PDA

View Full Version : demand side notes



tmp456
02-03-2011, 07:50 AM
I've now read several hundred applications.

. I'm surprised I got into grad school where I did. The pool is very deep.

. Some people get pissed off about rejection letters that start off with "We're sorry that...", because they think it's insincere. They're wrong: we are sorry.

. A B+ in real analysis won't kill your file. An A- in linear algebra and no real analysis probably will.

. The big trade off is between expectation and variance. Reduce your variance as much as possible:

.. There are a lot of good people who take regular math when honors math is available. Speculating about why is no fun.

.. Ditto for intermediate micro and macro

.. First I look at your transcript, then letters. Unless there's something weird, personal statement probably wont get read. If there is anything weird, explain it in the personal statement

tmp456
02-03-2011, 08:21 AM
.. If you are one of the lucky people who get to go to Europe to do a masters, choose a hard one. Don't make us try to guess why you're doing something easier

.. If you're doing anything at all interesting, we want your midyear grades. If you

.. If you're getting straight As, then why haven't you transferred to a better place? There are a lot of applicants with very high GPAs from good but not great schools. It's very hard to justify admitting them

... And if your answer to that last question involves family/friends/special friend: you are entering a profession where you are expected to prioritize academic quality over these sorts of things, at least initially. Why are you not starting now?

.. You didn't write a senior thesis? The only acceptable reason is that it's not available, but see transfers, above.

.. I know you're patriotic and all, but if your country is much smaller than Canada, and you're not going abroad for your masters, who can we compare you against?

fexical
02-03-2011, 09:56 AM
Can you elaborate a little about the institution you come from?

_nanashi
02-03-2011, 10:54 AM
If he's not a top 15, I'd would be skeptical whether he is real or not. Some of what he's posted sounds much more extreme than what I've seen. Including people I know personally at top programs.

kevinp123
02-03-2011, 12:36 PM
.. If you're getting straight As, then why haven't you transferred to a better place? There are a lot of applicants with very high GPAs from good but not great schools. It's very hard to justify admitting them

Is this common practice? I never even considered transferring to a better school, mostly because the in-state scholarships made it essentially free. I guess I'm paying for it now..

UserNam
02-03-2011, 01:00 PM
Deleted.

petecheese
02-03-2011, 01:21 PM
Can't decide if this is real or not. This is more extreme than even schools at top 5 (from professors i have talked to). An A- in linear algebra kills your file?? That is just ridiculous.

Also how comes there is no mention of Research experience, working papers, RAs, PUBLICATIONS??

Elliephant
02-03-2011, 01:23 PM
Is this common practice? I never even considered transferring to a better school, mostly because the in-state scholarships made it essentially free. I guess I'm paying for it now..

I concur. Sometimes transferring is unjustifiably difficult for reasons other than one's smarts and willingness to work hard at a better school, and I think adcoms are smart enough to realise that. At least that's been my impression from talking to profs with top 10 PhDs at my (very low-ranked) school.

centralbanker
02-03-2011, 02:04 PM
Can't decide if this is real or not. This is more extreme than even schools at top 5 (from professors i have talked to). An A- in linear algebra kills your file?? That is just ridiculous.

I'm also debating this. It seems a bit too specific and thought out to be a fake. Although I'm willing to bet we won't hear from this account again one way or another.

HopefulFutureEcon
02-03-2011, 02:39 PM
Troll. period.

mindlessme
02-03-2011, 02:52 PM
I think after all these fake posts on GF in the past people are a little too paranoid on this board. Why would it be troll? The OP gives really specific suggestions that do make a lot of sense.
We don't have to agree with them, or consider them very fair. (Note: the whole admissions process is often not very fair.) But I think he/she actually tried to help...

asquare
02-03-2011, 04:18 PM
I would guess that this post is "real" in the sense of being written by a faculty member with experience on an admissions committee. I'd also guess that the OP is at a top-10 school. That said, at best the post describes one person's perspective on the admissions process of one school. I think the post contains some hard truths couched in a fair amount of cynicism, but I guess that's what happens after reading 300 applications...

It would be helpful if the OP could clarify or expand on a few points:
1) What is the approximate ranking of the program whose admission process you describe?
2) What range of schools do you consider "good enough" that you don't wonder why the applicant transferred? Does someone at Berkeley need to transfer to Harvard or MIT to make your cut? What's the lower bound of credible schools for your program?
3) How do you view other classes, such as graduate micro, that are frequently recommended by users on this and other forums? Are they necessary? Do they make up for lower previous grades?
4) Do you take research experience into consideration aside from a senior thesis? Is RA work valuable outside of the letter of recommendation it may lead to?
5) What role do GRE scores play in your process? Is there a hard or soft cutoff for the quant score? What about verbal and AWA scores?

Econ2011
02-03-2011, 04:54 PM
Just wondering, why is the Rep Power=0 for OP?

Going back to the points mentioned by the OP:


If you're getting straight As, then why haven't you transferred to a better place? There are a lot of applicants with very high GPAs from good but not great schools. It's very hard to justify admitting them
Just says you are not a very good economist. Economists are supposed to give consideration to all the possible alternatives (i.e. reasons here). Every year, many students from not-so-good schools get admitted to top schools. I have seen my friends from LACs ranked below 50 get admitted to Northwestern, Yale and so forth and that too without anything extraordinary.

baffourakoto
02-03-2011, 05:51 PM
Just wondering, why is the Rep Power=0 for OP?



also wondering the same thing. it looks like the account has been deactivated.

asquare
02-03-2011, 07:10 PM
also wondering the same thing. it looks like the account has been deactivated.
No, the account has not been deactivated. Someone gave the OP negative reputation points, and since he/she is a new member who had not accumulated positive points, that made his/her reputation level negative. Users with negative reputation totals have zero rep power themselves.

Econ2011
02-03-2011, 07:28 PM
No, the account has not been deactivated. Someone gave the OP negative reputation points, and since he/she is a new member who had not accumulated positive points, that made his/her reputation level negative. Users with negative reputation totals have zero rep power themselves.

My net total is negative too! Am I just being favored by the system?

_nanashi
02-03-2011, 09:02 PM
Just says you are not a very good economist. Economists are supposed to give consideration to all the possible alternatives (i.e. reasons here). Every year, many students from not-so-good schools get admitted to top schools. I have seen my friends from LACs ranked below 50 get admitted to Northwestern, Yale and so forth and that too without anything extraordinary.


LAC's are more selective, so their average student may be still significantly better than the average public school. My friends from average public schools without Ph.D programs had very hard time getting admitted to top 25. A few of them who did deserve a top 20 admit, got rejected exclusively.

The ops comment makes a lot of sense to me. Its not that students from above places can't be good, in fact quite a few of them are. Its just are they as good as someone from schools like say UC Davis or UIUC. Almost ALL of the undergrads there would be in the top 10% of the incoming class at say university of georgia or kansas state. So the 3.9 student from the latter, might only be as good as a 3.0 from the former (or even inferior).

Galoisj
02-03-2011, 09:15 PM
Budget constraint makes me impossible to transfer to a better university.(and I can't get any FA or scholarship because I am international). I think this is one big reason for many other people. Not to mention good relationship with profs, friends, familiarity with dept, curriculum, opportunities, and etc. A lot of reasons for not transferring cannot be ignored.

dreck
02-03-2011, 09:27 PM
Ditto on the money. I don't blame admissions committees for having higher standards for students with high GPA's from lower-ranked schools, but I'm surprised the OP is so quick to recommend transferring. If I had transferred I would have needed to build entirely new relationships with the professors I wanted to help me reach my goals, which would make getting research experience that much harder, etc etc.

_nanashi
02-04-2011, 12:14 AM
If your at a department with a Ph.D program, I wouldn't worry even if your schools non selective. If your at a department without a Ph.D program, at a place thats non selective, and you think your as good as any of the students at a selective place then go do a masters even if its a tier 2 program. You can fill in a credibility gap that way fairly easily.

dreck
02-04-2011, 01:00 AM
If your at a department with a Ph.D program, I wouldn't worry even if your schools non selective. If your at a department without a Ph.D program, at a place thats non selective, and you think your as good as any of the students at a selective place then go do a masters even if its a tier 2 program. You can fill in a credibility gap that way fairly easily.

Well I was thinking along similar lines. So that's why I'm surprised OP recommends transferring instead of doing a masters or filling the credibility gap in some other way (RA jobs, etc)

_nanashi
02-04-2011, 06:06 AM
When I wrote that he was a top 15, I was a bit generous. My gut reaction was top 5 or maybe top 10. Then I thought I might be underestimating the difficulty of top 15, since my own undergrad only places 3 or 4 exceptional students into top 15. Masters usually places people sideways.


This is pure speculation, but assuming the OP is real and not a troll. I could see why someone at a top 10 might see a candidate and ask why they didn't transfer somewhere better if they were going to a middle of nowhere university. Presuming the applicant is american, the line of reason might be if they were serious about coming to our institution, why didn't they go somewhere better to begin with. The top 10 is extremely selective at the undergrad level (keep in mind these are institutions where the average SAT score is 95th percentile) and they don't admit their own unless they are good relative to their peers.

I'm wondering how undergrads from places like Ohio State, Arizona State, Penn State or other top 30s with non selective undergrads fair in getting into top 10s? DO they consistently send students? Or does a place like, UIUC, Virginia, UNC. strictly do better? What about places like Boston U, Boston College, Georgetown, Vanderbilt which are selective private schools.

tmp456
02-04-2011, 06:11 AM
I don't think giving details is very useful, but we do pretty much what you would expect. The only thing to keep in mind is that if I'm reading hundreds of applications I don't have a lot of time to spend on each one. Take a close look at your transcript: did you take "Algebra" your freshman year? You might want to tell me that the text was Artin. We don't have time to look up course numbers eonline...

Re transfers: we know that international students are stuck. You cant move, and we can't admit you from where you are. Dont think we don't care.

Re RA: if you transfer and write a senior thesis, you can win a thesis prize. If you RA for someone, the best they can say is "best RA", which may or may not be credible.

Re grad classes: we want to know that you have a good chance of passing our exams. Are the grad courses you're taking like our grad courses? Real analysis is a hard course nearly everywhere.

Re masters: I think the best masters courses in north America are in Canada and Mexico. We will need grades and a thesis. Think about deadlines: will you have to get a job after so you can apply with your final results? If so, will they be happy to see you applying for grad school almost as soon as you've arrived? Most people who get a job will stay for two years. Are you sure you don't want to do an honors thesis in undergrad?

econpeace
02-04-2011, 07:10 AM
i like this thread. i think the OP is being brutally frank which can only be helpful. i can imagine how tiresome it must be to read application after application which generally would not stand much chance in obtaining an admit anyway (mine included).

im not surprised by most of the statements if the OP comes from a top 10 (maybe excluding Chicago).

econornot
02-04-2011, 08:09 AM
I don't doubt that the OP is for real but I will like to hear the OP's views about how GRE is weighted during the admission process (as what asquare has asked as well).

DSGE4ever
02-04-2011, 08:56 AM
Regarding internationals coming from developed countries: Some people had to work very hard to get into an European/American school for a Masters. And the money matter affects all these international students directly in the grades matter: Limited scholarships, part time jobs,etc. We didnt have Princeton around (or the subsidized universities in Europe) to apply when we were good students as undergrads, take a loan, and concentrate purely on our studies. Yet, I think there are many who once were international students coming poor countries (Latin America, some countries in Asia) who were given a chance and now thrived in the profession and showed to have a great intuition for Economics and Research. We do know how is it like to leave everything we love in pursue of a career in Economics.
I really hope this helps the internationals applying this year. I dont think we should all be measures with same metric.

mindlessme
02-05-2011, 09:56 AM
Re masters: I think the best masters courses in north America are in Canada and Mexico. We will need grades and a thesis. Think about deadlines: will you have to get a job after so you can apply with your final results? If so, will they be happy to see you applying for grad school almost as soon as you've arrived? Most people who get a job will stay for two years. Are you sure you don't want to do an honors thesis in undergrad?

And what would be your thoughts on those people who have two years of work experience after their master's?

_nanashi
02-05-2011, 08:14 PM
And what would be your thoughts on those people who have two years of work experience after their master's?
The way he's worded it seems to say the following

Honors Thesis in undergrad+ First term masters grade > Completed Masters, and one year work experience (two year route)> First term masters grades and no thesis.

2. Middle is two year route, since after you finish masters you will have a dead year when your applying and not taking classes.

mindlessme
02-06-2011, 07:37 AM
ok, thanks, Nanashi! you're helpful as always!

riskaverse
02-06-2011, 01:12 PM
Some impressions I got from this discussion:
- I've heard that some schools DO care about our SOP's (Columbia) but other really throw them away (MIT, Northwestern...). Actually, in Northwestern application page is written:
Please note that for most applicants, this document [statement of purpose] has little bearing on the admissions decisions.
- I was quite impressed by his comment (specially because I am international and from a developing country)



Re transfers: we know that international students are stuck. You cant move, and we can't admit you from where you are. Dont think we don't care.


I might be wrong but I thought that international students were the majority of the entering classes in most of the schools, with some exceptions like Cornell. I know that Princeton's last year entering class has more or less 25 students of which 9 were Americans, which (also, I've heard...) was a very high number (its was usually 4).

Finally, sorry but I'm very curious: what does OP stand for?

kipfilet
02-06-2011, 01:18 PM
OP = Original Poster, the guy who started the thread.

I don't think there are that little Americans. My impression was that 50/50 was the usual ratio.

tsimonoce
02-06-2011, 01:19 PM
I might be wrong but I thought that international students were the majority of the entering classes in most of the schools, with some exceptions like Cornell. I know that Princeton's last year entering class has more or less 25 students of which 9 were Americans, which (also, I've heard...) was a very high number (its was usually 4).

Finally, sorry but I'm very curious: what does OP stand for?

Original poster.

Also, Stanford Econ has half americans, if I recall correctly.

dobrin
02-06-2011, 03:17 PM
But there is the question: What is the number of accepted internationals that actually come from outside the USA? Because the statistics given by some schools are based on legal documents about person's nationality: Many of my friends that study in USA for their undergrad degree would be considered internationals when applying for Ph.D. . (Correct me if I am wrong)

kipfilet
02-06-2011, 03:29 PM
But there is the question: What is the number of accepted internationals that actually come from outside the USA? Because the statistics given by some schools are based on legal documents about person's nationality: Many of my friends that study in USA for their undergrad degree would be considered internationals when applying for Ph.D. . (Correct me if I am wrong)

Yes, that is also a relevant question. For admissions purposes, someone who actually took his undergrad or even a MA from a US university should not be purely classified as "International", with this category including only those who did all of their academic work outside of the US.

riskaverse
02-06-2011, 03:36 PM
Yes, that is also a relevant question. For admissions purposes, someone who actually took his undergrad or even a MA from a US university should not be purely classified as "International", with this category including only those who did all of their academic work outside of the US.

I couldn't agree more! Those numbers about Princeton I mentioned excluded three or maybe four who, although not born in the US, did their undergrad in American universities.

I was just trying to infer where the OP (thank you for clarifying!) comes from or if he/she is for real based on what he/she posted...

rthunder27
02-06-2011, 04:16 PM
I think the real question is how many internationals are accepted into top PhD programs without either a US undergrad or a highly recognized Masters (be it US, Canadian or European). But I think this falls into the realm of TM conventional wisdom, if you're coming from a fairly unknown international school, then you should probably go for a masters first.

Also, although it is inexact, grad cafe does offer a distinction between internationals and internationals with US training, so you could look over there for stats.

tmp456
02-25-2012, 05:59 AM
Another admissions cycle (mostly) over, so figured I'd go back and take a look at what I wrote last year. Haven't really changed my opinions, but maybe a couple of clarifications:

. There are a lot of applicants from places like U Chicago with A- averages. We can't accept all of them. Think about what this means when I'm reading your file: if you have straight As from a place I've never heard of, I have to imaging what would have happened if one of the U Chicago guys had gone to your school instead of Chicago. Chances are they would have gotten straight As, just like you. To rate you above them, I have to think that the probability is reasonably high that, had you gone to Chicago, you would have done better than them there.

. It's true I don't have time to look up everyone's course numbers online, but if you're a star from a lower tier undergrad, I'm going to take the time to look up yours. If there's an honors track in math and you didn't take it, this is probably where your application dies. If the honors track is restricted to math majors, then maybe now is a good time to declare a math major...

tmp456
02-25-2012, 07:26 AM
. The non-US citizens that get admitted usually either were among the top students at the top university in their home country, or did undergrad at a top US school. A much smaller number went to a good but not great US school: think Vassar, Grinnell, etc.. The students in this last group likely had something really outstanding in their file. Look at job market candidates' CVs to get an idea of where people are coming from. This year, the Harvard candidates are from Michigan, ITAM, PUC, Williams, Ben Gurion, Columbia, Northwestern, Harvard, Charles, Harvard, Polytechnique, Tokyo, Columbia, Tel Aviv, Caltech, Harvard, Cambridge, Harvard, Boston, Normale Sup, Queens, Bocconni, Stanford, and Utrecht/Rotterdam. I don't know Utrecht, but all the other foreign schools are top places. The lowest ranked US school is Boston University, which is conveniently in the same city as Harvard, so there may have been some additional information available for that admissions decision. With the exception of all the Harvard students, things would probably be much the same if you looked at other top schools' job market candidates.

. There are also a bunch of people (mostly non-US citizens) with perfect GPAs applying from Directional State University, much lower-ranked LACs, etc.. This group really has very little chance. Think about it: there are maybe 3000 universities in the US. Suppose that all their recommenders agree that they're the "best applicant in 30 years" from their school. Ok, so if school quality were uniform there's maybe 100 people like them this year, but we know that school quality's definitely not uniform... so basically, they can't get from there to here, at least not directly. Indirect routes might include an RA position in Chicago or Cambridge that gives an opportunity to take the core grad courses and get top marks, or possibly an MA at a European or Canadian university.

. For a US citizen, I don't believe the arguments against transferring schools are that convincing. Suppose you're enjoying a full scholarship at, say, the University of Florida, a good state school that doesn't have a particularly outstanding economics department. If you're getting perfect grades and doing a few things on the side, you could probably transfer to a good private school after a couple years. Loans should be available, and the permanent income hypothesis is your friend. If you've already impressed a prof at Florida, that would give you more transfer options, and they could still write you a letter for phd programs, maybe. Why are you worried about $100k or so in loans? That's probably less than your starting salary will be when you graduate from our program. We want to admit people who are committed to the discipline. If you're not putting your education first now, why should we believe that your priorities are going to change after we admit you?

AnyNameDontCare
02-25-2012, 07:48 AM
Thank you tmp456. Welcome back!

I would like to ask you about international student who did his undergraduate at Africa. As you may know; in whole Africa, there are only nine universities that are ranked in top 700 last year at QS rank; four of them are in Egypt and the other five are in South Africa (correct me if I am mistaken). Like one poster mentioned above we do not have our Princeton and we do not have sufficient money to get into European universities. Moreover, most of universities in my country do not allow you to customize your curriculum as American ones. So I do not have to choose whether to do Real Analysis in my undergrad or not. If you decided to get an Economics degree, then you have to stick to one curriculum as given. That's apply to my university which is included in QS rank.

My question is: If an African student, who has almost As in his\her undergrad, got the opportunity (e.g. Fulbright) to do a master at 2nd tier US institution, would that enhance his\her chances to get into top 15 Ph.D. program? Or, you are not interested in students who did their undergrad at anywhere you do not know?

tmp456
02-25-2012, 06:44 PM
If you are serious about getting to here from there, you are going to have to be very outstanding and very patient. There are two important restrictions. first, unless you're coming from good places in Australia etc. that we understand, we absolutely have to see math courses that are listed in the math department. Second, we're extremely reluctant to admit a student who's already enrolled in another us phd program. This is partially professional courtesy, and partially because even if you're the best student in that program, that program is probably full of people that we rejected previously. The exceptions here are likely people with a very strong letter from someone we trust, giving some compelling reason why that program is not the right program for them any more. for example, maybe you wanted to study macro, but all the macro faculty just left. The bottom line is that you need to avoid entering a phd program in the us.

Given these constraints, you could try to fix the math problem first. Look for a program that will allow you to take a large number of standard undergrad math courses. Such a program might be hard to find. Now you will need to somehow show you are also good at economics.

tmp456
02-25-2012, 06:52 PM
At this point you would have to become very creative. Try to identify some program somewhere in the world that serves as a feeder school to our programs (think ITAM, bocconni, pompeu fabra, tokyo), would be willing to give you funding to do a masters degree even though you already have one, and would give you strong support to leave after the masters. It could be very hard to find such a place. If you are then the top student in their program, then you are in a position where we can admit you. Then you can come to our program, where you can take core micro and macro again, for the third time.

AnyNameDontCare
02-25-2012, 08:37 PM
I appreciate your response.


... first ...we absolutely have to see math courses that are listed in the math department...Given these constraints, you could try to fix the math problem first. Look for a program that will allow you to take a large number of standard undergrad math courses. Such a program might be hard to find. Now you will need to somehow show you are also good at economics.

Indeed! I guess I have to do so since my undergrad training, which is given, does not have much math.


At this point you would have to become very creative. Try to identify some program somewhere in the world that serves as a feeder school to our programs (think ITAM, bocconni, pompeu fabra, tokyo), would be willing to give you funding to do a masters degree even though you already have one, and would give you strong support to leave after the masters. It could be very hard to find such a place. If you are then the top student in their program, then you are in a position where we can admit you. Then you can come to our program, where you can take core micro and macro again, for the third time.

That's a possible route that I thought of before. However, I think I will face a problem of being old while entering a top program, given that I am 24 now and I will enter a two years 2nd tier master program this fall.

MarineEconGuy
02-27-2012, 07:07 AM
tmp456,

Thank you for your insight into the admissions process. I am from a top-50 Liberal arts college and did not do particularly well there (3.0 GPA, my profile is in link pasted below if you wish to reference). I was an economics major however as can be seen in my grades, had no real academic ambition or drive. Soon after I graduated I joined the Marine Corps.

Without getting too nitty gritty, I have grown up a lot since I have been in the Marine Corps (as you may imagine). While I was in Afghanistan I saw first hand some of the things that constrain a third-world country from developing, principally lack of functioning credit markets. In ever bazaar and every village I was in (which were more than a few), there were no banks (outside of a small one in the provincial capital). There is a pool of labor (albeit fairly limited considering that 90% of the population is illiterate, another constraint on development) and a pool of land/machinery, however the incredible difficulty of getting loans (both because of lack of availability of banks as well as a fledgling currency) made getting a stable source of money in that area very difficult. The nearest bank was hundreds of miles away and people had to risk getting killed by the Taliban to even get considered for loans.

Now, while I saw this first hand, I will by no means postulate any sort of theorem or model that bad credit markets==>lack of development, although I am sure many others before me have done so successfully. However I will say that my "growing up" in the Marine Corps as well as some unique experience makes me a little different as far as being an applicant considered for admissions to a PhD program is concerned.

So my question is this: If I pursue a masters from a solid American program and do a few key things, namely:
1) Get perfect or close to perfect grades in challenging graduate courses in economics
2) accrue mathematical coursework (thinking of 2-3 semesters analysis, 2 stat/prob, 1 abstract lin algebra, minimum), again with great grades
3) Do a Masters thesis and RA, with good marks

Will all of those things, taken with my experience in the Marine Corps, act as some sort of "off set" against my poor undergrad performance? Would I even have a remote chance at landing admission at a top-tier program? Would I at least stand out?

Thank you for your honesty and frankness.

alter
02-27-2012, 09:46 AM
@tmp456

Thanks for the insight. I just had a quick question -- for students that come from, say, the top 5, how do you compare them to students from lower ranked schools? Say you have a guy from Harvard with a 3.9 but with little research experience, are you willing to give him a shot over a guy from a top 40 that has glowing recs from his professors and 3 years of research under his belt? And how bad is a B- (say in analysis), if you come from a school that is known to have a notoriously difficult analysis sequence? is there a way to fix a blunder like that on your profile?

resource
02-27-2012, 02:33 PM
This thread should be titled: "Why you will never get a Ph.D. in economics: Promoting homogeneity and anxiety among graduate applicants."

I appreciate comments from the demand side on this forum, but this thread seems fairly apocalyptic. I know people who have gotten an A- in Linear Algebra (gasp!) with no real analysis and gotten into top 10 programs from schools without much recognition. While a lot of this advice is certainly helpful, I think it's going to cause more anxiety than whatever it is worth in benefits.

I should note that a few months ago on this forum, John List emphasized the importance of SOPs and LORs to create a 3-dimensional application, rather than worrying about how much that B in real analysis is going to hurt you. So, perhaps the strategy outlined in this thread is illustrative of a certain school of thought that may permeate the admissions committees at top programs in economics, but there are certainly other opinions on the matter. From my experience, the ability to perform research at/beyond the graduate level is not correlated with many of the things that the OP outlined, however, if you don't have these things, you clearly won't be doing research at the OP's school (which sounds like a top 20 feigning top 10).

I don't envy the OP's task of sorting through hundreds of applications and I understand that it is very difficult to compare applicants across multiple dimensions. I just wanted to remind folks on this board that the doomsday approach to becoming an economist isn't the only way.

pooperscooper
02-27-2012, 03:16 PM
From my experience, the ability to perform research at/beyond the graduate level is not correlated with many of the things that the OP outlined, however, if you don't have these things, you clearly won't be doing research at the OP's school (which sounds like a top 20 feigning top 10).

Student at a top 5 here with some experience with admissions. Go back and re-read what tmp says. She (will continue with she even though may very well be a he) says that if you had honors courses available, but didn't take them, that's hard to justify. She says if you could have done X when it would clearly help your application but you didn't, it will be taken as a negative. This should be obvious. You should signal every way you have available.

When she says you ought to transfer, she is actually right if you want to maximize your probability of getting in. At my program, almost all of the American students come from the same set of places (Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, Berkeley) plus a couple of places that the faculty have strong connections with and have been sending people here for a long time. Every so often there is an oddball who sneaks through the cracks from a less known place, but usually that person also comes with an NSF fellowship or is a math olympiad, Marshall Scholar or Putnam Fellow. As for the international students, they basically all come from the same universities and those universities send them every single year. The good news with that if you can get into a masters program at one of these places (e.g. UPF, LSE, di Tella, Bocconi) and make a good impression on the faculty, your chances at top places have gone up immensely.

It actually is kind of bleak, and while it is a shame, it is much easier to calibrate how good someone is going to be if they can be directly and accurately compared with people we've had in the recent past. If you don't believe me or tmp, go back through profiles and results. How many people do you see going from unknown places to top 5 programs? How many do you see running the board and getting in everywhere? Not many.

Will an A- in linear algebra kill your application here if you don't have analysis? That depends on the rest of your file, obviously. We had plenty of people in my class without analysis, but they all came from places that regularly send students here. How many of them had A- in linear algebra? My guess is not many, based on my relative performance in the econometrics sequence.

Now, this is at a top 5. And it is also addressing how to maximize your probability of getting in. Perhaps you have other goals, liquidity constraints, etc. That is fine, and there are plenty of good reasons to go to your flagship state school- however unless that flagship state school is also an economics powerhouse, it will decrease your probability of getting into a top place. That is a trade off that you need to make and be comfortable with.

Now another thing you could consider is trying to get an RA position with someone well connected to the top places. If that person could write you a great recommendation, again, that would be huge for you. However, I'd tell you to have some caution with this, as RA positions often do not give you the opportunity to fully show off your potential. Recommendations really are king, and there is nothing in your file that can really do the same thing as a glowing recommendation from a very well connected researcher.

It is also been raised that the content of your LOR matters more than the person. That is both true and false in the following sense: if your LOR is written by someone who can't accurately compare you with people currently succeeding in the profession or at a top school, it will have little value in pushing you over the top. It can't really hurt, though. On the flip side, if a well connected and/or famous guy writes you a rec that says you aren't top 10 material, then guess what? You ain't getting in to the top 10. Well connected LORs decrease the uncertainty in your file by orders of magnitude, and the LOR is primarily how admissions committees determine your potential to do good research.

In conclusion, go easy on tmp. She is being honest, and under the assumption that you as a college sophomore or junior or senior, want to increase your probability of getting into top places, she is right.

tm_member
02-27-2012, 03:22 PM
This thread should be titled: "Why you will never get a Ph.D. in economics: Promoting homogeneity and anxiety among graduate applicants."

I appreciate comments from the demand side on this forum, but this thread seems fairly apocalyptic. I know people who have gotten an A- in Linear Algebra (gasp!) with no real analysis and gotten into top 10 programs from schools without much recognition. While a lot of this advice is certainly helpful, I think it's going to cause more anxiety than whatever it is worth in benefits.

I should note that a few months ago on this forum, John List emphasized the importance of SOPs and LORs to create a 3-dimensional application, rather than worrying about how much that B in real analysis is going to hurt you. So, perhaps the strategy outlined in this thread is illustrative of a certain school of thought that may permeate the admissions committees at top programs in economics, but there are certainly other opinions on the matter. From my experience, the ability to perform research at/beyond the graduate level is not correlated with many of the things that the OP outlined, however, if you don't have these things, you clearly won't be doing research at the OP's school (which sounds like a top 20 feigning top 10).

I don't envy the OP's task of sorting through hundreds of applications and I understand that it is very difficult to compare applicants across multiple dimensions. I just wanted to remind folks on this board that the doomsday approach to becoming an economist isn't the only way.

I didn't comment on this thread last year as I was not super active on the forum when in first year due to the workload, but I am compelled this year to try to put some of the information in perspective.

The OP, who we cannot be certain is truly on any adcom, promotes what we could call a cookie cutter approach to getting into econ grad school that is for all intents and purposes predicated on you knowing you want to be an academic economist before finishing high school. I don't believe that a significant portion of graduates from Top 10 schools were in that position of wisdom and could choose their UG accordingly.

For the rest of us mere mortals, it's about accepting the choices we made, and doing the best we can with our backgrounds as they are. You can have a productive and satisfying career with a PhD from any school that grants you one. So long as you are doing research you like, passing on your knowledge to the next generation, and earning a wage that allows you to have a lifestyle you are content with then in my book you are far ahead of most people who have or ever will walk this earth.

Moreover, this thread does nothing but make everyone feel like they have to go to a top 10 school, while at the same time making it seem impossible to do so unless you have the perfect profile. This forum would be redundant without applicants who need advice on how to improve their existing flawed profile, and threads like this have little use to anyone except the random 15-year old who sees it who is already planning on winning a Nobel in Econ at that age. The rest of the advice is standard forum advice to (i) get research experience, (ii) have a good math background, and (iii) make sure your letters are glowing and written by active, respected faculty.

baffourakoto
02-27-2012, 03:52 PM
@tm_guru....wise words!! thank you!

AnyNameDontCare
02-27-2012, 04:09 PM
For the rest of us mere mortals, it's about accepting the choices we made, and doing the best we can with our backgrounds as they are. You can have a productive and satisfying career with a PhD from any school that grants you one. So long as you are doing research you like, passing on your knowledge to the next generation, and earning a wage that allows you to have a lifestyle you are content with then in my book you are far ahead of most people who have or ever will walk this earth.

Hear, hear!

tmp456
02-29-2012, 07:13 AM
Re low undergrad grades: I'm aware of a small number of cases where poor undergrad performance was overlooked. One way is to score at the top of a core graduate class that we know is hard (this would usually require persuading the prof to let you register). Another is good performance in a masters that we trust - but keep in mind that most of these are in Europe, Brazil, etc.

Re B- in analysis: if it's a B- in honors analysis at Chicago, or a beta- in a part III paper at Cambridge, we know that those courses have nasty curves. If the math class you got the B- in is only locally notorious, then you have a bigger problem. Maybe a credible recommender can explain its local notoriety? The best solution of course is to take the next course in the series and get a better grade, but that's not always possible.

Re 3.9 at Harvard: everyone has a different opinion about these. I would stare at the transcript, and try to figure out whether they were just going for a high GPA, or whether they were taking meaningful courses, and then later decided they wanted to do. A very high GPA from a very good school on not-so-great course selection with only a little research is guaranteed to be controversial. Some people like reading statements of purpose.


There are a surprisingly large number of files where someone got straight As in economics from an ok but not great school, and then continued on to do a masters from that same school, and is now applying to our program. Judging by their course selection, it seems like they knew they liked economics from fairly early on. It's possible that they're just applying to our program on a whim, and that they neither want nor expect to enroll here. If they're actually serious about wanting to come to our program, though, the decision to stay put at a good but not great school was a very poor choice. There seem to be a lot of people who stay put like this, and then apply to our program. One possibility is that they know exactly what they're doing, and their behavior is optimal given their preferences. Another possibility is that they're misinformed about the way in which candidates are evaluated. The latter is a real possibility, given that very few department webpages provide much information about how important program quality is in admissions decisions.

tbe
02-29-2012, 02:35 PM
I am an associate professor at a top 35 research university and also happen to be on our admissions committee. Everything tmp456 wrote rings true for me.

Here are some other notes:

The biggest problem that PhD students have at our school is that they show up and don't want to put in the work to write a good thesis. So, how do we figure out who is willing to work hard? One good signal is taking hard classes and getting good grades. I don't interpret a B in linear algebra as someone who just isn't good at math (though they may not be good at math); I interpret it as someone who didn't put in enough effort. (Yeah, sure, I'm willing to make adjustments because a B at U of Chicago is different from a B at SE Missouri.) Another signal is gaining research experience.

The best thing you can signal in your statement of purpose is that you can write well. It's nice if you have ideas about what topics interest you.

Files are read by multiple people and each puts different weight on different aspects of the application. My theory colleagues simply care about advanced mathematics. Some colleagues don't know much about the relative quality of undergraduate institutions (since they didn't go to college in the US) and put little weight on that. I do empirical work and so I put more weight on whether the person has taken advanced statistics classes and has some experience using data.

alter
02-29-2012, 07:35 PM
@tmp456

Does taking a year or two off to work at the Fed or in economic consulting while taking classes like measure theory and stochastic processes significantly improve your application? My advisor says that an increasing number of applicants that get admitted to my school have classes like measure theory, and recommended that I do something similar. Do you think that if I have all the bare minimum prerequisite classes (calc, linear algebra, analysis, stats, probability) and a few easier math electives like numerical analysis with good grades, would taking off two years after undergrad to work + take more math be worth it?

kabu
02-29-2012, 08:25 PM
@tmp456: You said in your last post "Another is good performance in a masters that we trust - but keep in mind that most of these are in Europe, Brazil, etc."

I'm curious about how you view the Master's programs at the top Canadian PhD-granting universities: UBC and UofT. Are those feeder schools that you trust? Between UBC and UofT, is one viewed more favourably than the other? (I know UofT's master's program is streamed: I am speaking principally of the doctoral stream.)

My background: I am finishing at the top of my class with a BA Honours in Economics this year at a well regarded university, but which is outside the top tier in economics (it's PhD granting, but definitely not among the best ones). I have a generous fellowship offer from an 11-15 ranked school, and am hoping to get an acceptance from one of the top 10 programs to which I applied. But I would consider spending a year in a Canadian MA program and reapplying if that doesn't pan out.

tbe
02-29-2012, 08:34 PM
@tmp456

Does taking a year or two off to work at the Fed or in economic consulting while taking classes like measure theory and stochastic processes significantly improve your application? My advisor says that an increasing number of applicants that get admitted to my school have classes like measure theory, and recommended that I do something similar. Do you think that if I have all the bare minimum prerequisite classes (calc, linear algebra, analysis, stats, probability) and a few easier math electives like numerical analysis with good grades, would taking off two years after undergrad to work + take more math be worth it?

I know this was directed at tmp456, but I'll give my own reaction from the perspective of someone at a school that is ranked in the 35-range: Unless you say you want to study micro theory or econometric theory, I don't care if you have these advanced classes. Yes, they may help. No, they are not required by any means. I think taking time off to work as a research assistant at the Fed is still very good, though. It's hard to get good research experience. It's also hard to know if you really want to do research for the rest of your life. These jobs help.

If you are sure you want to go to grad school, you can always apply now and see where you get in. If you aren't happy with your options, consider taking a research position and reapplying.

tbe
02-29-2012, 08:37 PM
@tmp456: You said in your last post "Another is good performance in a masters that we trust - but keep in mind that most of these are in Europe, Brazil, etc."

I'm curious about how you view the Master's programs at the top Canadian PhD-granting universities: UBC and UofT. Are those feeder schools that you trust? Between UBC and UofT, is one viewed more favourably than the other? (I know UofT's master's program is streamed: I am speaking principally of the doctoral stream.)

My background: I am finishing at the top of my class with a BA Honours in Economics this year at a well regarded university, but which is outside the top tier in economics (it's PhD granting, but definitely not among the best ones). I have a generous fellowship offer from an 11-15 ranked school, and am hoping to get an acceptance from one of the top 10 programs to which I applied. But I would consider spending a year in a Canadian MA program and reapplying if that doesn't pan out.

Doing a masters in this situation seems like a very big waste of time. The so-called 11-15 ranked schools are excellent. The difference in the quality of the program between those and the next step up is very small and is highly dependent on your field of interest.

kabu
02-29-2012, 09:18 PM
Doing a masters in this situation seems like a very big waste of time. The so-called 11-15 ranked schools are excellent. The difference in the quality of the program between those and the next step up is very small and is highly dependent on your field of interest.

Thanks for the reply tbe! I'd definitely discuss it with the professors who have advised me at my school before making such a decision. For the reasons you've said and others, my more likely course of action next year is to start working toward my PhD. Nevertheless, there are some individual factors that may cause me to consider an Canadian MA.

I'm still curious to hear what you think of UBC and UofT's MAs, tmp456!

tmp456
03-02-2012, 04:01 AM
Re Canadian masters: these are good programs, but I'm sometimes upset by the Canadian letters. When we get applications from NES, ITAM, etc, they almost always give us an explicit rank of the student in the program. With the Canadian programs, usually it's just a prof saying "in my opinion, top 5%", and sometimes you don't even get that info. It's harder to evaluate the Canadian files, because the universities don't seem to provide quite the same level of detail.

tmp456
03-02-2012, 04:31 AM
Re advanced math courses: yes, I agree that these are probably a waste of time. The theorists disagree, but they're usually a minority. If you took real analysis and got an A, that's good enough for me. Even less may be ok if you're coming from a fancy place.

Re Fed RA: yes, could be a good idea. the letters seem to be a bit inflated, so they're not quite as helpful as you might want. We've admitted lots of people who did Fed RAs, but I don't remember anyone being admitted *because* of a Fed RA.

Re program rank: A major advantage of higher ranked programs is that if you thought you wanted to do development, but now it turns out you want to do labor, the probability is higher that there are also good labor advisors around. At a lower ranked program, some fields could be very weak. If you're already sure what field you want, then, I don't think rank is as important.

One additional thing to consider is that the opportunity cost of your time may be quite high. If you go straight to grad school now, you might be in a better position to take a post-doc later on, or something like that.

8675309
03-02-2012, 07:31 AM
Kabu I am very familiar with those programs placements and I can say that it won't materially help your profile. UBC and U of T M.A's are good for people who have certain characteristics:



1. You are from an unknown school (Foreign or North American) and do not have any way of getting letters from well connected people. It can help a student break into a top 40 program when they otherwise could not.

2. You lack technical preparation, and would need intermediate coursework to be adequately prepared for Ph.D. Top Canadian M.A.'s take will take a chunk students with only calculus I and II, provided they have done exceptionally well in their economic major. These programs have serious mathematics for economist courses and prepare students for technical rigors of graduate programs.



3. You are interested in Ph.D, but are not sure if you are willing to commit. You want to sample what graduate school is really like, before committing to it. The first semester of most of the tier one M.A programs are mostly core courses that are similar to Ph.D coursework usually at the mid-tier (50-75 level). The second semester is field courses/seminars similar to the courses students take in the 2nd years of the Ph.D program. Students survey literature, present on various topics or possibly write a term paper. The summer semester is used for a short research project/ paper. At the end of the M.A you should have an understanding if you really would like to pursue a Ph.D or not. If you don't you walk away with a credential.



Generally the bulk of M.A students either place laterally or slightly above/below schools ranking provided they did at least A-. Generally honors undergraduates from those schools with the right credential placed better than most M.A. candidates. A substantial decide not to do a Ph.D upon completion of the program, and just go on to find employment (usually government, finance, business services or consulting).

nickilla
03-02-2012, 08:02 AM
Re Canadian masters: these are good programs, but I'm sometimes upset by the Canadian letters. When we get applications from NES, ITAM, etc, they almost always give us an explicit rank of the student in the program. With the Canadian programs, usually it's just a prof saying "in my opinion, top 5%", and sometimes you don't even get that info. It's harder to evaluate the Canadian files, because the universities don't seem to provide quite the same level of detail.


1. You are from an unknown school (Foreign or North American) and do not have any way of getting letters from well connected people. It can help a student break into a top 40 program when they otherwise could not.

Considering that I am from Europe it thus seems that an MA could be highly beneficial regarding the admissions process. However, would you say, that an MA from say Toronto would be better or worse than one from a top school in Europe (LSE, BGSE, TSE).

mindlessme
03-02-2012, 08:47 PM
Re Canadian masters: these are good programs, but I'm sometimes upset by the Canadian letters. When we get applications from NES, ITAM, etc, they almost always give us an explicit rank of the student in the program. With the Canadian programs, usually it's just a prof saying "in my opinion, top 5%", and sometimes you don't even get that info. It's harder to evaluate the Canadian files, because the universities don't seem to provide quite the same level of detail.

That's a very interesting insight. What about LSE EME? It seems to be the highest rated master's programme in the eyes of TMers. Do you think it's a fair assessment?

DSGE4ever
03-02-2012, 09:55 PM
Yeah. What do you get from tmp's posts? If you have always made the right decisions in your life, if you were the best student in your continent, if you only attended to the top universities in the US, if you prepared yourself for this application to a PhD in Economics since you were 10 years old, if your recommenders make perfectly clear that you are a God in your class, only then,...only then, we will consider your application. So, if it takes to be a robot to be accepted in, for example, Harvard, well all the rejects should feel fine. That means you are human and you had a life.
I didn't comment on this thread last year as I was not super active on the forum when in first year due to the workload, but I am compelled this year to try to put some of the information in perspective.

The OP, who we cannot be certain is truly on any adcom, promotes what we could call a cookie cutter approach to getting into econ grad school that is for all intents and purposes predicated on you knowing you want to be an academic economist before finishing high school. I don't believe that a significant portion of graduates from Top 10 schools were in that position of wisdom and could choose their UG accordingly.

For the rest of us mere mortals, it's about accepting the choices we made, and doing the best we can with our backgrounds as they are. You can have a productive and satisfying career with a PhD from any school that grants you one. So long as you are doing research you like, passing on your knowledge to the next generation, and earning a wage that allows you to have a lifestyle you are content with then in my book you are far ahead of most people who have or ever will walk this earth.

Moreover, this thread does nothing but make everyone feel like they have to go to a top 10 school, while at the same time making it seem impossible to do so unless you have the perfect profile. This forum would be redundant without applicants who need advice on how to improve their existing flawed profile, and threads like this have little use to anyone except the random 15-year old who sees it who is already planning on winning a Nobel in Econ at that age. The rest of the advice is standard forum advice to (i) get research experience, (ii) have a good math background, and (iii) make sure your letters are glowing and written by active, respected faculty.

DSGE4ever
03-02-2012, 09:59 PM
Oh yeah, and let's not forget that you would be paying around hundred dollars per application just so they could say "I dont have time to look up your university".

WorkingHard
03-02-2012, 10:38 PM
I've now read several hundred applications.

. I'm surprised I got into grad school where I did. The pool is very deep.

. Some people get pissed off about rejection letters that start off with "We're sorry that...", because they think it's insincere. They're wrong: we are sorry.

. A B+ in real analysis won't kill your file. An A- in linear algebra and no real analysis probably will.

. The big trade off is between expectation and variance. Reduce your variance as much as possible:

.. There are a lot of good people who take regular math when honors math is available. Speculating about why is no fun.

.. Ditto for intermediate micro and macro

.. First I look at your transcript, then letters. Unless there's something weird, personal statement probably wont get read. If there is anything weird, explain it in the personal statement
This is my first reply in about half a year, but I feel it is important to counter an argument here that has probably been echoed by a few people already, namely that the personal statement is read. If you don't get thrown out of the pile immediately, why would it not be read? My acceptances (Minnesota, etc) were based strongly off of my contextualized and well written SOP -- this was explicitly stated to me.

IMO there should be no part of the application process that should be taken lightly.

OneArmedEcon
03-03-2012, 01:40 AM
This is my first reply in about half a year, but I feel it is important to counter an argument here that has probably been echoed by a few people already, namely that the personal statement is read. If you don't get thrown out of the pile immediately, why would it not be read? My acceptances (Minnesota, etc) were based strongly off of my contextualized and well written SOP -- this was explicitly stated to me.

IMO there should be no part of the application process that should be taken lightly.

I agree completely with your final sentence (see below).

I think that adcoms place the most weight on data that are seen as credible, which means corroborated by someone other than the applicant. Transcripts and LOR's are given such high weight because it's difficult for an applicant to misrepresent that information (and if an applicant were discovered to have somehow manipulated either, it would be a very serious offense--at the very least, any admissions offer extended based on false representations would likely be rescinded and other academic penalties at the undergrad institution might also result).

Now the personal statement is difficult to weigh when it provides data that aren't supported. For example, something like "while I got a C+ in Real Analysis, it was the highest grade in the class out of 25 students" is difficult for an adcom to take seriously because it's difficult to verify. On the other hand, a LOR that provides the same explanation will be given more consideration. This is why communicating and discussing your entire application with your LOR writers is key: while many are reluctant to put their reputations on the line for information that they don't have first-hand knowledge of, sometimes they are willing to make a case that will support your explanation of a bad grade or some other adverse event.

In terms of research interests... the interests of so many students change over the first two years of a PhD program. And that's true of even the brightest, best informed applicants. The fact of the matter is that studying an academic discipline at a doctoral level is a departure from previous experience. As such, I think that adcoms take any statement about research interests or faculty that a student wants to work with with a huge grain of salt. A lot changes between when one is an applicant and when one is prepared to declare a field and setup an initial guidance committee.

So really, I think that it's a rational decision for most adcoms to largely ignore the SOP--unless there is something "weird" (as tmp456 characterized it) in one's application. But if there is something like that--e.g., had to withdraw for a semester because of a non-recurring medical issue--then it helps if a LOR somehow supports the explanation.

That being said... always put a lot of time into SOP construction, proof-read, carefully choose language and structure, etc.. It's unlikely that it will be read at a lot of schools, but if it is read, then it's probably because the adcom is trying to figure out something about your application that they see as anomalous. I think that SOP's can be key at really small programs (e.g., Caltech, JHU, CMU). But a top programs with larger cohorts that receive hundreds and hundreds of applications from competitive students (which is where I think tmp456 is from), I can understand how it's just not feasible to carefully read SOP's unless there's a compelling reason to do so.

AndrewC
03-10-2012, 08:02 PM
Assuming that the OP is from a top 10 program, can someone shed some light on whether this thread holds true for programs in the 10-20 range, 20-30 range, etc?