harris / Harvard Kennedy PhD public policy.
    Anderson makes sense for political economy.

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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, chateauheart, 2017applicant, tm_member, specious, and soundchaser.


    This really means a lot to me.


    I think I was very naive in the entire process (even in school selection) and didn't really make an informed decision in many stages of my application. I will try not to repeat my mistakes in the next admissions cycle. Thank you so much again for all of your suggestions.

  9. #9
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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    The way I see it -- no matter whether you apply lower -- you will need three new/different letters, at least two of which from economists. If you do RA, will you be able to get these?

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    Re: Rejected from all schools I applied - I need your advice

    Hi,

    I am in similar situation like you are in (although my profile was not as solid as yours). I was overly optimistic, applied mostly for top 20 programs, and received zero offers. I plan to re-apply this year (but will apply mostly for applied programs), and am getting feedback from my letter writers, supervisors, colleagues, etc.

    Here's a couple of comments from me, based on the feedback I have collected so far.

    - It is needless to say that Econ Ph.D. admission is getting extremely competitive, especially this year. Many applicants, presumably most applicants, have either Master's degree in Econ (mainly international applicants) or have taken a couple of grad-level Econ courses (U.S. applicants). Econ adcoms are risk-averse and they strongly prefer applicants with grad-level experience. I have neither masters nor grad-level Econ courses taken, and it seems you have not taken any grad-level econ courses either. One of my letter writers advised me to do either Masters in Econ (he mentioned U Wisconsin Madison as an example) or take 1~2 Ph.D. level Econ courses near my place as a non-degree student. I am considering the latter (since I cannot afford Master’s program), but it is still not an easy option for me as a current full-time RA… (working as an RA and taking grad-level courses will be very rigorous). Anyway, completing Master’s in Econ or taking a couple of grad-level courses and get good grades from them would be the best you can give to adcoms next year.

    - RA experience are useful only if you can make intellectual contribution to the studies you will assist. For example, if your RA tasks are mostly managerial (updating data, maintaining system) rather than quantitative (design & analysis), then you won’t learn too much and won't get a good rec letter either (Your PIs can write “this student is very responsible and good at project management…”, but Econ adcoms want letters like “this student is intellectually inspiring, …”. Therefore, I think taking Master’s program is much better than working as an RA, unless tuition matters.

    - Econ adcoms care and only care job placement in academia. If you wrote something like “I plan to do research in academia as a professor, but also consider doing research outside academia…” in your SOP, adcoms won’t be really interested in you. Since you already have MPP, adcoms might think that you might leave academia after Ph.D. You mentioned you explained why you became interested from Public Policy to Econ…. Maybe it was not strong enough.

    - It is also a good opportunity to think of your interest and career. For example, are you REALLY interested in producing a lot of high-quality papers to be published in major journals more than anything, and ready to dedicate yourself to it? If yes, then go for Econ Ph.D. If not, then Econ Ph.D. might not be the best choice for you. In my case, I like studying and doing researches, but I am not sure whether writing large number of papers to be published will be the best joy in my life. In my workplace, many PIs don’t have Econ Ph.D. but they are still making great contributions to the world (and publishing papers). Think of what your life goal/motto is, and whether getting an Econ Ph.D. degree is necessary to do that. Although it is true that Econ Ph.D. degree gives you the most number of choices with its rigorousness, you might still be able to do what you really want without it. In my case, I am considering Ph.D. in information, which seems to be a combination of Economics and Computer Science (I am still doing research), since I am interested in both.
    Last edited by eatorange; 03-19-2017 at 08:33 PM. Reason: typo fixed

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