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Thread: Profile Eval

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    JB1
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    Profile Eval

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    Any thoughts, suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Wondering what would be considered a reach/target/safety (if there's such a thing) for Econ PhD? Top 20? Top 50? 100? Am I cut out at all? Looking to see where I relatively hold up. I'm interested in Economics of US Immigration, labor, Wages, Skills, etc. so I'll be focusing on Labor Econ programs. I graduated from UMass Amherst 3 years ago and have been working in Analyst positions since. Due to various circumstances outside my control, grad school was not an option earlier, but finally is now. More details about my profile:

    Undergrad GPA: 3.89
    Major: Math major (Stat focus), Econ minor. I took Calc 1/2/3 & Advanced Calc; Into to Linear & Upper level advanced Linear Algebra; Stat 1/2; Differential Equations; Nonlinear Dynamics; Discrete Math & Graph Theory; Intermediate Micro & Macro, and Money/Banking.
    GREs: Not taken yet! Although practice tests, including the 2 ETS tests have been 164-166 Q, 153-155V. Still studying for Quant, and hoping to get 168+ on the actual. Also, English isn't my first language (actually my 3rd) if that helps in overlooking the Verbal/Writing scores.

    Letters: Professors from: 1) Math class I wrote a 15 page final/presented on the financial crisis using theories learned in class. 2) Honors seminar class in which I wrote a thesis on US immigration. 3) Phd Candidate who lectured upper level Econ class. I didn't get to know Professor well as it was a large class, but I got to know the lecturer well, and had numerous conversations with outside of class/wrote a number of essays for. I know this is a no-no, but perhaps I can get them to co-sign? Aside from this I don't have much from other Econ classes.


    I'm really interested in researching economic impacts of US immigration and have some interesting research topics that would be very relevant today. However, my likely good but not fantastic letters of recommendation and lack of research experience definitely concern me. As I mentioned I've been away from school for 3 years and I've applied to research positions before to bulk up my experience and possibly get a stronger rec, but have not had much luck. My work experience so far has been analyst jobs but unrelated to Econ or have any research involved (one corporate, one startup). I also did a market research internship for a hospital for a summer.

I'm looking to apply for Fall 2018, so I suppose there's still a bit of time left.

    Thoughts? Chances? Please be realistic. Thank you!

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: Profile Eval

    This is not a bad/flawed profile, but I would say top 40-50 is where it becomes a reach, assuming you're applying in fall 2018.

    I don't have particular criticism; you seem to know what you're doing. It is however a little more difficult to get into PhD econ than most people in your position might realize. Checking the profiles and results threads from previous years is the only way to gauge the current level of competition.

    As a general principle, it's nearly impossible to move upward from U.S. undergrad ranking to U.S. PhD econ ranking solely on the basis of undergraduate performance.

    Your math major + very high GPA at a public university may put you in position to do just that, but your letters and research experience don't stand out, to put it generously. You can try to spend a year or two to improve the latter two aspects before you apply, or you can settle for the chances of getting a lower-ranked funded PhD offer, or you can take a master's somewhere. Search around for previous threads on this forum if you want more information on each route.

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    JB1
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    Re: Profile Eval

    Thanks! Top 40 would be fantastic, considering. Even 75-100, I'd be happy with. From what I see on here and various other sites, it's so random even if you have a "perfect" application.

    I'm also slightly concerned about coursework. My Econ minor includes intermediate coursework plus 1 upper level course. Grades were all great, but I'm worried about the lack of rigor/upper level courses. One of the schools I'm strongly considering, which is also quite a reach as it is, requires intermediate micro & macro, plus 2 upper levels. However, many other schools just require intermediate coursework. Any thoughts on taking a summer course, potentially online, for that one more upper? Would it be discounted?

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    Re: Profile Eval

    Agreed with chateau.

    You already know this, but I'd emphasize that a letter from a PhD student, even if they know you well, will be discounted extremely heavily. A top 40 department will not view a UMass PhD student as capable of judging which students are top 40-caliber. I would also be wary of asking for a letter from someone who has never read a letter of rec before.

    Quote Originally Posted by JB1 View Post
    Thanks! Top 40 would be fantastic, considering. Even 75-100, I'd be happy with. From what I see on here and various other sites, it's so random even if you have a "perfect" application.
    I think 75-100 won't be an issue. There is a big gap in competitiveness between such places and top 50. The downside is that there is also a gap in training and placement.

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    Re: Profile Eval

    Seems you are international student with undergraduate degree from UMass.

    I second chateauheart with a lower range, given that you're interested in labor, you should look at schools lower than top 50. Competitiveness rose very sharp this year and I assume it will be higher in the next. It's nearly impossible nowadays to jump from undergrad directly to PhD especially if you come from other major. If you're interested in Financial Economics/Econometrics, your background and experience in math/stat could give you higher rank schools probably top 30 (from my experience).

    Conventional way for US school graduates to improve profile is applying for an RA position for 2+ years. Your background will help you a lot on work. You will also get good LORs from your supervisors to signal adcoms about your research ability especially if they are big names. That case should give you a reach to top 20 while another is probably top 30. Another venue is to go for master's degree before moving on. Not many school in US have good master's with financial support. Some worth mention are Tuft and Duke. In other countries look for Canada, Europe and UK. The advantage is you have good letter of recommendation writers along with higher-level coursework. If you perform well, your expectation could be higher than RAing. Either way, you will need to spend a couple more years before you can start.

    Some caution about LORs, don't ask anyone other than your professors to write it for you. Generally, professors are the best to write about your research capabilities, not PhD candidate or your employer.

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    Re: Profile Eval

    Eh, I think I disagree with some of the assessments here. If you get a good enough third letter and get a good GRE score I could see you get into a top 30.

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    Re: Profile Eval

    I would also recommend against submitting the letter of recommendation from the math professor. I've read many LORs from mathematicians. They do an excellent job communicating a student's mathematical competence, but are ill-equipped to convey to economists other important qualities, such as the student's ability to do economic research. Although their is some overlap, doing good mathematical research requires a different set of skills from doing good economic research. Because most mathematicians do not know what skills to talk about, they are poorly equipped to explain to your admission committee members why you might be an excellent researcher, and thus a good admit.

    To get into a good school you want every letter of recommendation to build a case that you are going to be an amazing economic researcher and colleague. You need economic professors to do this. Only they know the jargon and signals necessary to convey this information.

    Regardless, your profile is not bad. I have seen candidates with worse profiles get into places like OSU or MSU.

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    JB1
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    Re: Profile Eval

    Quote Originally Posted by JB1 View Post
    One of the schools I'm strongly considering, which is also quite a reach as it is, requires intermediate micro & macro, plus 2 upper levels. However, many other schools just require intermediate coursework. Any thoughts on taking a summer course, potentially online, for that one more upper? Would it be discounted?
    Thanks all. Any thoughts on this?

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    Re: Profile Eval

    Generally, if that's the only two economics courses you've taken, I suggest you enroll in master's degree first. Only two undergrad courses won't be enough. If it's master's/PhD level core courses, however, it will.

    If you could tell us the school you're considering, we might be able to help you figure it out.

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    JB1
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    Re: Profile Eval

    UC Davis. I've taken six total - intro to micro, macro, and political economy. Intermediate micro, macro, and money/banking

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