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View Full Version : Go to top 5 or RA for one year



LazyGraduate
02-28-2014, 11:57 PM
Deleted. Thanks for all the suggestions.

mcsokrates
03-01-2014, 12:07 AM
Don't be a whiny perfectionist baby. You don't always get exactly what you want. Deal with it. That's your advice.

(Slightly nicer version: think about whether the marginal gain to having a possibility at your "dream school" is worth giving up a sure top-5 placement, especially when you are by no means guaranteed the same results next year.)

sulebrahim
03-01-2014, 12:17 AM
Since schools usually don't hire their own students, Harvard and MIT will hire from Berkeley, Northwestern, Princeton and the others.
The current 'stars' of the market are not all from the top two. So i don't think applying again will be that beneficial. That being said, I am not at any of those schools so I'm just assuming here.

But my point is the people at top 10 schools are just as good as those in the top two, the same thing goes with professors, so I don't know if the extra year is worth the risk.

pch
03-01-2014, 01:04 AM
Visit the two schools, see how you like them. Maybe they'll quickly become your new dream schools.

Icculus
03-01-2014, 02:20 AM
If you are a rational agent you'd attend next year...

kinzaman
03-01-2014, 03:25 AM
I would strongly recommend taking a year off before grad school and RA'ing for a year. First year is really tough and the year of research experience really helps to give you some perspective during first year. Getting into a top-5 program is a big accomplishment, so you can't really go wrong here, but I RA'ed for 3 years before grad school and it was one of the better decisions I've made

Econhead
03-01-2014, 03:52 AM
I think you sre vastly overweighting (or rather, romanticizing) the idea of a "dream school" when you have offers from other top 5. This isn't the love of your life-there is not only 1 professor you can work with. Other professors at these top 5 will be able to guide your work and encourage your blossoming creativity (sorry for the sarcasm). Likely, the professors you will be working with will know some of those professors as well. There is no east/west division.

NBZ
03-01-2014, 04:07 AM
I would strongly recommend taking a year off before grad school and RA'ing for a year. First year is really tough and the year of research experience really helps to give you some perspective during first year. Getting into a top-5 program is a big accomplishment, so you can't really go wrong here, but I RA'ed for 3 years before grad school and it was one of the better decisions I've made

I'd have suggested that ex-ante, but now with top-5 acceptances in hand it would be a risky decision. Besides OP's concern seems to be more with using the RA to get into top 2: if that is the goal in mind, I agree with everyone here that it may not be a good idea. Some risks not mentioned: 1) You don't have a great deal of time left to RA before the next application season, so where's the guarantee that the letter will be much stronger? 2) The difficulty and randomness of admissions increases with time.

Food4Thought
03-01-2014, 04:32 AM
Only two top-5 acceptances? Yeah, you should do the RA gig (maybe even for several years), and then re-apply. You're profile is much too weak.








...... But really, I would not risk it. Given how random the process is at top-5 schools, it isn't even guaranteed you will get re-admitted to the schools you previously were accepted into, let alone the ones you are wanting.

UZW
03-01-2014, 04:47 AM
Future admission is not random if you get a good RAship. If you are working for someone big at NBER, say Chetty or someone like that, and you put in a good effort, you will get in at Harvard and MIT. That's actually the route a lot, possibly the majority, of the admits to those schools take.

But those jobs are tough to land. Less prestigious RAships, like the Fed or something, are a totally different thing. So if you don't have a really prestigious one lined up, I'd take the admissions.

mcsokrates
03-01-2014, 05:31 AM
Future admission is not random if you get a good RAship. If you are working for someone big at NBER, say Chetty or someone like that, and you put in a good effort, you will get in at Harvard and MIT. That's actually the route a lot, possibly the majority, of the admits to those schools take.

This is surely exaggerated, but nonetheless accurately sums up like 99% of what's wrong with our profession. 4/5 stars.

Econhead
03-01-2014, 02:02 PM
I think you sre vastly overweighting (or rather, romanticizing) the idea of a "dream school" when you have offers from other top 5. This isn't the love of your life-there is not only 1 professor you can work with. Other professors at these top 5 will be able to guide your work and encourage your blossoming creativity (sorry for the sarcasm). Likely, the professors you will be working with will know some of those professors as well. There is no east/west division.

An alternative way to convince you: research has shown that individuals whom are on organ-transplant lists over-weight how happy they will be after receiving their (potential) transplant. That is, they think their happiness post-transplant will be off-the charts, yet surveys post-transplant show they aren't. If someone whom needs a transplant over-weights how happy they will be to LIVE, then you are surely over-romanticizing.

Take one of your offers, stupid.

Kaysa
03-01-2014, 02:49 PM
I would advise you to weigh your decisions using objective criteria rather than your emotions. The best choices, or even good ones, are seldom chosen with emotions.

PhDPlease
03-01-2014, 02:56 PM
I would definitely take the offer that you have.

I assume the reason to get the RA job is because you want to get into a top 2, not because you feel like you need a year off from being a student? I have heard rare cases where people negotiate to defer a year, but I think in that case you'd have to be up front with the school regarding your plans (ie whether you were planning to apply to other schools the next year and keep that one as a safety, or whether you were definitely coming and just need a year off). I think that the probability of getting a deferral granted for the sake of applying to other schools is very low, lower than if you were committed to going but felt like you needed a year off.

From my experience working as an RA at somewhere reasonably well-regarded where a lot of RAs went on to apply to PhD programs, the majority of RAs didn't get into the top 5. The additional effect from RAing was probably largest from those who either didn't go to top undergrads (and lacked access to well-regarded recommenders), didn't have much to demonstrate an interest in econ research (whether it was from RA work or doing a thesis etc), or those who hadn't taken enough math (as the program paid for you to take evening math courses if you needed them). If you had 2 outstanding letters and a 3rd that was so-so, I am not sure how much value a 3rd letter would add due to diminishing returns (unless the 3rd was blatantly negative and said to not admit you or something). If you are going to be RAing for a top professor at the school you want to attend (Harvard or MIT), the effect might be larger, but in general I think the boost from RAing for someone who is already very strong (which I am assuming you are based on your 2 top-5 admits) will be much smaller than for someone who has clear gaps they need to fill. Also to consider, if you RA for a year, even if you start as soon as you graduate, you'll have only been working for a few months by the time you need to ask for a letter. In many RA jobs, it starts off slowly with stuff like basic data gathering/cleaning, so you would really need to do 2 years to have been there long enough to get a strong letter. Also unless you already have submitted applications to RA, I think many RA jobs are already in the hiring process by now?

Also it is possible you are correct in your observations about the specific letter resulting in rejections, but there are also times when schools reject people who are qualified either due to concerns that they wouldn't actually attend (over-qualified), concerns about fit, random variation about what the school is looking for, etc. I knew of someone getting into top 10 and rejected from places ranked 30ish, so it does happen.