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econyun
08-26-2007, 06:25 AM
Today, when I m studying GRE, suddently something comes in mind..

people always say the admisssion for top 10 or even top 5 are very random.

I would like to raise the question like..is there any common charasteristics for the top 5 applicants that can be observed by the adcom???

If yes, what are they?

the_asker
08-26-2007, 09:09 AM
I guess the reason people say it's very random is precisely because there don't seem to be very many of these common characteristics. From what I gather the closest ones are near-800 GRE scores and near-perfect math and econ grades.

studentecon
08-26-2007, 07:52 PM
Today, when I m studying GRE, suddently something comes in mind..

people always say the admisssion for top 10 or even top 5 are very random.

I would like to raise the question like..is there any common charasteristics for the top 5 applicants that can be observed by the adcom???

If yes, what are they?



I wouldn't say that admissions at the top 5 and 10 are as random as people in this board tend to claim. Of course, there is always some noise -

One common characteristic that I have observed (except for stellar grades, GREs etc) is the quality of the undergrad (or Masters) institution. Disproportionally more people in the top programs come from a top US or top international University, so I would guess that's one of the characteristics you are looking for. Probably there is a correlation from the quality of an institution to the credibility and quality of the letters that one has when applying, and this I think explains a lot of variation in the admission decisions (once we control for grades and GREs).

Note that how well an International institution looks in the eyes of the adcom is only weakly (or who knows, maybe not at all) correlated with its ranking in econphd.net. E.g. there are some European Universities that don't rank well but consistently place students in top schools.

Karina 07
08-26-2007, 07:59 PM
the quality of the undergrad (or Masters) institution. Disproportionally more people in the top programs come from a top US or top international University, so I would guess that's one of the characteristics you are looking for.

Agree. Not completely uniformly, but almost. I've yet to see someone come out of Utterly Unknown Community College, though a good state school is doable.

asquare
08-26-2007, 11:10 PM
I agree with Karina and studentecon re: quality of undergrad or MA institution. This makes sense regardless of whether the quality of undergraduate education at top ranked schools is actually higher, because the professors at high quality schools can compare their undergraduate students to the PhD students in the department. Professors at high ranked schools see the quality of current graduate students at high ranked schools and can make valid comparisons.

I disagree with the idea that admissions at top schools are "random," though. They may not be predictable to us as observers or applicants, but the admissions committee observes things we don't (like the actual content of LORs, which I think matter a lot at top schools). The admissions committee also has information not specific to the applicant that we do not, like how previous students from a given undergrad school have fared in courses and research. And we may not completely understand what the admissons committees are looking for, which makes admissions decisions look random to us, but in fact they are just following an unknown DGP.

I do agree that even for apparently very strong applicants, the variance around admissions to top departments is large, and that there is no such thing as a profile that guarantees admission to top 10 or top 5 schools. The things applicants can control that help boost their chances are well known: get good grades, take math classes, do research, score well on the GRE, and get to know faculty. There are other things that most people can't control any longer at the time they apply to graduate school, like attending a very highly regarded undergraduate school. IMO, the best thing to do is to make the best of the factors under your control, get advice from your professors about applying to a range of schools, and not spend too much energy trying to sort out things you can't influence.

the_asker
08-27-2007, 01:20 AM
What specific information should LORs contain, apart from a description of the applicants' research ability compared to others the writer has evaluated?

asquare
08-27-2007, 01:33 AM
What specific information should LORs contain, apart from a description of the applicants' research ability compared to others the writer has evaluated?
This is the sort of question upon which we can only speculate. LORs are confidential. Most of us have not even read our own LORs, never mind knowing what LORs for other successful and unsuccessful applicants say.

The best guidelines are from the applications themselves, which typically ask professors to rate the applicant's curiosity, intellect, background, and likelihood of succeeding as a researcher. The common wisdom is that an LOR should also, if possible, explain any short comings in other parts of the application (i.e., lack of advanced math courses), and that it helps if the writer can compare the current applicant to past students who have been successful at the school to which the letter is being sent.

IMO, this is one of the reasons why it is valuable to get at least some of your LORs from experienced, senior faculty who have written lots of letters and learned what works and does not (and who have probably been involved with admissions at their own school, so have an insider's view of how it works, and what things stand out in LORs from the ad com's perspective).