Type of Undergrad:Top 25 LAC
Undergrad GPA: 3.65 (ECON 3.67, Math 3.54)
Type of Grad: n/a
Grad GPA: n/a
Math Courses:Calc 2 - BEcon Courses:
Multi - B+
Linear Algebra Proxy (but light) - A
ODE - B+
Probability - B+
Discrete - A-
Abstract Algebra - A
Real Analysis - ABasic Econ Stats (OLS, etc) - A-Other Courses:
Econometrics - B
Mathematical Economics - B+
Macro - A-
Micro - A-
Letters of Recommendation: 1 from my major advisor who I've taken a class with, 1 hopefully from my real analysis professor, and 1 TBD
Research Experience: 2 years at an economic consulting firm, focusing on energy; may try to get a letter of recommendation from here but not sure
Teaching Experience: none
Research Interests: energy, healthcare
SOP: Will write about interest in wholesale electricity markets most likely
Other: I plan on applying widely in the 20-40 range of schools. I definitely planning on applying to a few ARE programs as well. Any thoughts on my chances?
This is not a competitive profile for #20-#40 PhD econ programs, nor perhaps another 20 programs below that range. LACs tend to have comparable grade inflation with elite private universities and a rough extrapolation of your academic record puts you at around the median among econ seniors in a #30-#60 college. Generally only the top 5-10% of each undergrad class would consider applying for PhD econ programs, and fewer than 1% would end up at PhD programs. US Econ PhD programs also have a higher proportion of international students (~60%) than virtually any other discipline. That should give you a general idea of how many qualified applicants would be ranked ahead of you on academic record alone when applying to #20-#40 econ PhD programs. This is why almost all U.S. PhD applicants move laterally or downward if they wish to enroll in a PhD program, even if they're among the top of their undergrad class. Put it another way, your GPA is average and you're considering a career path in which almost all entrants have significantly above average GPA at possibly better-ranked institutions.
You also have no research experience in college, which is very rare among successful PhD applicants. And you don't have an A in any of the econ theory or metrics courses, which will be a concern independently of your subpar GPA.
Econ consulting letter won't be worth much, though it may still be your best option among all that you've mentioned.
Your type of background seems a better fit for joint MBA/MPP or MD/MPP programs. If you're absolutely certain you want to pursue an academic career, then realistically you either need to (i) go back to school (e.g. master's program); or (ii) get an econ RA job, and re-evaluate your options a year later. If you do apply to PhD programs at some point, you'd be correct to prioritize ARE programs over straight econ programs because of your background and interests, though the admissions requirements are so similar that the advice above applies equally.
Last edited by chateauheart; 08-05-2018 at 01:59 AM.
Thanks for the the response chateau. Some stats I left out related to economics are As in Game Theory and Health Economics classes, although I doubt those matter based off your analysis of my profile. I was planning on applying to schools in 40-50 range as safeties, but do you think my idea of what would be safety schools is actually the high side my competitive range? Assuming this profile, should I be looking in the 50-80 range then?
I don't think we (this forum) have a sufficient sample of recent application results to tell you exactly if you're competitive for the 40-60 range; if forced to bet I'll probably take 50-50 odds that you get 1 funded offer in that range with ~10 applications. But I insist that this is a secondary concern at this point. In econ, academic placements or long-term success do not significantly depend on program ranking. A much more important factor is the student's fit for academic economics research and communication.
Depending on the area of econ consulting you worked in, the research you're familiar with may be very different from academic-style research. Getting some kind of RA experience before you apply would be very useful both for admissions purposes (you really need another letter) and for making sure you're getting into the right career path. I'd suggest aiming for a full-time RA position starting from Summer or Fall 2019 and then applying for Fall 2020 PhD entry. Generally, PhD students with prior RA experience are more likely to graduate on time, so this won't necessarily delay your academic career, but it'll allow you to cut losses much earlier if you figure out during the RA year that academic work is not your cup of tea.
Thanks, this is very helpful advice. To you, does it really seem feasible to obtain a recommendation from a professor after being an RA for just a few months? I realIze you did say apply Fall 2019 for Fall 2020, I suppose Iím just a bit surprised by the feasibility of that.
It's not only feasible, it's standard for full-time RAs to start in summer then apply after 3-5 months, i.e. asking for a letter after 2-4 months of full-time work. An experienced professor who regularly hires RAs can judge your programming ability, work ethic, research intuition compared to other former RAs within that timespan. Moreover, at least some part of the "quality" of the letter is quid pro quo for your work during the rest of the year, or for having a relationship with the professor (which will be valuable to him/her if you place into a high-ranking program).
Note that full-time RA positions typically expect 40+ hours per week, so 3 months of work in that capacity is equivalent to approximately a year of part-time RA work during college.
Finally, if you're holding an RA job, it's quite easy to extend it by 1 year, or to find another RA position. So if you don't get a desirable PhD offer, you can just apply again a year later. So the only opportunity cost of applying during the 1st year as an RA is a small amount of money + time.
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