Dear Community,

I've been a lurker for quite a while (May), and feel that it is a good time to ask you all for your suggestions and advice on my applications. I will first put down some of my profile stats:

  1. I am coming from a large state school (The department has not placed anyone in an economics grad program)
  2. GRE: 166 Q, 161 V, 5.5 A
  3. Major/GPA: BA Economics, Math minor, 3.94 GPA / 4.0 Econ GPA
  4. Economics classes (all A's): Intermediate Micro/Macro Analysis, Business Cycles and Forecasting, International Economics, Money and Banking, Public Finance, Advanced Economic Seminar, Applied Econometrics, Math Fundamentals for Economists, Development of Economic Thought, Financial Economics
  5. Math classes (All A's): Calc I-III, Linear Algebra, Advanced Calc 1, Differential Equations, Statistics [Quick aside, I have the chance to take Numerical Analysis, Probability, or Statistical Techniques for Social Sciences for my last semester. Not sure which to take]
  6. LOR: Two graduates (2010/2012) from Cornell (older, international professors), both with whom I have taken classes and have been personally working with me on getting my applications ready and keep my math up. One of them actually teaches the math camp course at an Ivy and has close ties to faculty still. The other LOR I am deciding between the chair of the department with whom I began a chapter of Omicron Delta Epislon and have taken classes with, or an Economist at a Fortune 100 Financial Services company (Risk Management department) with over a decade of experience with the New York Fed and being professor at CUNY (he himself went to Fordham)
  7. Experience:

Other/Concerns: I know I have a relatively weak profile compared to others, and I will appreciate being given advice to me straight up as I have seen you guys been. Truth is, I am a DACA recipient and am extremely lucky to have gone to college*. A few months after high school, I was kicked out of my home for financial reasons and worked to pay for community college for a bit, and, after months of grinding and sending applications to all of my state's schools for aid, I was granted a full scholarship due to my strong high school and community college profile. Due to the limited resources of my school and me working full time still, I have not had any research assistant opportunities, although I am doing some light research work with a professor in my department. For what it is worth, and I assume it is not much, I have management, industry research, and extensive tutoring experience.

I have wanted to go for a PhD for a long time, in part, to research the kind of behavioral constraints that an immigration program like DACA (which has been likened to being told, "you are a person, but not really") has on people, and how constraints like this affect other types of economic players and the nature (rational/irrational) of their decisions. I have other research interests, of course, but this is my main drive that keeps me going. I am hungry for education and I want to further understand this thing we call life.

Schools I am currently working on their applications: Cornell, Iowa State, Fordham, CUNY, UC Boulder, U. Southern California, Clemson, UMass Amherst. The two professors from Cornell have been encouraging to apply to higher but I simply do not see how I can get in, and the cost of these applications is of growing concern for me. I would love any and all sort of comments and suggestions.

Thank you, once again, and good luck to the rest of the applicants for this year! It is extremely inspiring hearing about other high achieving academics in this field.

* For anyone who has not had a chance to learn or hear about what this is, DACA is a deferred action executive order from President Obama given in 2012 that allowed undocumented immigrants brought as children to the United States to work legally, go to school at in state tuition rates (in some states), and obtain driver's licenses. It does not qualify the recipients from getting federal aid for school or loans. This came full circle after I could not qualify for loans I needed in order to go to Columbia for my undergrad.