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Thread: Profile Evaluation

  1. #11
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    Re: Profile Evaluation

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    To be honest, this is a very strong profile. I think they weigh research experience more than anything. I think your grade is fine, they stop caring about grade as long as you have decent ones from important classes. The only thing I will potentially be worried about is the rec letters. Do the latter two of your letter writers work in a university? Or they are just research analysts? If they are active in academia, I won't be worried about anything. I mean three-year research experience is a lot.
    And still one thing, is the grad metrics the only phd level you do? That may cause some concerns since they want to make sure that you pass the first year cores. I have sort of similar problem, since I got a B+ from the second macro core (they have 3 macro cores). But I end up getting one rec letter from the professor teaching the third macro core. If there's any evidence that can convince them that you can pass the core, I think this is a solid top 10 profile.

  2. #12
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    Re: Profile Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by magicahan View Post
    To be honest, this is a very strong profile. I think they weigh research experience more than anything. I think your grade is fine, they stop caring about grade as long as you have decent ones from important classes. The only thing I will potentially be worried about is the rec letters. Do the latter two of your letter writers work in a university? Or they are just research analysts? If they are active in academia, I won't be worried about anything. I mean three-year research experience is a lot.
    And still one thing, is the grad metrics the only phd level you do? That may cause some concerns since they want to make sure that you pass the first year cores. I have sort of similar problem, since I got a B+ from the second macro core (they have 3 macro cores). But I end up getting one rec letter from the professor teaching the third macro core. If there's any evidence that can convince them that you can pass the core, I think this is a solid top 10 profile.
    Yea, so my impression is that they really want to gauge two things: Will you make it past the first year courses, and conditional on that, will you be able to produce quality research? I think that in general my math has shown that the first is true, and my RA experience has shown the second, but I do not think that everyone that reads the application with a very critical eye would be convinced of that. And your point about grad classes is valid, knowing what I know now I would have taken either the Micro or Macro sequence while here at my job, but by the time I realized the value of that it was too late. I think those are the soft spots of my application, and why I think top 10 is a slight stretch for me.

    And to answer your other question, yes both of my other letters are from academic economists, in the research department of a Federal Reserve bank. The strongest letter is from a top 5% Repec economist who I have worked directly with for 3 years, but the other is a younger economist who is not well known. I know that last one will be weaker, but he knows me well and can speak directly to my ability as a researcher as well. I believe two of the letters will be very strong, and the third strong but from a weaker source. If I had to guess, I would estimate that the letters overall are a bit of a boost relative to people with otherwise similar profiles?

  3. #13
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    Re: Profile Evaluation

    The most important factor isn't grades, gre's, graduate courses, or even research. It's what recommenders say about you. What the recommenders say will be influenced, of course, by grades, gre's, graduate courses, and research. And candidates generally don't know how to read the letters.

    A letter that says "Sally is better than Jonny who I sent to Penn last year but not quite so good as Emily who I sent to Harvard the year before," is likely to get Sally into a top 5 or 10 program. "Henry is a very hard-working, bright student with a great personality who I strongly recommend to serious graduate programs" will probably exclude Henry from the top 20...and quite possibly from the top 40.

  4. #14
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    Re: Profile Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    The most important factor isn't grades, gre's, graduate courses, or even research. It's what recommenders say about you. What the recommenders say will be influenced, of course, by grades, gre's, graduate courses, and research. And candidates generally don't know how to read the letters.

    A letter that says "Sally is better than Jonny who I sent to Penn last year but not quite so good as Emily who I sent to Harvard the year before," is likely to get Sally into a top 5 or 10 program. "Henry is a very hard-working, bright student with a great personality who I strongly recommend to serious graduate programs" will probably exclude Henry from the top 20...and quite possibly from the top 40.
    I’m a student so obviouly ignorant about this, but doesn’t the recommendation form already ask the prof to evaluate how the applicant stacks up against students/previous applicants at the school they’re applying to?

  5. #15
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    Re: Profile Evaluation

    There isn't always a form. And where a numerical ranking is sometimes asked for, the answers are meaningless. I just read over 600 letters. Our system asks for a numerical ranking. I would guess 95 percent put the student in the top 2 percent, which is the highest category.

    There are other signals in letters that can be very strong of course. "Best student in the last 30 years" or "We will admit her to our PhD program, but she wants to go elsewhere" or "Would have been in the top of my cohort in graduate school." And the statements can't just be cheaptalk; the recommender also has to say what they've seen to support their conclusion.

    This is one reason I suggest that students discuss their application list with recommenders, making it easy for the recommender to signal that the list is too aggressive (or not aiming high enough!) That's a way to really find out where a letter is likely to help you get in.

    Three more things follow:
    (1) This is why letters should generally be from economists. Economists know what admission committees are looking for.
    (2) This one reason why being an RA post-bac can often be an advantage. A letter can make a comparison to other RAs who have gone on to grad school.
    (3) This is a reason why students at schools that don't usually send to people to econ PhD programs are disadvantaged. Their recommenders often don't know how to write an effective letter

  6. #16
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    Re: Profile Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post

    There are other signals in letters that can be very strong of course. "Best student in the last 30 years" or "We will admit her to our PhD program, but she wants to go elsewhere" or "Would have been in the top of my cohort in graduate school." And the statements can't just be cheaptalk; the recommender also has to say what they've seen to support their conclusion.
    Startz, I wonder if you have insight on the strength of an enthusiastic letter coming from a professor from a good school versus a letter from a PhD Economist at a research institution (like a Federal Reserve Bank). Given my situation I would hope there isn't a big difference, but I could also see why one might put a bit more weight on a current professor.

  7. #17
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    Re: Profile Evaluation

    Generally no difference. It does matter some that the person has some experience evaluating candidates, which is true both at a good school and at the Fed.

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