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PhDPolEcon
11-21-2014, 10:47 PM
I am sure these questions have been discussed before, but perhaps it would be helpful to many if we could get fresh answers.

1. GRE Quant Scores: What is the minimum GRE Quant score to be competitive for Top 5 admissions.

2. Research Potential: If you have not worked as a RA, what are other good ways to show research potential. Are these other options superior, inferior or on par with being a RA.

3. SOP: Are SOPs read and carefully considered? Or only used as tie beakers? Or ignored all together? Can they positively impact admission chances?

4. Writing Sample: Similar to SOPs - are these read - can they positively impact admission chances?

5. Top 2 Holy Grail: What is the distinguishing feature that successful admits to top 2 schools have?

Thanks.

fake22
11-22-2014, 12:57 PM
To 1. I have read a couple of times that successful applicants scored the highest on GRE Quant. I like to believe that they mean in the 800-scala. Which would be 165 or more in the new score. I have read that not top GRE or GPA might be compensated (prob not both) with very good LoRs and SoP. Maybe someone with more experience can correct if I am wrong.

tm_member
11-22-2014, 03:01 PM
There's basically no objective and all-encompassing answer to any of these questions.

Even the best students don't get accepted everywhere they apply. There's nuance, chance, and a lot of other factors involved.

I'll say this for each, and it's just my opinion;

1. GRE scores at the best schools matter very little. It's just that the type of student who has the profile to go there is likely to score very well, with minimal prep.
2. Research potential can be seen in undergrad or Master's theses. Nothing beats being a real RA with actual research-related work to do, rather than simply doing admin work.
3. SOPs are read by some, ignored by others. It's down to the workload of the professor reading your file. The thing is, if you apply to a few places it will likely be read and have an impact somewhere, but definitely not everywhere, meaning it makes sense to write a good one, if you have the time.
4. Few places take writing samples, rarely are they read but they are good for judging language skills if there are concerns.
5. Talent and a more than a little luck. The people who go to Chicago or Princeton and do well, would do great at MIT or Harvard, too. The difference in ability is minimal to non-existent, they just didn't have that touch of fortune at the right time. There's a real difference between top 30 and top 2 but virtually nothing but chance separates the top 2 and top 5.

ColonelForbin
11-22-2014, 03:27 PM
5. Talent and a more than a little luck. The people who go to Chicago or Princeton and do well, would do great at MIT or Harvard, too. The difference in ability is minimal to non-existent, they just didn't have that touch of fortune at the right time. There's a real difference between top 30 and top 2 but virtually nothing but chance separates the top 2 and top 5.

I think you're leaving out the connectedness bit. I'm sure a lot of the students who get into MIT/Harvard either have connections with faculty at those schools or their advisors have strong connections with people at those schools.

tm_member
11-22-2014, 03:51 PM
I think you're leaving out the connectedness bit. I'm sure a lot of the students who get into MIT/Harvard either have connections with faculty at those schools or their advisors have strong connections with people at those schools.

I view good connections as essentially the payoff from talent and good luck.

ColonelForbin
11-22-2014, 06:16 PM
I view good connections as essentially the payoff from talent and good luck.

I couldn't disagree more. You could be talented and lucky and never make the connections. If you wrap up the talent to network and connect into your definition of talent, then I'll buy your answer. I don't, however, think these skills are embodied in what we would consider talent as related to an economics Ph.D.

aeea
11-22-2014, 08:43 PM
Thanks tm_member for taking the time to share your thoughts.


There's basically no objective and all-encompassing answer to any of these questions.

Even the best students don't get accepted everywhere they apply. There's nuance, chance, and a lot of other factors involved.

I'll say this for each, and it's just my opinion;

1. GRE scores at the best schools matter very little. It's just that the type of student who has the profile to go there is likely to score very well, with minimal prep.
2. Research potential can be seen in undergrad or Master's theses. Nothing beats being a real RA with actual research-related work to do, rather than simply doing admin work.
3. SOPs are read by some, ignored by others. It's down to the workload of the professor reading your file. The thing is, if you apply to a few places it will likely be read and have an impact somewhere, but definitely not everywhere, meaning it makes sense to write a good one, if you have the time.
4. Few places take writing samples, rarely are they read but they are good for judging language skills if there are concerns.
5. Talent and a more than a little luck. The people who go to Chicago or Princeton and do well, would do great at MIT or Harvard, too. The difference in ability is minimal to non-existent, they just didn't have that touch of fortune at the right time. There's a real difference between top 30 and top 2 but virtually nothing but chance separates the top 2 and top 5.

tm_member
11-23-2014, 12:18 AM
You could view making connections as a talent, it also requires being in the right place at the right time; luck. Without talent, connections won't get you very far.

However, I think you are reading me too literally. I didn't mean talent and luck is all you need and the connections will automatically follow.

I meant more that Connections = f(talent, luck) + \epsilon

Econhead
11-23-2014, 02:03 AM
I couldn't disagree more. You could be talented and lucky and never make the connections. If you wrap up the talent to network and connect into your definition of talent, then I'll buy your answer. I don't, however, think these skills are embodied in what we would consider talent as related to an economics Ph.D.

I think there are, perhaps, some misunderstandings about what "connections" means with respect to a LoR. There are two types of connections:

1) Your writer knows them personally. Either they have written articles together, considered writing together, or were colleagues at the same university (at some point).
2) Your writer is well known in the community. Here I am not referring to having someone like Al Roth as your writer, whom everyone knows, but someone that is known within their sub-field. If they are respected, they can contact someone within their field that they may only know primarily from conferences, or discussions on previous work, and the recommendation will be taken seriously.

I think #2 is often overlooked. This is also a fundamental reason why a letter from someone who is an endowed chair at a lower ranked institution (say 40-70) is likely so much more valuable than from a "normal professor." They are able to make recommendations to someone within their field at universities their students are applying to, and their recommendations will be taken seriously because they are well respected, even if they do not know each other "personally."

PhDPolEcon
11-23-2014, 11:51 AM
Thanks to all who have contributed.

On connections....

In practice, how do connections work? Let us assume your LOR writers are "connected". Will the Adcomm automatically respond to your application positively because of this "connectedness"? Or does the LOR writer need to place a personal call to an Adcomm member(s) in ADDITION to submitting the LOR to press your case?

Again, simply put, how do these connections work in practice and how do you know your LOR writer will activate them on your behalf? How do you get the LOR writer to activate the connections for your benefit? Should one ask the LOR writer directly? Or should we just leave it to the LOR writer to decide to do so - in this case, they may forget to do so or not even see the need to do so, thinking their LOR is more than sufficient? In other words, a LOR writer would activate connections if they knew doing so would help, but might not know that and do nothing other than just submitting a LOR.

Econhead
11-23-2014, 03:01 PM
Thanks to all who have contributed.

On connections....

In practice, how do connections work? Let us assume your LOR writers are "connected". Will the Adcomm automatically respond to your application positively because of this "connectedness"? Or does the LOR writer need to place a personal call to an Adcomm member(s) in ADDITION to submitting the LOR to press your case?

Again, simply put, how do these connections work in practice and how do you know your LOR writer will activate them on your behalf? How do you get the LOR writer to activate the connections for your benefit? Should one ask the LOR writer directly? Or should we just leave it to the LOR writer to decide to do so - in this case, they may forget to do so or not even see the need to do so, thinking their LOR is more than sufficient? In other words, a LOR writer would activate connections if they knew doing so would help, but might not know that and do nothing other than just submitting a LOR.

This is where I think TM's comment on "Talent" comes in. Any writer that is connected will make phone calls on your behalf if they think that you are sufficiently talented. Convincing them of that is (potentially) the hard part. I don't think you ever really need to ask.

With regard to "How it works": If they are going to make contact on your behalf, they are going to make a phone call to someone they know (and that they know respects them/their work). That person may or may not be on the admissions committee. If they are - that's good. If not, that person then takes on the responsibility of speaking with the committee on your professor's behalf to put in a good word.