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Thread: JPAL SA vs other research opportunities

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    JPAL SA vs other research opportunities

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    When applying for research positions in the summer after sophomore year, I will also be considering applying to JPAL in India (since I live there). How should I rank this in priority vs a research opportunity at my university (top 10 PhD econ) or a Fed internship? Assuming that development economics is an interest of mine (if not the dominant one).

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    Re: JPAL SA vs other research opportunities

    Do you already have job offers for all three options? The first thing you should do is to apply to all summer RA positions out on the market (there aren't that many).

    When choosing between your offers, I'd say the relevant considerations ranked by importance are:
    1) Job content (will you be doing useless grunt work, or is it going to be something interesting?)
    2) whether the PI is an active researcher
    3) reputation of PI

    If the idea is to get a good letter of recommendation through this RA job, the main factor to consider is whether you'll have an opportunity to demonstrate your research potential. The heavenly scenario would be if a professor at your school gave you a really interesting project to work on. Otherwise, I would lean towards the Fed internship. Sure, maybe their reputation isn't as strong as top 10 school economists, but their summer programs are very structured and they have their RA's do interesting stuff. If you're at a top 10 school, you'll have plenty of other opportunities to get good letters: your next RA job, thesis adviser, classes, etc.

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    Re: JPAL SA vs other research opportunities

    Quote Originally Posted by mathenomics View Post
    Do you already have job offers for all three options? The first thing you should do is to apply to all summer RA positions out on the market (there aren't that many).
    I'm pretty confident about getting an RA job on campus, the other two are things that I will apply for. This is just another way of asking if the RA job dominates JPAL SA (since I know RA vs Fed is not a clear call without knowing all the details, like you pointed out) because if so then I probably wouldn't apply. Also, maybe hoping for more details on JPAL SA? I haven't heard much about it.

    By summer RA positions on the market, is there something other than Fed and RAing with a prof at your own university? (Oh yeah I heard about AEA summer, will probably apply to that)

    And that's a good metric, I'll keep that in mind.

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    Re: JPAL SA vs other research opportunities

    From what I've heard of, JPAL has a side that conducts RCT's and another side that's more comparable to conventional RA jobs at universities/Fed/NBER. Unfortunately, I can't speak to the value added of the segment that involves conducting RCT's, since I've never done it myself and don't know anyone around me who's done it before either.

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    Re: JPAL SA vs other research opportunities

    In my opinion, an RA stint at a top 10 clearly dominates a JPAL job in India, simply due to the fact that the people there will be, at best, marginally removed from the whole admissions process (connections wise), and at worst, quite removed from the process. It's best to see where past JPAL India RAs end up at before making a decision.

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    Re: JPAL SA vs other research opportunities

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    In my opinion, an RA stint at a top 10 clearly dominates a JPAL job in India, simply due to the fact that the people there will be, at best, marginally removed from the whole admissions process (connections wise), and at worst, quite removed from the process. It's best to see where past JPAL India RAs end up at before making a decision.
    While I agree that JPAL India is more likely to be removed from the admissions process, my personal take is that job content should have priority over placement for a sophomore RA position, which is still early on in an undergraduate career. One important consideration is whether you are applying to grad schools straight from undergrad VS work full time as a RA, since this determines your time horizon for collecting letters.

    If you're thinking of the latter, you'll have 2-3 extra years to interact with faculty (senior year + full time job), which means you don't have to be in a rush to get your letters. Focusing on the job experience will help you get better RA positions during your next search, where you'll most likely be getting more substantial work & better letters. If you're writing a senior thesis & work full time as a RA, you definitely won't be short on letters. So in my opinion, the value added of a sophomore RA gig comes from the bump you get on your next job search, not from the benefits you directly get in terms of placement.

    I can think of two reasons why job content should get less weight for a sophomore position: (1) You're applying straight from undergrad and short on time, and you need letters sooner. (2) You plan to stay on the same RA job until you graduate. Work is boring now, but you expect the faculty to give you more interesting work when you get more experience.

    FYI I'm also applying to grad schools this cycle, so it'll be valuable if faculty/grad students on this forum can provide insights to this discussion.

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