View Full Version : Profile Evaluation: Help me solidify my list of target schools!

12-01-2014, 04:10 AM
Okay - I am almost completely set on a list of ten programs. However, I am hoping the community here might provide a bit of advice about whether or not I should expand (or contract) this list.

Undergrad. - I am graduating from a state school. No PhD. department but we have a few very good and somewhat known economists.

Majors - I am earning a B.B.A in Economics with an International Business minor and a B.S. in Pure Mathematics with a minor in Business Admin. Also, I am graduating from my school's honors college.

GPA - Econ. 4.0/4.0 and Math 3.96/4.0

Highlight of math courses - Algebra CLEP. Mathematics 2 for Business and Economics. Honors Cal 1 and Honors Cal 2. Ca.l 3 (this is multivariable and vector cal.) Linear Algebra. Honors Intro to Proofs. Prob. and Stats. Analysis. Modern Algebra. Advanced Prob and Stats. Differential Equations. Quantitative Methods and Statistics. Statistical Modeling (emphasizing the use of R as a preferred statistical software).

Econ courses - Intro macro and micro. Intermediate macro and micro. Comparative economics. International Trade Ops. Money and Banking. Emerging Market Econ. Industrial Org.

- I earned an A in every math class with the exception of Honors Cal. 2. However, I missed most of this semester because I left the country with my wife to help her deal with her mother's death and we also gave birth to our daughter 48 hours before I took my final. I struggled very much with the emotional burden of it all and was also incredibly sleep deprived and distracted during my final. I think I could have easily earned an A under more desirable circumstances.

GRE - 164Q/166V

INTERESTING BACKGROUND NOTE - I am a US Marine combat veteran. (anyone think this will matter to the ad. com.?) I was twice awarded the Navy and Marine Corps achievement medal (once for meritorious combat service) and also presented with the Ronald D. Lyons award for outstanding military journalism.

Letters of Rec. - One letter will be incredibly strong. It is from a professor with whom I have taken three classes (earning an A in all of them) and with whom I (in an extracurricular setting) I studied theoretical modeling. He also supervised me while I used theoretical modeling to conduct original research. My research won funding from my school's undergraduate research fund. My second letter is from a mathematics professor who supervised my mathematics research. My third is from a the assistant chair of the mathematics department who was my professor for honors cal 1,2. These last two should be very strong. All three should have good things to say. I know for a fact the economics professor referred to me in his letter as (i am paraphrasing just a bit) his best student ever.

-- This econ. professor has helped two previous students gain admission to Brown. Will this matter if I apply to Brown?

Research - I've spent approximately 18 months learning theoretical modeling, designing my own research and conducting original research concerning the impact of the 2008 tax rebates. This will publish in my school's undergraduate research journal. I will present to the student economics association. I will apply to publish in other places and we are applying to present at a few other well-known conferences.

Interests - Everything. I have absolutely loved all of my economics courses. I am interested in building upon my current research by investigating the impact making cash transfers to low-income and credit-constrained households. However, I can't say for sure that I wouldn't be equally happy studying micro or econometrics etc. I very gratefully took the research opportunity offered to me. This does not mean that the type of research I am doing is for sure the kind I most desire.

I've spent about a semester studying Yitang Zhang's recent proof of the bounded gaps conjecture.

SOP - the SOP is well written and covers all the basics. Worked closely with a few profs. to tune this bad boy.

Other Experience - Volunteer tutor for the Veteran's Alliance at my school. Worked as the Statistics tutor for my business school for a few semesters. Launched my own tutoring company that I used to fund myself during college.

likely useless experience - I also worked full-time as a bouncer and have some hilarious fight stories. Maybe I should just spam my SOP with these, eh??

Concerns - No econometrics. Lower GRE quant that I had hoped for (I didn't really get to study and took it last minute).

Offset for concerns - Statistical modeling, QMST course, and two mathematical stats courses should fill this gap, I hope.

Applying to - MIT, Stanford, Princeton, UC Berk., Brown, Northwestern, Wharton, Michigan (Rackham), UT PhD, UT MA, Texas aTm.

I mostly want to attend MIT, Stanford or UC Berkley or Brown.

ALSO! I have applied to NSF using an idea that builds upon my current research. I think I will receive serious consideration here. After all, I proposed an interesting and unique continuation of research that has already won funding.

Considering - Fleshing out the top 15 and adding one or two more from the 20-30 range. This would be Harvard, Yale, Columbia etc.

I decided somewhere along the way that I only wanted to earn my PhD somewhere I truly wanted to attend. If I am going to invest 5 years then I want to do so relatively sure that doing so will help me land a good job. I will either attend a top university or pursue a career as an actuary or some such thing for a while and then attempt either law school or business school.

And so the questions - Any opinion/advice? What are reasonable programs with these credentials? Anyone think I should rethink my ambition of attending a top 10 or perhaps top 20 school? Should I rethink my opinion about the opportunities created by a PhD from lower-tier schools?

12-01-2014, 05:36 AM
Your strategy seems fine given that you are completely fine with top-10 or bust.

I think you are underestimating the competitiveness of PhD admissions at these top programs. Many many many of the applicants who are competing for spots at MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and Brown, will have near perfect GPAs, GRE scores, and letters of rec. Additionally, many of them will have taken PhD courses in either math or economics, or may have a Master's degree.

I'm not saying you don't have a shot, but it would not be surprising if you get shut out from the entire top-15 and receive admissions only from the UT schools and maybe Michigan. That being said, these programs offer excellent educations. So, I would challenge you to really think about whether doing a PhD at a non-top-10 is worth it, in your mind.

12-01-2014, 06:17 AM
I noticed that you don't mention research interests but you have business minors, your undergraduate research looks at tax impacts, and you are considering B-school as a backup plan. Have you looked at PhDs in business fields? They are based in economics, take first year courses with the econ students, but have more specific areas of study. I wouldn't say admissions is harder or easier, just different. Cohorts are smaller. Placement into academia is more standard than econ PhDs., i.e. going into industry afterwards is pretty rare and somewhat frowned upon. I was admitted to the accounting PhD at one of the schools on your list, but wouldn't have had a shot in hell at their econ department.

I can give more details about positives and negatives if you are interested, but won't say too much without solicitation, as this is the Econ forum. You could also post any questions in the Business forum on this site.

12-01-2014, 12:23 PM
F4T - Agreed. One thought is that I might be better off attending UT's MA program and then reapplying to top PhD programs if I am not admitted anywhere this year. This would also give me time to really study for the GRE and try to obtain a perfect/near perfect score.

However, I don't underestimate admissions. I think some of my profile syncs with expectations and some of it doesn't. The hope is that there are enough unique and incredibly strong aspects that someone somewhere decides to give me a shot at the title :) And if not, then not.

And this is how I arrived at my top of the pile or bust mentality - I understand that I can receive a very good education at probably any of the top 50-75 schools. However, my ultimate goal is to work for the Fed and I think graduating from a top-tier school is a necessity. It isn't the quality of the education that concerns me - it is entirely about placement.

YS - I should probably add that info. I am not overly interested in branching into any other subject aside from either statistics or finance. I absolutely love economics and economic research. And honestly I am interested in everything. My research involves exploring the idea of cash transfers as a method of monetary policy - I would like to move forward by focusing on the impact of cash transfers to low-income and credit-constrained households.

The business minors were happenstance, I think. My school offers either a BBA or a BA in economics. I'd have preferred a BS - alas, no option for a BS. Anyway, I had to take a long list of business courses that aren't exactly helpful in this particular context. The international business minor was by choice, though. I liked the idea of having an international focus.

Thank you both for your replies and if either of you care to elaborate, please feel free to message me privately. I really appreciate your advice/thoughts!

12-01-2014, 03:11 PM
I agree with F4T. Someone might take a chance on you -- someone might not. FWIW, I think your profile is quite impressive. One more question:

I would like to move forward by focusing on the impact of cash transfers to low-income and credit-constrained households.

1 -- This sounds like microeconomics to me. Does the fed value this kind of work?

12-01-2014, 04:19 PM
I assume they might. Recall that the overall goal is to evaluate the validity of cash transfers as a method of monetary policy. That is, how might bypassing financial intermediaries when injecting money into our economy change the response of macroeconomic aggregates (relative to current methods) and is there a way to create some hybrid method that uses the 'best of both worlds' to produce some optimized outcome (concerning rates of recovery, consumption, investment etc.).

It is hard to boil it down much more than that, but I hope that provided a bit of clarity.

12-01-2014, 05:55 PM
A very interesting proposition. To avoid derailing this thread, I'll leave it at that.