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Thread: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

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    1 out of 2 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

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    Hi all,

    I've been a long time lurker of the forum and have found a lot of the posts to be very informative. It will be my turn to apply to PhD programs next year, and I am wondering which and how many schools I should be targeting + other concerns. Any advice, wake-up calls, etc. would be appreciated.

    PROFILE:
    Type of Undergrad: Economics and Math double major from USNEWS top 10 undergrad, top 15-20 PhD program
    Undergrad GPA: 4.00
    GRE: Taking this summer - have some questions/concerns below
    Math Courses: AP Calc BC, Calc III (A), Linear Algebra (A+), DiffEQ (A), Probability (A+), Mathematical Statistics (A+), Intro to Proofs (A+), Stochastic Processes (MA level, A+), Abstract Algebra (A+), Analysis I (A+), Game Theory (A)
    Econ Courses: AP Micro + Macro, Intermediate Micro I (A), Intermediate Micro II (A), Econometrics (A+), Microeconometrics (MA level, A+), Research Independent Study (A). Planning to take Intermediate Macro, PhD Micro I, and a thesis class in the fall.
    Other Courses: Intro to Computer Science (A+), Data Structures (A), gen ed classes
    Letters of Recommendation:
    1. Top 10 PhD, tenured professor for whom I will have RA'd for a year by the time of application, advised my independent study, likely thesis advisor
    2. Top 5 PhD, tenured professor with whom I took a class, and for whom I will be TA-ing next year
    3. Top 10 PhD, tenured professor for my MA metrics class - I was the only undergrad in the class and did very well so I hope the letter will be good
    Research Experience: ​
    1. 1 year of RA-ing/coding and simulations for the first recommendation letter writer, some of it through an independent study
    2. Honors thesis, on which I received a fellowship to get a head start this summer.
    3. 1 year + half a summer of working in a econ policy lab at my school, still unsure if I should commit myself to it in the future - have some questions/concerns below.
    4. 1 summer REU, data science/sociology interdisciplinary project the summer after my sophomore year, which cemented my interest in doing social science research. Did a lot of coding and data analysis in Python.
    Teaching Experience:
    1. TA-ing for undergrad econometrics next year
    2. Tutored for multivariable calculus and linear algebra for a year and a half.
    Research Interests: empirical IO, applied econometrics, health
    Target Schools: top 10 and business schools with strong IO programs

    Concerns:
    1. Should I continue working for the policy lab next year? It is a paid job but it will be a lot of time commitment doing that, TA-ing, writing a thesis, taking PhD Micro, and applying to jobs/programs all at the same time. The Econ professor who leads the lab offered me a chance to co-author a paper, and I will be working for them for part of the summer, but frankly I find the subject of my thesis to be more interesting than the lab's paper and would like to dedicate my time to that next year. At the same time, the co-authorship seems appealing, so I don't know. I'm also not good at saying no to people, and I'm not sure how the professor will feel if I tell her I won't have enough time to contribute to the lab next semester.
    2. What range of GRE scores should I aim for this summer as a minimum / how much studying should I do? From what I've read, schools use GRE as a filter, but I don't know if that also applies for math major applicants.
    3. I've seen people recommend others to do a year or two of RA-ing before applying to boost their chances of getting into a top program. Is there a glaring hole in my profile that would warrant delaying my applications another couple of years? The only thing I can think of is that only one of my recommenders will have known me through research. I'm not sure what the ideal split between research recs/class recs should be. I could ask the policy lab professor for a rec, but they are not as well-published as my current ones and there is the issue of me potentially no longer being in the lab next year.
    4. How many schools should I apply to? How safe is it to just apply to top 10-11 + business schools + a smattering of schools in the top 20 with good locations and/or research fit (like UCLA, UCSD, Duke)?

    Any insights / suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by pulsars; 05-07-2018 at 01:40 PM.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    Also, is there a difference in terms of signaling between taking PhD Micro and Metrics?

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    1. Not sure. Depends on how well-published the lab professor is. If he's regularly hitting top 5s or top field journals, chance of co-authorship is worth it. But it seems like a huge time sink either case.

    2. Doesn't really matter. Given that you got into a top 10 undergrad, and how consistent your grades are, you're probably the type of careful student who should get 166+ easily. Honestly I wouldn't even put any time in studying; take it first, if score turns out below 166 (unlikely), then register again and study.

    3. Unless your first two letters turn out to be unusually strong, 1 year of RA will always have some marginal value, because it'll increase your chances at the top 2 in econ + top 2-3 in business econ, and it'll also give you a headstart in research when you enroll in a PhD program. Which means you'll be more likely to graduate in 5 years compared to 6 years as a PhD student, so you aren't really losing a year of income. And some RA positions pay more than a typical PhD stipend. I never did full-time RA before I applied, but looking back on it, it seems like a good deal for almost every tier of students.

    4. Definitely a safe list. If you don't get in any (very unlikely) you can still apply for RA. The dilemma occurs if your top offer is a #6-10 program and whether you should apply for RA in that scenario. But you can figure that out next year.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    1. Not sure. Depends on how well-published the lab professor is. If he's regularly hitting top 5s or top field journals, chance of co-authorship is worth it. But it seems like a huge time sink either case.

    2. Doesn't really matter. Given that you got into a top 10 undergrad, and how consistent your grades are, you're probably the type of careful student who should get 166+ easily. Honestly I wouldn't even put any time in studying; take it first, if score turns out below 166 (unlikely), then register again and study.

    3. Unless your first two letters turn out to be unusually strong, 1 year of RA will always have some marginal value, because it'll increase your chances at the top 2 in econ + top 2-3 in business econ, and it'll also give you a headstart in research when you enroll in a PhD program. Which means you'll be more likely to graduate in 5 years compared to 6 years as a PhD student, so you aren't really losing a year of income. And some RA positions pay more than a typical PhD stipend. I never did full-time RA before I applied, but looking back on it, it seems like a good deal for almost every tier of students.

    4. Definitely a safe list. If you don't get in any (very unlikely) you can still apply for RA. The dilemma occurs if your top offer is a #6-10 program and whether you should apply for RA in that scenario. But you can figure that out next year.
    Thanks chateauheart for being incredibly insightful (as always)! What are the percentages of PhD econ students finishing in 5 years versus 6 years? I was under the impression that 5 was the norm, but perhaps things have changed.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    Quote Originally Posted by pulsars View Post
    Thanks chateauheart for being incredibly insightful (as always)! What are the percentages of PhD econ students finishing in 5 years versus 6 years? I was under the impression that 5 was the norm, but perhaps things have changed.
    6 is becoming increasingly common.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    6 is the norm for people who are trying to place on the academic market. 5 is uncommon, except for a few programs like MIT that make an emphasis on getting everybody out on their 5th year.

    If we include industry/private placements then 5 is probably still the majority.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    some RA positions pay more than a typical PhD stipend.
    I can attest that most RA positions pay more than a typical PhD stipend (between 40k-55k)

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    Quote Originally Posted by mathenomics View Post
    I can attest that most RA positions pay more than a typical PhD stipend (between 40k-55k)
    That's my impression as well; I meant "some" in the existential sense. OP can almost certainly get a nice $50k+ RA job given his experience & field of interest.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    I got 166V/168Q on the GRE. This should pass the filter for all schools, right? I would rather not retake due to financial constraints and would rather be working on research this summer.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation: Fall 2019 PhD Admission

    I think 166/168 is fine, and your time is probably best spent on the other activities you mentioned. Unless the time cost for studying is essentially zero for you (meaning you basically forgot to fill in some blanks because you feel asleep or something haha) and you are positive you can increase your score to 170.

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