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Thread: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

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    Talking Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

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    PROFILE:
    Type of Undergrad:
    Top 30 Public Economics University in the U.S
    Undergrad Major:
    Economics
    Minor(s):
    Informatics and Statistics
    Undergrad GPA:
    3.59/4.00
    GRE:
    Haven't officially taken the GRE yet, but practice scores have usually been around 165-167 (Q) and 164-166 (V)

    COURSES: Kind of got off to a rough start my first few years (~3.55/4.00), but there is a very strong upward trend in my last two years.
    Math Courses:
    Calculus I-III (C, B+, B), Differential Equations (C+) Linear Algebra (A+), Mathematical Proofs (B)
    Econ Courses:
    Intro. Micro/Macro (A,A), Inter. Micro/Macro (A-, A), Environmental Economics (A), Applied Econometrics (B+), Game Theory (B-), Economic Forecasting (A), Financial Econometrics (A), Macroeconomic Policy (A)
    Other Courses:
    Probability & Statistics (A-), Applied Multivariate Statistics (A-), Advanced Data Science (A)

    Letters of Recommendation:
    1).
    Mathematics Faculty member that I did research under for ~6 months
    2).
    Mathematics Faculty member that I worked as a TA under for the past year.
    3).
    Economics Faculty member who supervised an independent study that I did as an undergraduate.

    Research Experience:
    I worked as an RA with a mathematics faculty member for ~6 months while I was in school. I am listed as a co-author in our final published work
    Teaching Experience:
    I have been a TA for a course on Linear Algebra for the past year.
    Research Interests:
    Macroeconomics, Health Economics, Econometrics, Computational Economics
    Other:
    I am spending the next year as a gap year doing data engineering at a leading ad-tech company, if that counts for anything.

    In an ideal world, I think I would like to go to a top 50 school, but I'm really not sure where to shoot or what ranges to even shoot for in my applications. That being said, I am open to any and all feedback/suggestions!

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    Bump!

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    Welcome to the forum! I think assuming you score in the ranges you posted on the GRE, and assuming you address any weaknesses in your profile, you should be good applying widely to top 50 schools. I would suggest applying to a wide range, with maybe a few reaches into the top 20 and a few safeties on the edge of the top 50.

    Regarding some potential things to consider regarding your profile:
    1. I think the biggest thing to address are the grades in the Calculus sequence and some of the Bs in econometrics. You do have to realize that most people vying for competitive schools are going to come in with near perfect grades in these subjects. It would probably be best to just upfront address these vulnerabilities in your application, whether that is in the extra info section or in your statement of purpose. I think this also reinforces the importance of scoring as high as possible on your GRE quant since that can make your "upward trend" assertion look more credible.
    2. I have heard it said (and I tend to agree) that economics ad coms want to see econ professor letters of rec. I would try if possible to make the majority (ie two of the three) letters econ professor letters. I think the reason for this is that research potential in economics, while connected to mathematical ability, is different than research potential in math.
    3. I worked two years in an econ consulting/statistical programming job prior to applying, so a similar thing to your gap year job. I think for the most part ad coms dont penalize you for this, but they also don't give you any extra points, at least that was my experience talking to professors and applying myself.

    Final tip - I was admitted to a school without differential, but given that you took it and did poorly you might want to consider whether you put macro as a potential concentration in your statement and in the drop downs at some schools that ask you to choose potential concentrations. The reason is that these initials choices aren't binding, and differential is a big part of macro.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    Hello! I have a pretty similar background GPA/GRE wise and am curious as to which specific schools you're eyeing (I'm trying to figure out what's realistic for me as well). Have you picked out a few targets?
    I don't have any feedback really but I think having a mathematics faculty member speak strongly to your quantitative abilities will look good (especially given that you had a few bumps in the beginning).

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    I'm casting a fairly wide net. I suppose my goal is to get into a top 25 school, but I think I will be applying broadly within the range of the top 50. I haven't looked long, but I am looking at UIUC, UWash, and Michigan State are three schools that stick out.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    In general having two mathematics faculty write letters is a bad idea. They don't usually know what economics departments are looking for. In fact, in general having one mathematician write a letter is a bad idea. Now since you're publishing a mathematics article, your situation is a little different.But two mathematicians is likely still a bad idea.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    In general having two mathematics faculty write letters is a bad idea. They don't usually know what economics departments are looking for. In fact, in general having one mathematician write a letter is a bad idea. Now since you're publishing a mathematics article, your situation is a little different.But two mathematicians is likely still a bad idea.
    Interesting point. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of mostly only working closely with math faculty members when I was in school, so I feel as though I don't have a whole lot of econ faculty members I can go to for LORs. Do you think it would be worth it to get in touch with some of my econ professors that I at least took courses with in undergrad, even if I didn't work with them closely?

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    Since you're from a top 30 university, you should get the answer from the faculty there. Begin with the one econ faculty member who has supervised your work. If all the other econ faculty can say is that you did well in class, you may indeed be better off with both math profs.

    While it's probably not much consolation, lots of undergraduates at public universities don't end up with tight connections with many faculty.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    Hi laborsabre,

    Thanks for the very through response! A few questions to follow up:

    Would it be worth it for me to retake some of the calculus sequence/diff EQ to make up for the poor grades I received in those courses?
    Do you think it would be worth it for me to complete a Master's program first to make more connections with Econ faculty before reapplying to a PhD program?

    Thanks for your help!

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Phd in Economics - Fall 2019

    I think you have to answer this question first:
    Is getting into a top 25 program important to you?
    Here are some thoughts Iíve collected on this topic (take everything I say with a grain of salt since Iím starting a program and havenít been through it all): Ranking isnít everything but for jobs, opportunities and connections itís far from trivial. I think there is a stat floating around that majority of tenure track positions at the top 50 schools go to graduates from the top 15 schools or something like that. If you are interested in government or private sector work the rankings matter less. If you were interested in a pretty niche research area where there are lower ranked schools that have star academics in those niche areas you might be ok going elsewhere. But since your interest is macro, which isnít niche, that probably isnít relevant.

    If you think that all over, you then need to consider your chances of getting into whatever tier you deem necessary to best reach your goal. The best people to assess this is probably the one recommended you have. Recommenders tend to be blunt in my experience, especially if you give them the current layout of your academic achievements. Theyíll also have the added knowledge of how much clout they personally hold as a recommended and how good of a recommendation they intend to give.

    Once you collect all this, you have many choices, but here are a few:

    1. You can take a gap year or take extra courses while in school to redo the courses you did poorly in. You could also use this year to RA for an Econ prof and gain another letter (or two!). This is likely the cheapest option.
    2. You can get a masters in Econ. Youíd probably easily get into a good masters program. Graduate grades often are weighted more heavily then undergrad. You could also do all of the things in 1) except maybe in a part time capacity. Cons are this is expensive and might take longer. Pros are that this is more surefire way to improve chances.

    A lot of these decisions come down to the marginal costs for you. Whether or not you have the time or money to spare. Whatever you decide, you can always just try and apply wisely and see what happens. You can then make plans based on what happens. The main cost there is application fees and writing statements, but these may not be big costs in light of uncertainty. I do think that an acceptance to a top 25 aid pretty unlikely given the math grades.

    Regarding retaking the math classes: you might be better off just retaking the most advanced courses, like the proofs one, and then taking additional advanced courses like a real analysis series or another more advanced differential course. I am assuming that any bad grades you got in math were due to temporary factors like personal situations, medical stuff etc, so if you took more classes now youíd do well. If that assumption is false then thatís a different issue.

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