View Full Version : Importance of Real Analysis at lower ranked programs and profile evaluation

02-05-2008, 05:46 PM
Hi everyone! As I said in the lurkers thread, I've finally joined the community and I'm excited to spend the next year with you all analyzing every detail of the application progress.

I've read about every profile evaluation thread, however I still have one question. How important is Real Analysis for lower ranked programs? You can see my abbreviated profile posted below to get a better idea of the range I'm looking at. Taking Real Analysis by Fall 08 (when I'm applying) would require some serious personal and financial sacrifices on my part, which I'm willing to make if a) it really is necessary for the programs I'm looking at, b) doing so would greatly strengthen my profile or c) it would even push me into the next tier (wishful thinking!).

I've talked with my advisor, but I'd really like to hear what you all have to say. Thanks ahead of time!

Small midranked LAC
GPA: At end of Fall 08 semester, I expect ~3.55 overall (bad first year, averaging about 3.7 sophomore and junior years), 3.80-85 econ, 3.40 math
GRE: expect 760-770Q, 680V
Math: Calc IV, Diff Eq, Linear Alg, Intro Discrete Math, Adv Probability and Stats, maybe Real Analysis
Econ: the usual for the major, will graduate with honors
RA'd for two professors, presented co-authored paper at conference, tutored econ for two years, senior honors thesis
LOR should be strong (two should be excellent, the other average)
Interests: IO, applied micro, applied metrics, labor, law & econ
Other: American female; can only attend if offered funding
Schools currently interested in (mostly pulled from econphd and what I've read on the forum--suggestions welcome!): U AZ, UVA, GA State, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, SMU, Georgetown. If I somehow got an 800, I'd throw in UT-Austin and Duke and start praying.

02-05-2008, 05:55 PM
Doing well in an extra math class always helps. However, you've had quite a bit of math, so the marginal benefit isn't as huge as it would be for someone who hasn't taken anything beyond calc. (Assuming you get about the same grade in real analysis as you've had in other upper level math classes). I would guess that your math background is already competitive for the schools you are targeting.

That said -- real analysis is more than just a signal to the admissions committee. It's also good preparation for the first year courses. Have you taken any "proof based" math classes? If not, the benefit of taking real analysis will be in giving you the math tools so that you can focus on understanding the economics (instead of learning the math) during first year micro. And in that case, it's not as essential to take it before you apply; you could take it after applications are in and before you start.

02-05-2008, 07:53 PM
Thank you! No, I haven't had any proof based courses and I can definitely see how RA would help me out that first year, so I will take that into consideration. Any thoughts out there on the suitability of my profile for the schools listed or others I should consider?

02-05-2008, 10:38 PM
A good grade in real analysis greatly enhances your chances of acceptance at any program.

You should get at or near 800 Q if you spend more than two weeks studying for it. Some students in China study for the GRE over the course of an entire year to get as close to 800/800/6.0 as possible (and many do. This just shows that the test can be beaten).

02-05-2008, 11:31 PM
It seems to me that as an American female, you're underestimating yourself. Programs are looking for Americans and females who can compete with the talented international students and males who apply and are admitted in greater numbers. Your profile is certainly on par with that of people who have been admitted to the top schools, and your demographics can only help in that regard. Also know that even though a great deal of emphasis is put on GRE scores on this forum (and rightly so) the difference between a 780 and an 800 is small after controlling for the rest of the application.
Since you're an American, you should definitely apply for the NSF (government awards absolutely use diversity as a factor) and strongly consider adding some "reach" schools to the mix. As has been said before, the cost of additional applications is small at the margin and in view of potential gains.
Don't sell yourself short!

02-06-2008, 12:21 AM
I think if you take real analysis, you could definitely apply at UT-Austin and Duke. I got into UT-Austin with a disappointing 760 Q GRE score, so it possible. I'd also say throw in a top-10 school. Even if you don't get in, its worth taking a shot I think.

You and I seem to have similar research interests, as well as locational preferences, so I'll also suggest Ohio State and UIUC as good schools in applied micro. Indiana is strong in labor econ.

Karina 07
02-06-2008, 02:23 AM
My impression is that your school and your recommendations will be your constraining factors. Plus maybe your GRE if you do badly. With your references, what matters isn't just how positive they are but how well-known the profs are (apologies if you know this already). So if your profs aren't well-known, you might want to find one who is to vouch for you. It'll all be about making sure schools know how to judge you. If you did take a class somewhere known with someone known, even in the summer, maybe that'd help; or else doing research for someone known. But maybe your references are already pretty credible people. Either way, study to make sure to get 800 on the GRE; it's definitely worth it. I'd add a couple of reach schools. Not sure what exactly, but a little higher. And if your references and GRE are good, even a little higher than that.

02-06-2008, 03:58 AM
I agree that you may be selling yourself short, anna09--especially given that there is fellowship money out there specifically for women at every top school (AFAIK). Because of that, I'd say that it's worth putting the extra effort/expense into scoring 800 on the GRE and probably also into taking real analysis. That goes double if you can afford to put in the time to earn an A in analysis and improve your math GPA. Worst case: you don't get into a better program but maybe you get better funding at and are better prepared for the program you do attend.

02-06-2008, 05:31 PM
I didn't realize that being an American female was that much of an admissions boost. Do you get diversity points for being a natural blonde too? lol Anyways, thanks for the helpful advice everyone, and I will look into your suggestions Andronicus--we do seem have to very similar interests and preferences (I take it you also try to avoid the colder climates!).

In regards to LORs, how well known are we talking? My department is small (seven full time profs) and I doubt the profs are well known. A search on EconLit returns 5, 17, and 4 hits respectively for the profs I'm considering asking and their PhDs range from Maryland to low low ranked. They've all been around for awhile, so it's not like they're young up and coming economists. I'm hoping to take a summer course (and *fingers crossed* get in some more research experience) at a bigger research university and try to make a LOR connection there, but right now there's nothing set in stone.

02-06-2008, 05:59 PM
Hi Anna,
I'm also from a small midranked LAC, so I have an idea about what you are up against. The problem with LORs from these schools, is the professors tend to be out of touch with graduate schools and the wider professional community. There are two elements you would like your letter writers to address- your propensity for success in graduate school, and your propensity for success as a researcher. If you only get letters from your small LAC, even if the professors are well-known in their research community, they will have a very hard time credibly addressing the first point because they don't supervise graduate students and they have little basis for comparison. This is why it is vital to take classes at a research university and get to know a faculty member there, and impress them! If you have one strong letter from a well-known and respected economist, I believe this will even strengthen your other glowing letters from your home college, because suddenly adcoms have a reason to believe them.

It sounds like you've already reaped some of the benefits of going to a small LAC (RAing experiences, TAing experiences), which is good. I would absolutely take RA and study hard and get an A, as well as study hard for the GREs. If you do these things you will give the adcoms a way to compare you to students from research universities, which is vital for acceptance.

p.s.- check back in a few months to see my full profile and decisions- that will give you a sense of how well my strategy works...