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Re: Profiles and Results 2018
Type of Undergrad: US top 10 liberal arts
Undergrad GPA: 3.6
Type of Grad: N/A
Grad GPA: N/A
Math Courses: Linear Algebra (A-), Statistics (A), Linear Models (A), Calc 3 (A), Operations Research (A-), Real Analysis (A), Mathematical Statistics [graduate] (A-)
Econ Courses: Intro Macro (B+), Intro Micro (B+), Intermediate Macro (B), Intermediate Micro (A-), Advanced Macro (A-), Econometrics (A), Advanced Econometrics (A), Thesis (A-), and B/B- in two field courses
Other Courses: (nothing relevant)
Letters of Recommendation: 1 undergrad thesis advisor; 1 Federal Reserve section chief; 2 Harvard/MIT profs I work for. I submitted three to each program I applied, alternating which three I chose, since I wasn’t totally sure which combination was the strongest.
Research Experience: 1 year undergrad working for professor; undergrad senior thesis; 2 years Federal Reserve, culminating in an independent paper the Fed published; 2 years working for Harvard/MIT professors
Teaching Experience: none
Research Interests: Labor, Political Economy
SOP: Standard, I would guess. Intro, 1 paragraph on coursework, a few paragraphs on research background, 1 paragraph on future research areas I’m interested in and an idea for a project I’d like to develop, conclusion that mentioned 3-4 profs at that program I’d like to work with.
Other: Audited a couple PhD field courses at MIT while working as an RA, which probably helped my profile a bit but more importantly was an awesome experience.
RESULTS: (get ready, my list is very long… )
Acceptances: Berkeley, UBC, Michigan (Econ), Michigan (joint Public Policy & Econ), UCLA, UT Austin, Cornell, Michigan State, UVA, UC Davis, Maryland
Waitlists: Harvard Kennedy School (Public Policy) [I declined this one before finding out if I got an offer], Chicago Booth [I think this was a waitlist, hard to tell how they worded it; anyway I didn’t get this offer]
Rejections: Wisconsin, Princeton, Chicago, UCSD, Duke, Columbia, Penn, Harvard Kennedy School (PEG), Stanford, Chicago Harris (Public Policy), Stanford GSB (Political Econ), Northwestern, Brown, MIT, Yale, Penn State
Pending: Never heard back from BU; withdrew from Penn Wharton (Applied Econ) after phone interview because I had offers I preferred
Comments: Obviously I applied to a ton of programs, and ex post it was way more than necessary. Ex ante, I was unsure how my profile would turn out, since I have very strong research experience but a weak transcript. I figured since I was potentially a high variance applicant it was worth applying to a bunch of programs. Also, being 4 years out of undergrad, I wanted zero chance that this cycle would not work out for me.
What would you have done differently? Ex post, I would have only applied to Berkeley. Or, more realistically, I at least would have pared down my list to top 15 or so. However, ex ante, I still think my strategy wasn’t unreasonable. Actually, I initially planned on 15 programs and was advised to apply to more. Of course I also would have tried a little harder in undergrad econ courses – there’s just no excuse for missing A’s in the intro courses, and my few B/B- also didn’t help. But then again I didn’t know what a PhD was until my junior year, so I’ll cut myself some slack.
A more useful point, I would have focused my RA applications as an undergrad senior toward the NBER positions and similar positions working directly with research professors. I did 2 years at the Fed, and then 2 years at one of these positions. Fed does alright getting people into especially the ~12-20 or 25 range of programs, but if you want an RA job to set you up for a top 10 or even top 5 it seems you stand a much better chance working with a well-known research prof.
Anyway, I am ecstatic to be going to Berkeley! And I hope the application fees I paid will at least prove useful as data points for others. In particular, even if you don’t have perfect grades, you can do well for yourself if you get into a solid RA position.