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rob59404
11-29-2014, 02:56 AM
Hi all,

It's been five years since I applied to graduate school and now that I'm graduating next semester, I figured that posting some information about my graduate experience might be helpful. If not, there is free disposal.

In this post, I will keep things mainly confined to information about the program at Notre Dame. We are always looking to attract more applicants and I encourage you all to apply. In a future post (hopefully after I have a job), I'll talk about some advice about graduate school more generally.

Notre Dame is a small program with fewer graduate students than faculty members. One benefit of this is that each student gets a lot of individual attention starting in the second year and continuing to the fifth. One aspect that may work out to be a benefit or a cost is how each cohort works together. There are six people in my cohort and we all worked in a big group my first year. The faculty is clear that the optimal number of students continuing to the second year is exactly the number of students who want to put in the time and effort to succeed in first year classes. The extent of competition, therefore, was limited to personal pride. The small cohort size, however, can backfire a little if the students don't work well together. That has happened to a couple cohorts.

Speaking of first year, like most programs it's comprised of two semesters of micro, macro, and econometrics and students must take comps in micro and macro. Students have two opportunities to pass comps. In the second and third years, students take two classes plus a research seminar each semester. During the spring semester of your second year you start an independent research project and work on it over the summer. Students present these "second year papers" at the beginning of the third year. In hindsight, getting this early exposure to research was immensely helpful in writing my dissertation. You don't want your first paper to be your job market paper.

In terms of dollars and cents, our graduate stipends are quite competitive. Incoming graduate students get around $19,000 for nine months and summer funding is available. There is also funding available through a couple institutes on campus and other funding through the Graduate School. One of my favorite things about Notre Dame is their support for conference travel and research. I have attended around ten conferences and have received financial support from Notre Dame for all of them. Talking to students from other departments, I know this level of support is exceptional.

What can you do with your money? Turns out to be a lot in South Bend. Rent and entertainment, to the extent it exists, is cheap. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, South Bend is nowhere close to a booming metropolis and the winters can be brutal and this is coming from someone who grew up in Montana. However, South Bend is relatively safe, commuting is easy, and did I mention it's cheap? Plus, Chicago is only 90 miles away if you need a big city fix.

People will differ on the "biggest strength" and "biggest weakness" of the department, but for my two cents, the faculty is the biggest strength and the diversity of course selection is the biggest weakness. Due to the number of students, we can offer only three field courses a semester. However, since students take classes in their second and third years, this is not as big of a problem as it seems. The department typically offers six fields a year so it ends up taking two years to complete a field. This brings me to the faculty. The support we get here is phenomenal. Notre Dame is a relatively new department and all senior faculty was recruited from other schools. All of them came here because they thought the graduate program could succeed and they have been working to make that goal a reality. I don't know if this level of buy in from senior faculty is common at other universities. From the first year, to the job market, you will have the support and guidance you need to succeed as an academic economist.

Please ask questions on this forum if you have them. PM me if you feel more comfortable, but if you have a question, other people probably do too. I hope this was helpful. Good luck in the application process and I hope you all get good news this spring!