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Thread: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

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    Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

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    Hi all -
    I was hoping to get a little feedback/insight regarding my profile, since mine seems to be the kind of background that will produce highly variable results, in terms of admissions/rejections. A little info on me, I originally received my political science BA and then MA at a large state school. I realized while doing my MA that I wanted to do my PhD in economics, so I went back to school at a small liberal arts school to obtain my economics and mathematics degrees. I will be applying this Fall for Fall 2019. I have concerns about 1) coming from an unknown liberal arts school, 2) having so-so grades in my calc sequence and analysis; 3) having a mediocre GRE score; and 4) not having economic internship / RA experience in academia or with a fed branch.

    I've seen profiles similar to mine get into good programs, while I've also seen them receive a large proportion of rejections. As such, I'll be casting a wide net - 15-50 rankings, and am hoping to get into ~30-40 ranked programs. I was just hoping I could get some feedback from you guys - all feedback is welcome. Thanks!

    Type of Undergrad: Large state school (Political Science); unranked liberal arts school (Economics, Mathematics, )

    Undergrad GPA: 3.75

    Type of Grad: State School (Political Science)

    Grad GPA: 3.9

    Math Courses: Calc I/II/III (A-/B+/A-), Linear Algebra (A-), Statistics & Probability (A), Advanced Engineering Stats & Probability (A), Diff EQ (A), Number Theory (A), Combinatorics (A), Modern College Geometry (A), Linear Dynamical Systems (A-), Real Analysis (B-), Group Theory (A)

    Computer Engineering Courses: C++ Progamming (A), Advanced C++ Programming (A)

    Econ Courses: All A's - Intermediate Macroeconomics, Microeconomic Theory (Intermediate Microeconomics), Introduction to Econometrics, Applied Econometrics, International Economics II, History of Economic Institutions and Thought, Game Theory and Behavioral Economics, Managerial Economics, Money and Financial Institutions, Independent Study - Focus on Building Econometric Models

    Letters of Recommendation: Two from economics professors, one from mathematics professor. These will be very solid - I have very good relationships with them.

    Research Experience: Masterís Thesis on Cuban Political Economy (275 pages). My MA committee chair made four chapters of my thesis reading in an upper division political science course at my alma mater that focuses on the Cuban political economy. These chapters pertain to monetary duality in Cuba, Cubaís integration into the world economy, Cubaís recent economic reforms, and US-Cuba relations. My thesis is also required reading for honors students at my alma mater studying US-Cuban relations.

    GRE: 163 Q, 162 V, 5.5 AW

    Teaching Experience: TA'd during Masters Degree

    Research Interests: Econometrics, Macroeconomics

    SOP: Working on

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    Bump. I was also hoping for feedback regarding letter of recommendation writers. My masters thesis adviser, who made my masters thesis required reading in one of his classes, and for his honors students, wants to write one of my letters. I know you're only supposed to use letters of rec from economists and occasionally mathematicians, but would a thesis adviser letter from a political scientist be of value, since he's seen my graduate research?

    I'm also going to try to get my GRE up to 165.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    If you got your GRE Q to 166 you would have a decent chance at a top 50. However, given your background, if you got your your GRE Q to a 166 you would be an amazing candidate for a PhD in Public Policy at a school that is more political economy oriented. The HKS PhD in PP or the PhD in PEG are good examples of this, as is the PhD in PP at UChicago-Harris. If you apply to one of those programs LOR's from your poli-sci professors would count as much as an econ professor and your MA thesis, if it is as good as you say, would probably be a strong plus while for econ PhD programs it would probably not matter much, especially if it is primarily qualitative. You mention that your research interests are in macro and metrics. If you mean theory, then these schools will not help you with that, and for that matter neither will most econ PhD's outside the top 20. But if your interests are more applied macro and metrics to political economy then a economics/political economy oriented PP program could be a very good fit.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    Thank you very much for the feedback! From my limited information, it has also seemed to me that ~30-50 ranked programs are my best bet, so I'll realistically plan on the top end of that, and cross my fingers for the middle. I looked at public policy programs in the past, as well as political economy programs, but ultimately decided against them, because my interests always gravitated toward the economic, rather than the political, facets of whatever I was studying / researching. Regarding research interests, when I wrote macro / econometrics, I just meant that I want those to be my two main subfields.

    I take it from your advice that I should plan on having my third letter come from a mathematics professor, rather than my political science MA chair?

    Thank you so much once again for your advice - it helps a lot. I'll do my best to get my quant score up to 166.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    Quote Originally Posted by bpbirch View Post

    I take it from your advice that I should plan on having my third letter come from a mathematics professor, rather than my political science MA chair?
    Not necessarily. Neither a poli sci prof nor a math prof rec letter will count for much in econ admissions but an MA thesis advisor in a somewhat related field who can specifically speak to your research abilities -even if it is for qualitative political economy research- will probably be more valuable than a random math prof who you took classes with even if the rec is glowing (maybe startz or tm_member can chime in on this).

    Also, don't discount all policy school programs. Some are very econ oriented and have pretty rigorous econ coursework and regularly place in econ departments. The HKS PEG program over the last 5 years has 6 top 30 (or international equivalent) econ dept placements and 2 top 10 B-school placements out of 16 total graduates. HKS PP, Chicago Harris PP and UMich Ford PP all regularly place graduates in solid econ departments. They might not be as good a fit for your research interests relative to a standard econ PhD program but at the right policy school you can still explore your interests while being at a higher ranked school and often have access to the econ faculty and coursework at those schools.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    This is very good information to have. I took a look at Harvard's PEG program placements, and they're impressive. I was not aware that economics departments hired people with non-economics degrees as economics professors. I'll spend some time looking into these programs more. I am still more inclined towards a pure economics program, given that my interest in the political aspect of things has waned over time, as my interest in economics has grown. I'll probably apply to two or three of these programs, though, in addition to the econ programs I apply to. Thanks!

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    And just one other question: do you think it would be worth it to re-take Analysis? I took it with a prof who is notoriously rigorous in our dept. Awesome prof, I loved the class, but she's definitely more demanding than other people in the dept. I could re-take this semester and get an A, no problem. Do you think that would make any impact on admissions?

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    Quote Originally Posted by bpbirch View Post
    And just one other question: do you think it would be worth it to re-take Analysis? I took it with a prof who is notoriously rigorous in our dept. Awesome prof, I loved the class, but she's definitely more demanding than other people in the dept. I could re-take this semester and get an A, no problem. Do you think that would make any impact on admissions?
    Hard to say if it is worth it to retake, though if you are sure you would improve your grade to an A, I would lean towards yes. Your overall math grades are solid, mostly A/A- and for the range of schools you are applying to you could get in with a B- in RA, but retaking for an A would definitely help. But if retaking the course prevents you from taking another useful class, it might not be worth it.

    You are at an unranked LAC, so I assume RA is at the level of Baby Rudin or a similar text, and they do not have a more advanced RA class using Royden or Papa Rudin.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    I'll concur with zshfryoh1's advice and I'll specially emphasize that from my years of experience at mentoring/advising a number of similar applicants, I'm fairly certain that you're a better fit for either political economy PhDs or political science PhDs. It's easy to fall in love with economics at an undergrad/master's level - because it offers much more rigorous tools than comparable political science courses - but at the end of the day, the PhD disciplines are delineated by subject matter, not by methodology. It's perfectly possible to go into a political science PhDs and learn all the econometrics tools that are typically learned by an econ PhD student (possibly by using electives or with independent learning), then conduct research on poli-sci topics, including political macro-econ (which seems to be your main interest right now). In contrast, economics journals tend to view any country-specific study or institutional study as having "limited interest", which significantly limits your chances of publishing in the top 5 econ journals.

    There's a lot that we don't know about you and there's probably a lot you don't know about your own interests, but just don't get tunnel vision about your own "identity" as a future academic. Most people at your stage of your education will have a limited understanding of the culture, intellectual history or trajectory of either discipline. You should talk broadly with econ and poli-sci faculty and read their journals to get an idea of which discipline you're a better fit for.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for Fall 2019

    Thanks a lot for the reply, chateauheart. I guess what I didnít include in my profile is just as important as what I did include. It was actually the subject matter itself, rather than the methodology, that led me to economics, and away from political science. While I was doing my masters, I actually had a hard time with my original adviser because all of my thesis ideas were almost purely economic in nature and neglected politics. He ultimately said, ďyou should be doing an economics masters, not political science,Ē and we parted ways. And he was completely right, both in assessing that I wanted to study pure economics, and in deciding that there was no intersection in our interests.

    Luckily, the guy who ultimately ended up agreeing to be my committee chair had much broader interests, and he agreed to compromise with me: ďinclude some political aspects in your thesis, and Iíll give you the go ahead to include some economic - albeit qualitatively - chapters.Ē Heís a comparative political scientist who focuses on Mexico and Cuba, hence why I wrote on Cuba. It was a topic that I already had quite a bit of background on, and it was a good topic for finding the overlap between our interests that would allow me to finish my masters and write my thesis. I absolutely loved working with him, and thoroughly enjoyed the thesis writing process - even as it ballooned to ~250 pages.

    The parts of my thesis that I really enjoyed dealt with Cubaís currency, their exchange rate system, wages. But I had to include political facets because, well, I was in fact in a political science program.

    The upshot being, itís the economic subject matter that interests me. The political? Not so much. In fact, I heard myself audibly groan when I looked at Harvardís PEG program summary and saw that you had to take multiple political science courses - I couldnít imagine sitting through another graduate political science course. Itís just not for me.

    I didnít come to this conclusion overnight. Iíve spent years discussing the different pros and cons with econ and political science faculty. I just havenít had much insight regarding which programs I would be competitive at, because I am at a small LAC where most students are not pursuing graduate school.

    I really do appreciate the feedback, and I hope this gives a clarifies representation of my interests (and more importantly lack of interest in political science).

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