View Full Version : How to explain away time wasted?

07-24-2007, 06:40 PM
I graduated at a VERY young age in Aero-Astro from MIT. The Aeronautics and Astronautics program is one of the best and most challenging programs at MIT but I was several years younger than my classmates and my GPA is a low 2.9.

After MIT, I was on drugs for the next six years, doing nothing. Even today my #1 task is fighting the drug habit and #2 is the GRE/GMAT.

The low 2.9 GPA can hopefully be explained away if I ace the standardized tests.

My question is - how can I explain away the post-MIT six years that I was doing nothing but drugs?

07-24-2007, 06:47 PM
You can't "explain away" six years. You really need to talk to the people who are going to write your letters of recommendation about what they think you should say, and what they are going to say.

You are also going to have a lot of trouble overcoming the GPA, to be honest. Some departments have official minimum GPA requirements of 3.0, but any department is going to be extremely concerned about a sub-3.0 GPA without other extremely strong off-setting factors. And having graduated from MIT is simply not enough.

Depending on the range of schools you are targeting, high GRE scores are not going to make up for the GPA. For top-10 schools, scores of 790 or 800 are very common, and below 780 is cause for concern. An 800 on the quantitative section of the GRE is not "bonus points" for applicants to top econ programs.

In your situation, you may want to take some classes at a local university or community college to demonstrate that despite the low GPA and six years out of school, you can get good grades. Building up a bit of an academic record before applying could help you a lot with both problems.

07-24-2007, 07:23 PM
Asquare is absolutely right. You should try to take some more courses and get good grades in them before you apply.

Don't be discouraged, however. Think hard about why you want to get a PhD in Economics and what you want to do with it. Who knows, your unique life experience of the past 6 years could even give you some perspective that can be helpful with your research. Check out Roland Fryer at Harvard.

07-24-2007, 07:32 PM

what are your goals? Are you applying to MBA programs, PhD, or MS? I think that the six years of your life can be explained away. Then what? The admissions committees still care about your preparation to pursue an advanced degree, specially in PhD and MS programs, and that would be tougher to prove. As for most of the good MBA programs, their adcoms usually prefer candidates with at least some real work experience. If I was you, I would first decide whether I want to pursue MBA or MS/PhD. If it's MBA, try to get a job, hold it for a couple years, do your best, and get letters from your superiours. If you're trying to get in MS programs, then spending a couple semesters taking relevant courses at a nearby university or a community college might help. GPA could be a big concern when applying to PhD programs, and I wouldn't recommend trying to apply to PhD programs right away (unless say, you want to go to a relatively mediocre school). However, there could be many MS and MBA programs, some even at well known universities that might accept you with 2.9. I remember I have read somewhere that the average undegrad GPA of entering MBA class at a pretty good program (University of Texas, UNC or perhaps some similarly ranked program, don't remember the details) was 3.35, which I am sure means there were some people with 3.9 as well as some with 2.9. Georgetown's FAQ says average undergrad GPA for their MBA class was 3.2. So, I think 2.9 will not necessarily spoil your chances for getting into a decent MBA program, but I am sure you would have to work on other parts of you application (such as post-undergraduate experience, standardized tests, and essays) to make up for that. Good luck. I sympatheze with your determination to change your life for better.

07-24-2007, 08:22 PM
Here is my life in full:

1) MIT 2.9 GPA in Aero-Astro at very young age. Minor in Math and Econ.
2) 22 years old now
3) last 6 years on drugs
4) gf of 5 years had twins last week
5) Married her in court two days ago and have been completely off drugs for 2 full days, which is a BIG achievement for me
6) So I am a father with twins and a wife at 22, with no job, no income, just determination to start life all over again.
7) The area that I am living in has only minimum wage jobs, which I can get very easily. No professional jobs and no university.
8) Wife has been supporting us for the last several years and with twins she cannot work any more.
9) Wife VERY unwilling to see me work at a minimum wage job and wants a "normal" life with me as a doctor, manager, lawyer, professor, etc.

07-24-2007, 08:27 PM
You may want to consider one of the few programs that allows you to take classes at night. This would allow you to make at least some money during the day. I know that George Mason, for one, has night classes.

07-24-2007, 08:32 PM
aspen, congratulations on your wedding, your children, and on being clean for two days.

You are going through some huge changes. Starting a rigerous graduate school program while managing a fledgling drug recovery and a new family is a huge, huge challenge. Please consider letting your life settle down before you take on something like this. You don't want to set yourself up for failure by making a huge, somewhat-unplanned change in your career path. And the best reason to do a PhD in economics is that you are passionate about doing research in economics, not that you want a stable career to support a family.

Please consider getting some support as you navigate these changes. AA and NA are incredible programs that could really help you build on your current period of sobriety. Take advantage of where you are now, solidify your gains, and take things one step at a time.

07-24-2007, 08:33 PM
Yes, being in your position, jumping right into a PhD program probably isn't the best idea. Perhaps an MBA or MA program might be a better fit, at least in the short term?

Also, I'm not sure how mobile you are...would you be restricted to programs near where you live now?

07-24-2007, 08:36 PM
A few more thoughts. For most people, applying to PhD programs is part of a plan. Not necessarily the "I've wanted to be an economist since I was 8" sort of plan, but usually part of a plan that takes a year or more to execute. So even if your personal situation were less complicated, I would urge you not to rush into things, and to take the time to give yourself a good chance of being accepted and of succeeding once admitted.

Also, grad student stipends are not very big! It will be hard to support yourself and your family on a stipend, even if you are admitted somewhere that provides funding. You might be best earning and saving some money before you start, or at least waiting until your children are old enough that your wife can work as well. And the work experience could really help you if you decide that you want an MBA instead of a PhD.

07-24-2007, 08:48 PM
Wow.....your life sounds like a movie.

FWIW, I would move to a better area to look for a job if I were you, even if it's just an intern/contract position. I'm assuming you're a US citizen? That coupled with an MIT science degree (even with a crappy GPA) should be good enough to land you a non-dead-end job. Save the grad school plans for later. Just my opinion.

07-24-2007, 09:26 PM
Actually the counselor at the drug rehab was the one who suggested MBA or PhD Econ studies. It seemed like a good idea. I am familiar with M/W/G micro, the usual macro texts, Fudenberg's game theory and some other econ texts. Little rusty about details but still remember basic concepts well.

Nuther question: my uncle is an econ prof at a California univ, whose name should be familiar to some of you. He has been mighty pissed with me in the past and I haven't talked to him in years. But I am clean now and I am willing to bet he will be happy to see me again.

Will it be okay with the adcoms if I get a recommendation letter from a close relative?

07-24-2007, 10:35 PM
aspen: did you study MWG while on drugs? or is it part of the Aero-Astro undergrad program at MIT that you finished with 16? what about your twins? do they talk already?

07-24-2007, 10:44 PM
Everybody, even heartless adcom members, appreciates a good redemption story. Not that I would make my SOP about that, certainly not.

However, if the facts are that you were too immature to handle life's complexities back then (you said you were much younger than your fellow students), then I see no problem having a section of your SOP address that while leaving out the details (unless asked).

Also, if you're as intelligent as I assume you are (to have graduated from such a difficult program at a young age), it won't matter which school you go to, you'll be a success. :) I have a feeling that the kind of real-world experience you have is seriously lacking in academia.

Good luck to you.

07-24-2007, 11:12 PM
[quote=Terabyte;470863] I have a feeling that the kind of real-world experience you have is seriously lacking in academia.

I have no real world experience - which is one main reason why most MBA programs won't be extending me offers.

07-24-2007, 11:18 PM
veroniquaz - I will ignore the slight but will add that at MIT we had a bad tradition: most profs cared only about research and they taught texts they had used during grad school. Don't forget I minored in Econ. I enrolled for a class on Introductory Consumer Behavior but dropped it because for the first two lectures the prof only talked about abstract utility theories and nothing else. Our profs gave a **** about teaching. We used texts they were familiar with, period. They adapted it to the course and level they were teaching. M/W/G sucks big time.

07-24-2007, 11:58 PM
aspencolorado (http://www.urch.com/forums/../members/aspencolorado.html): Looking back over your posts, it's pretty clear that what most people here will say (namely, you probably want to take some time to work, figure out what you want to do, stay clean, etc.) is not something you want to hear. It doesn't make much sense to me that someone who says he's been clean for two days is making lofty plans to devote at least five years (in poverty, no less) to a field for no other reason than that he thinks he can get a high-paying job out of it.

Honestly, you have bigger things to worry about right now than getting into grad school, let alone a PhD program. Furthermore, a PhD program in economics or any other decently theoretical field is no small undertaking, and people who go into it without clear motivation are those who end up dropping out before finishing, and that helps no one. Now is the time to figure out what your reasons are for getting a degree--and as others have mentioned, if your goal is money, an economics PhD is not a very good way to get there.

I understand that this isn't what you want to hear, but many others here will say similar things. Perhaps, as veroniquaz (http://www.urch.com/forums/../members/veroniquaz.html) suspects, your posts are just a stupid joke, or maybe you are being serious; if it's the latter, then now might be a good time to take seriously the very good advice you're getting here.

07-25-2007, 06:48 AM
aspen, in response to your question: a letter of recommendation from a relative who has not interacted with you in a professional or academic setting will NOT help you.

Also, I know a bit about undergrad econ (course 14) at MIT. They don't use MWG. They did not use MWG six years ago, either.

I'm glad you are getting advice about your personal situation from a professional. Perhaps you should do the same about your academic situation: contact someone, like your uncle or your former professors, who knows you and academic economics and can give you advice.

Karina 07
07-25-2007, 11:02 AM
I'll trust you.

But if you're concerned with making money, I would stay away from the Econ Ph.D. 1) MBAs will typically earn more (yes, you have no work experience, but either way you're going to have to take some time to fix up your profile, no matter what you apply for). 2) As someone else noted, Econ Ph.D.s will suck up your life for 5 years. It is not an easy thing to do for people just starting a family. Both in terms of money, and in terms of time.

I don't know what you're interested in. If you're interested in economics first and foremost, great, then maybe try to find a master's program that can lead into a Ph.D. program (like U of T's Ph.D.-track master's, except maybe some other place, if such a thing exists). If many other things might fit the bill, consider these other things. General business jobs might help for the time being, whether you end up applying for grad school of any kind or applying for the MBA. I know you say there are no professional jobs where you are located -- move, then, if at all possible. My boyfriend lived in the middle of nowhere, where there were no good jobs, and once he moved life got a lot better for him.

Don't rush at the moment. Take some time to figure out what it is that will most efficiently get you where you want to be. It takes a lot of people years to figure out what they should do. Keep searching and asking for advice from everyone under the sun. It would be too easy to jump into something only to find out later that something else would have been so much better for you -- you don't want to waste time and money on applying until you can know for *sure*.

07-25-2007, 03:16 PM
Aren't you the same guy who claimed that a NCSU professor said you would easily get in if you took the GRE?