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Thread: CS+Econ major from small school

  1. #1
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    CS+Econ major from small school

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    Hey guys, I tried to post once, and it looks like it got eaten up, so I'm trying again...

    I am a Computer science and economics double major with a minor in math. I went to a small liberal arts school. I got a solid GRE score and a 3.8 GPA. I did some summer research but it was in the computational CS field. I think I have pretty solid numbers but I don't have much econ research under my belt, and my school is fairly small. I am not sure what tier of school I should be looking at. What do you think?

    PROFILE:
    Type of Undergrad: BA in Econ and Computer science, minor in math
    Undergrad GPA: 3.8
    Type of Grad: None
    GRE: 169V/168Q/5.0A
    Math Courses: Multivariable Calc, Linear Algebra, Graph Theory, Foundation of advanced math, BC calc
    Econ Courses: Standard undergrad courses
    Other Courses: CS major (Algorithms, data strucutures, computational science, architecture and compilers)
    Letters of Recommendation: Two econ faculty, CS professor I did research with, Math professor whose classes I did well in
    Research Experience: Summer in Computational CS, Econ senior thesis paper
    Teaching Experience: TA and tutor in CS, worked at science summer camps, volunteering at elementary school
    Research Interests: Macro/Development/Policy

  2. #2
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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    On the surface, you have very solid credentials.
    How often has your school sent people to econ phd programs? What sort of recommendations will you get from the econ faculty, and what level school do they suggest you apply to?

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    On the surface, you have very solid credentials.
    How often has your school sent people to econ phd programs? What sort of recommendations will you get from the econ faculty, and what level school do they suggest you apply to?
    I guess I can say I graduated from Willamette University. I'm not sure how often we send people to PhD programs. I don't think it's that many. I've done most of my conversing with professors after graduation over email, and I haven't gotten any firm answers on what caliber I should look at. I think I'm likely to get pretty good recommendations from faculty, I generally ask good questions during class and will sometimes stay after to follow up with more questions.

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    Quote Originally Posted by carl12 View Post
    I guess I can say I graduated from Willamette University. I'm not sure how often we send people to PhD programs. I don't think it's that many. I've done most of my conversing with professors after graduation over email, and I haven't gotten any firm answers on what caliber I should look at. I think I'm likely to get pretty good recommendations from faculty, I generally ask good questions during class and will sometimes stay after to follow up with more questions.
    Williamette is, of course, a very good school. But recommendations that say you were a good student and often asked good questions aren't going to do much good and the better programs. One thing you might think about is seeking a position as a research assistant for a couple of years. Your CS schools will make you a good candidate for such a position and being an RA is a good lead in to getting into a good graduate school.

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    Williamette is, of course, a very good school. But recommendations that say you were a good student and often asked good questions aren't going to do much good and the better programs. One thing you might think about is seeking a position as a research assistant for a couple of years. Your CS schools will make you a good candidate for such a position and being an RA is a good lead in to getting into a good graduate school.
    I would second this advice. Not only would you get solid recommendation letters from these RA jobs, but you may also be able to take one course each semester if you are missing any essential coursework (although this depends on the job, many professors allow you to do this).

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    Fair enough, I'm curious, so you think I wouldn't get good results from an application right now? To me, it feels like I have a lot of what schools are asking for. I guess a recommendation from me from a research position would be more effective than one of an academic setting.

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    It's hard to say what kind of results you'd get without knowing what your recommenders would say. Will they say "Carl12 is a good student who I very much enjoyed having in class." (Your admissions will be limited.) Or will they say, "Carl12 is the best student I've had in 30 years. His senior thesis is a publishable piece of research." (You will likely do very, very well.) The problem is that there is an important part of your application that we can't see, and that it seems that you don't have much information about either.

    To turn it around, how do you know you want to get a PhD in economics? Do you have a good idea what the process is like?

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    Nothing really stands out and you come from a pretty unknown undergrad. I would say you have a shot at top 50.

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    Quote Originally Posted by carl12 View Post
    I think I have pretty solid numbers but I don't have much econ research under my belt, and my school is fairly small.
    I think these are key shortcomings. It seems to me that top programs do look for candidates with economics research experience, to show them that you are aware of what you're getting into and that you have the necessary skills. Additionally, letter writers from such an experience would communicate that you're a capable economics researcher, which is exactly what they're looking for. Working as a RA will also help overcome some of the concerns you may have about coming from a lesser-known liberal arts college, since your letter writer (at a more well known institution) should be able to attest to your abilities.

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    Re: CS+Econ major from small school

    Alright, thanks for the advice guys. Any recommendations for looking at RA positions? Where to look? or how to apply?

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