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stringbreaker
10-19-2014, 03:59 AM
I'm a sophomore at a top 60 econ school. I'm a double major in math and economics, and I'm looking into economic graduate school (I've read some papers of professors here and I really enjoy going over them and coming up with my own questions, and other reasons). I'm just really concerned about how my math grades will stack up in the end. My second semester of freshman year was horrendous for a variety of reasons (It was a cross between taking on a job for extra cash to pay rent, taking 19 credit hours with several upper division courses, and a lot of personal matters back home that caused a lot of stress). This resulted in B- in linear algebra (I understood the material, but had no clue how to do proofs on the final since there was none to be expected. I got an 85% in the class, but negative curve I guess) and a B in probability (Similar reasons for the other class. No idea how to do proofs). It's not as if I didn't understand the material, but of course ad coms aren't going to buy that.
I'm now in real analysis and statistics. Statistics is going just fine for me; no worries there. As for real analysis.. I learned how to do proofs over the summer and gaining more experience with them in my homework. I have my first exam coming up, and I'm scared to death because I'm slow with my proofs. The hardest ones on my homework can take a solid day of off and on thought to complete. The exams (midterm and final) are worth 80% of my grade, so of course I'm really worried that simply not being fast with my proofs will cost my dearly.
Now, the one thing I have going for me right now is my experience with research already. I got a light-duty RAship second semester last year, and this semester I picked up two more. I REALLY enjoy doing the research, and have questions of my own.

I guess my overall question is... how much will research experience help offset a good-but-not-great math student? I'm still going to be putting all the effort I can into my math courses, but this is more of a worst case scenario question I suppose.

chateauheart
10-19-2014, 06:07 AM
1. Math and proof skills are mostly accumulated. If your proof reading and writing skills are not up to par, then delving into research in an effort to make up for that deficiency is counter-productive. You should consider reducing your research workload this year and spending more time (and mental focus) on what you're weak at.


2. Ultimately, you want to be successful at a grad program, not just get into a decent one. Having good proof reading and writing skills will help you significantly in at least the first two years of your grad school. And the expectations that adcoms place for their potential students are generally a reasonable balance of skills that together predict future success. Both research potential/experience and mathematical familiarity are crucial. While they might admit a promising student who's strong in one area and deficient in the other and expect them to catch up with their cohort eventually, this is not the optimal route to aim at for someone who's still early in their college career. You don't want to spend the first two years of your grad school struggling over math textbooks - or worse, risk failing out.

Econhead
10-19-2014, 01:40 PM
1. Math and proof skills are mostly accumulated. If your proof reading and writing skills are not up to par, then delving into research in an effort to make up for that deficiency is counter-productive. You should consider reducing your research workload this year and spending more time (and mental focus) on what you're weak at.

I second what has been said here.

It sounds like you are dedicated enough to continue to work through problems, but if you are anything like me (and many in my UG cohort), you might be committed to learning the material and figuring it out but not devoting yourself 100%, even if it feels that way. For some courses you may underperform-perhaps it is the material, such as in this RA course, or perhaps it is truly blisteringly-difficult exams from the most difficult professor in the department. Regardless of which it is, you want to assure that you get an A. Practice the material as often as you can; stay up late and work the problems through as many times as you can. Start trying to explain the problems to yourself as if you were going to teach them to someone else. Work the material until you know it like the backside of your hand and you want to puke. Just keep going over it.

Not all classes are like this, but some are, and sometimes you may know the material well enough to get an A but not be the top in the class; sometimes you'll want to kick it into overdrive just to assure that you have the best grade to impress a professor you want to develop a relationship with. The tenacity associated with this type of work ethic is what makes stalwart graduate students. If you've been reading this board for long then you know the there are many long nights like this ahead in grad school.