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arieshion
02-07-2008, 07:19 PM
I was wondering what I should do this summer if I get admitted somewhere:luck2:
(of course there will be a bigger problem if I don't get into any school...)

Any suggestions?

bertthepuppy
02-07-2008, 07:20 PM
I was having similar thoughts as well, so I'm really glad you posted this. I think I may get a bunch of stupid, random jobs, i.e. dog walking, etc. and start preparing for math camp and first semester.

econphilomath
02-07-2008, 07:21 PM
Hawaii, or Florida, whichever is closer....thats my plan at least!

BTW if you don't get in, I would probably go with this plan anyway...

C152dude
02-07-2008, 07:26 PM
If I get into a high ranked program, I am going to the Seychelles.

arieshion
02-07-2008, 07:29 PM
If I get into a high ranked program, I am going to the Seychelles.

I should be studying geography, since I don't know where the Seychelles are...:)

econphilomath
02-07-2008, 07:30 PM
If I get into a high ranked program, I am going to the Seychelles.
http://www.gadling.com/media/2006/03/seychelles.jpg

arieshion
02-07-2008, 07:31 PM
pretty place!

nice choice

bertthepuppy
02-07-2008, 07:32 PM
If only when we get funded, they could give us an advance on our stipends...THEN I could go to the Seychelles...

oavdn17
02-07-2008, 07:33 PM
start reviewing for your courses in the fall. Get a textbook list and buy the books ( i bought my books in late summer !)....

asquare
02-07-2008, 07:39 PM
This topic has come up several times. I disagree with oavdn17, and I'll re-post my old message (http://www.urch.com/forums/phd-economics/65206-books-review-before-grad-school-4.html#post429051), which explains why:

A friendly word of advice -- whatever you do, don't arrive at school burned out. If it's been a while since you were in school, or if you haven't taken linear algebra and real analysis, you may find it worthwhile to work through some math excercises. (Simon and Blume is a great review, and many of you will use it in math camp as well.) Similarly, if you've taken a lot of math but very little econ, it may be useful to take a peak at an intermediate undergrad micro textbook. (I'd recommend Varian's undergraduate text, or, if you're a little more comfortable with the material, his excellent graduate text, simply called Microeconomics.)

However, don't spend all summer studying! Don't read Mas Collel. Don't bother with macro at all. Let your professors guide your approach to this material when you start graduate school, and give yourself a chance to come at the material rested and enthusiastic. It's very easy to get bogged down in the details if you try to learn MWG in advance. For that book especially, it's much more productive to treat it as a reference than a primary source. Try to get the intuition from your professors, classmates, Varian, or Kreps (another good grad level text). But don't beat yourself over the head with MWG over the summer. You won't be behind if you haven't already read the book, and you won't be much ahead if you do.

What should you do to jump start your grad school experience? Start looking for interesting questions. Train yourself to look for research topics in every day life. Save newspaper or magazine articles that make you say "huh" or "that can't be true" -- they may end up generating research ideas in the future. Keep an eye out for great natural experiments, policy changes, instruments. When you have ideas, write them down. However silly they are, such a list is a place to start when, suddenly, you're told to "do research." Remember that economics is a fantastic tool for analyzing all sorts of behaviors. Pay attention to, and be interested in, the world around you.

If you want to do something a bit more rigerous, then I'd suggest getting someone (an old professor or current grad students who are a bit further along in their programs) to suggest a half-dozen seminal papers in the fields you think you are interested in. Read these papers. You'll read them again when you take field classes, and another time when you start your research, but reading them now will give you a better sense of where you are going, why all of the first year theory matters, and what research questions interest you. It will give you a little bit more background when you go to seminars and talk to other students about your research. And re-reading the papers halfway through the year is a great way to see how far you've come in building your foundation as an economist. Engaging with the literature in your intended fields is, IMO, much more useful than slaving over MWG. There will be plenty of time for that :)

********************************
Something else I posted previously (http://www.urch.com/forums/phd-economics/67755-whats-best-way-prepare-first-year.html#post446885) on the subject. This is a bit redundant, but I sill think it's true:

Well, I can tell you what is NOT the best way to prepare for first year: trying to cover all the first year material by yourself over the summer. :no:

Having a PhD already is not a prerequisite for enrolling in first year classes. They really do plan to teach you this stuff starting in September. And it's much, much more productive to learn from your professors and classmates than by trying to read MWG. At best, you will get frustrated, and at worst, you will get confused.

If it really has been a while since you've done any math, then reviewing basic calculus (multivar, total derivatives, etc.) is useful, and your professors won't spend time on that during math camp. Similarly, linear algebra is a basic tool that shouldn't require much though, so working through old notes or problems could be helpful. But for math beyond that, especially math you haven't ever learned before, I'd suggest just waiting. Self-study of real analysis or dynamic programing is frustrating and low-yield. If you have strong basics, you will learn these things when school starts. And it's better to come to them fresh than confused and frustrated.

What you should do, in my mind, is start thinking like an economist. Subscribe to the NBER digests as soon as you have a .edu e-mail address, and read a few papers that sound interesting to you. Start keeping a notebook of research ideas -- things that you see in the paper that make you say "hmm, really?" or other ideas you stumble across in daily life. If you don't already, start reading the Economist. And find a few academic articles (ideally, the seminal articles in your field, but if you can't get anyone to suggest those, then settle for papers presented in the seminar series for your field last year). Read those just to get an idea of what the end goal of the PhD really is, and to give yourself an idea of how the first year course work will fit in to the type of research you want to do.

Other than that, enjoy the summer!

***********************************
(You'll also find useful advice from lots of other TMers on the old threads I've linked to. A search might turn up even more. This subject comes up pretty often.)

Mr.Keen
02-07-2008, 07:47 PM
Assuming I get in somewhere I'm going to take a week-long vacation sometime during the summer and then I'm going to loosely review linear algebra and integration techniques (it's been awhile since I've done any). Oddly, my abstract maths are finely tuned right now, but the brute-force stuff is rusty.

oavdn17
02-07-2008, 07:52 PM
reviewing does not mean "burning out"!
I think its important to brush up on those subjects that maybe you haven't taken in a while. This could include some math, micro or metrics. I wasn't suggesting for the OP to study all summer. Last summer , i didn't do anything and i wish i would have reviewed some math.

asquare
02-07-2008, 08:01 PM
reviewing does not mean "burning out"!
I think its important to brush up on those subjects that maybe you haven't taken in a while. This could include some math, micro or metrics. I wasn't suggesting for the OP to study all summer. Last summer , i didn't do anything and i wish i would have reviewed some math.
oavdn17, we can disagree :) -- though if you read my message, I also recommend reviewing math if it's been a while. But I don't think it's necessary to buy text books in advance, and I don't think that studying or reviewing should be the primary use of the summer.

apropos
02-07-2008, 08:22 PM
For those who haven't had a good course in intermediate microeconomics, I would recommend to get a book called "Microeconomic Theory" by Nicholson and Snyder (previous editions could work fine too). Unlike most other undergraduate economics books, this book isn't shy about using simple math (calculus, simple constrained optimization methods etc.) You'll get your hands dirty working with all sort of utility and production functions, derivations of expenditure functions and demand, cost function, supply, factor demand and supply etc. (specially Cobb-Douglas is used a lot). It has some stuff on imperfect competition and economics of information and uncertainty. Everything I have seen during the first semester of micro was just a formalization of what I have learned from this book. This stuff is very important in graduate coursework, sometimes from day one (for example, if your macro course is based on something like Recursive Macroeconomic Theory). Likewise, if your math is rusty, read some simple text for that (maybe book that asquare mentions). Don't try to read MWG because it's HUGE, unless you have nothing better to do. (although, I think skimming over just the appendix for math review might be a good idea).

BTW, if you will be joining Purdue, Prof. Novshek will likely send you (as usual) a detailed list of subjects to review over the summer, including a 200-something page PDF file of his notes for intermediate micro. Being familiar with those notes is recommended as during the first week you will get a homework assignment based on those notes (about 35 problems, due a week after classes start, crazy!)

Trapped In an EW Box
02-07-2008, 09:26 PM
I agree with the "don't get burned out" statement... Read a novel :)

I'm especially going to try and read a few of the "classics" that I haven't gotten around to yet (and won't, unless I do a year long sequence in economic history!)

C152dude
02-07-2008, 09:50 PM
I agree with the "don't get burned out" statement... Read a novel :)

I'm especially going to try and read a few of the "classics" that I haven't gotten around to yet (and won't, unless I do a year long sequence in economic history!)

Good idea! I am going to read The Phantom Tollbooth again. That will also count as math review. Dodecahedron, whaaaaaaaaaatt?

Mr.Keen
02-07-2008, 09:55 PM
I agree with apropos, Nicholson's txtbook is a nice bridge, especially for those who have the maths and the econ but have never used them together.

pevdoki1
02-07-2008, 10:04 PM
I'd like to go to St Petersburg (home city) for a month or so, but where will I get the money? :hmm:

TruDog
02-08-2008, 12:17 AM
Take a couple weeks off and spend as much time as humanly possible studying real analysis, optimization, and anything else mathematically or statistically related. If you weren't an undergraduate math major, you need to do this in order to survive your first year.

So I pretty much disagree with asquare on this issue. I spent all summer studying Rudin 8-12 hours a day and I'm still not mathematically prepared for the first year here at Wisconsin.

buckykatt
02-08-2008, 12:18 AM
I suggest using your last summer before grad school to finally follow through on any outstanding resolutions about "getting in shape" and the like. It's very easy to find yourself spending grad school, especially the first year, with your #$$ glued to a chair, drinking pots of coffee, and seldom seeing the daylight. Starting out the year in good shape will help you survive that and, who knows, maybe even help you develop good habits so you peek your head out of your office and get some healthy food and exercise once in a while.

asquare's advice about reading classic papers is also good. Reading new papers would be useful, too (though one nice thing about reading the "classics" is that the emphasis is on the economics rather than the math, making them potentially more beginner-friendly). You'll get the big picture that provides some motivation for the techniques you'll be learning and you'll prepare your mind for recognizing interesting paper topics as they occur to you in the course of your studies.

polkaparty
02-08-2008, 12:21 AM
So I pretty much disagree with asquare on this issue. I spent all summer studying Rudin 8-12 hours a day and I'm still not mathematically prepared for the first year here at Wisconsin.

Wow, that's a lot of studying. Did you do all of the exercises? How many chapters did you finish? Just wondering....

TruDog
02-08-2008, 12:52 AM
Wow, that's a lot of studying. Did you do all of the exercises? How many chapters did you finish? Just wondering....

I did almost all of the exercises through the first eleven chapters. It was a brutal summer, but it was more than worth it. Plus, it's a great way to get ready to study for prelims! :D

polkaparty
02-08-2008, 01:00 AM
I did almost all of the exercises through the first eleven chapters.

The first eleven chapters? There's only 11 chapters in the text! Or are you referring to Real & Complex Analysis? In that case...holy mother.... I just don't believe that you could go through his graduate text and not be prepared for grad school in econ.

One downside about Rudin's exercises: He usually doesn't given any explanation for why you should give a crap about this ridiculously difficult and boring exercise. [granted, sometimes it's obvious why an exercise is important, but many times, I think, it's not] Nonetheless almost all of the exercises in the book are nontrivial with regard to greater meaning.... This is where a professor can really illuminate things, but explaining the big picture purpose of the exercises for instance.

jbs02002
02-08-2008, 01:01 AM
Screw studying. I'm going to Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.

pevdoki1
02-08-2008, 01:06 AM
i can't believe one can go through all of rudin and do all of exercises (correctly :)) and not be prepared enough mathematically for grad school in econ.

and i agree with "screw studying" in the summer (last summer before graduate school!!):)

P.S. i don't plan to have my *** glued to the chair all the time; screw that. it's most important to be healthy both mentally and physically. i expect to do some swimming + working out at least 3 times a week. i also expect to have a couple of beers on friday. is that so unrealistic for a PhD student?

bertthepuppy
02-08-2008, 01:49 AM
I'm doing a triathlon this summer. Hopefully I will keep up with that afterwards. I feel healthier and more energetic with exercise...I would think that's important.

TruDog
02-08-2008, 02:02 AM
Part of my problem with Rudin was that I had never taken a formal proof-based mathematics class. So I had to spend as much time on proof techniques as I went (which really helped) as I did on the actual material.

I second the opinion of bertthepuppy and buckykatt about the merits of exercise. Even though the first year at Wisconsin is one of the more brutal ones out there, I still make time to go out and run almost every morning. It's one of the few things that keeps me sane. Cold is just a state of mind (and tell that to the people who ski across the lake every morning to campus). :)

pevdoki1
02-08-2008, 02:06 AM
Skiing across the lake sounds awesome, although after watching that Kieslowski film where the boy drowned after the ice broke (and his father used formal mathematics to prove that it wouldn't break), I would be quite wary about doing it myself.

GymShorts
02-08-2008, 04:05 PM
Here’s something that less stressful than studying advanced math/economics, but might also yield worthy returns: Learn to write well. Many, perhaps even most, economists (native speakers included) cannot write clearly. And the return on effort is especially great for international students. This skill deserves greater emphasis given how much importance we put on publication. If you want more economists to read (or cite) your articles, then make them more enjoyable to read. You may have a great result/conclusion, but few will read it if the introduction is so dense that it takes an hour to read. Some have argued that learning to write clearly is no different than learning to think clearly. There are dozens of concise books with this aim.

econphilomath
02-08-2008, 04:43 PM
Here’s something that less stressful than studying advanced math/economics, but might also yield worthy returns: Learn to write well. Many, perhaps even most, economists (native speakers included) cannot write clearly. And the return on effort is especially great for international students. This skill deserves greater emphasis given how much importance we put on publication. If you want more economists to read (or cite) your articles, then make them more enjoyable to read. You may have a great result/conclusion, but few will read it if the introduction is so dense that it takes an hour to read. Some have argued that learning to write clearly is no different than learning to think clearly. There are dozens of concise books with this aim.

I'm interested, could you recommend how to go about doing this?

asquare
02-08-2008, 07:37 PM
I'm interested, could you recommend how to go about doing this?
Greg Mankiw had a blog (http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-write-well.html) about this a while ago; it might give you some ideas.

08Applicant
02-08-2008, 07:56 PM
Assuming I get into my top choice (applies to #6)... I'm making myself physically sick thinking about it. Here's my summer outline.

1) Quit my job in mid-June or no later than early-July
2) Start researching off-campus housing.
3) Sleep in a lot
4) Pull out real analysis and linear algebra textbooks and notes. Relearn all the old tricks for those proofs. They seemed easy when I had a lot of practice. Now they look like a foreign language.
5) Read for fun.
6) Go to the gym and take my training seriously, it may be my last chance to do this for a year or two. Call new gym near school and talk about special memberships that will fit my miserable schedule.
7) Visit friends from college.

GymShorts
02-08-2008, 09:06 PM
I'm interested, could you recommend how to go about doing this?

I found Style: Lesson in Clarity and Grace by Joesph Williams helpful. I'm not a flawless writer, but I'm certainly much better than I was before I read his text. I'm sure there are dozens of other books that are just as good.

polkaparty
02-08-2008, 10:19 PM
Greg Mankiw had a blog (http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-write-well.html) about this a while ago; it might give you some ideas.

Hmm...how credible is this advice:
The passive voice is avoided by good writers.
? It made me laugh at least....

Everyone who writes English should own Strunk & White. There are tons of "how to write well" books and this book is the king, queen, indeed the entire kingdom. No other book even comes close.

[we could say Strunk and White is the unique upper bound on the set of all writing advice books as well as being an isolated point in the set of all books. Strangely enough, the distance between Strunk and White and any other book is undefined (due to being roughly 'infinite')]

asquare
02-08-2008, 10:21 PM
Hmm...how credible is this advice:
The passive voice is avoided by good writers.
? It made me laugh at least....
Irony, my friend ;)

polkaparty
02-08-2008, 10:25 PM
Irony, my friend ;)

If Mankiw truly wrote this to be ironic, then he wasn't clear. Consequently he made a bad stylistic decision. I despise bullet points anyway.

econphilomath
02-09-2008, 04:27 AM
thanks for the tips, I will definitly look into the suggestions mentioned above.

BTW I wish polkaparty could have written me a LOR like that!! Just replace [Strunk and White] with econphilomath and [advice books\books] with applicants...:)




[we could say Strunk and White is the unique upper bound on the set of all writing advice books as well as being an isolated point in the set of all books. Strangely enough, the distance between Strunk and White and any other book is undefined (due to being roughly 'infinite')]

GymShorts
02-09-2008, 07:19 AM
If Mankiw truly wrote this to be ironic, then he wasn't clear. Consequently he made a bad stylistic decision. I despise bullet points anyway.

Also from the list: (my comments are in parenthesis)
Short words are better than long words. Monosyllabic words are best. (Monosyllabic is a polysyllabic word.)
Positive statements are more persuasive than normative statements. (This is a normative statement.)
Use adverbs sparingly. (Sparingly is an adverb.)
Avoid “of course, “clearly,” and “obviously.” Clearly, if something is obvious, that fact will, of course, be obvious to the reader. (He uses all of the words he tells you to avoid.)
The word “very” is very often very unnecessary. (Same as the example above.)And then there is passive voice one from a previous post. His irony is very straightforward and clear.

tangsiuje
02-09-2008, 12:57 PM
Actually, I don't think he's being ironic at all. I think he uses those words just to indicate how annoying they are (this should be clear for "very" example at least).

It should be noted that he suggests that these are "...good rules of thumb, especially for economists writing for a general audience." This kind of rules are present in almost all writing guidelines for people writing "for the masses": you can wiki the Gunning-fog index or the Flesch-Kincaid readability test and you'll realize that the things he mentions are exactly what they pick up on. Since Mankiw has written a couple of introductory undergraduate texts, I would suppose he's made good use of these rules himself.

That said, I don't think that this kind of writing is comme il faut in most academic literature. At the end, it all comes down to writing for your audience. Perhaps the best writer is one who can write both in a dense but clear academic fashion, as well as in a more informal but precise fashion for the general public.

ForTheWin!_08
02-09-2008, 01:40 PM
What is it about the passive voice that Americans hate so much? The rest of the English-speaking world manages to understand it perfectly well...

Fermat
02-09-2008, 01:52 PM
Everyone who writes English should own Strunk & White. There are tons of "how to write well" books and this book is the king, queen, indeed the entire kingdom. No other book even comes close.



I just ordered this on Amazon for 5$. My GRE analytical writing score suggests this is one area I need to improve on.

buckykatt
02-09-2008, 03:03 PM
I just ordered this on Amazon for 5$. My GRE analytical writing score suggests this is one area I need to improve on.

It's a rare writer who can't learn something from Strunk & White (though I'm not sure the people who score the GRE would know the difference, especially in the time alloted). FYI, Strunk's original version is in the public domain and should be easy to find online.

On matters of grammar (from a British perspective) I'm also a fan of Fowler's Modern English Usage. It's a distant second to Elements of Style, but Fowler is so deliciously opinionated that he makes up in entertainment what he lacks in elegance.

polkaparty
02-09-2008, 05:11 PM
His irony is very straightforward and clear.

Well I really only glanced at the list for about 20 seconds. We all have our own stylistic preferences and ultimately I don't think that tone is appropriate for such advice.


What is it about the passive voice that Americans hate so much? The rest of the English-speaking world manages to understand it perfectly well...

Passive voice is an evil which must be purged from every bit of written word. Essentially it weakens text by removing emphasis from the subject. Worse, it may not reference the subject at all. My teacher gave us the example “mistakes were made” to show how one can use passive voice to vilely avoid responsibility.

Here (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_actpass.html) is some advice from one of the best internet sources for writing advice. There are a few examples of acceptable use of passive voice:
"Rules are made to be broken," he said defiantly.

A new experimental liver-transplant operation was performed successfully yesterday.
Here the subject truly is not important. Nonetheless, the set of acceptable constructions is minuscule. Also, I disagree that scientific writing should be in the passive voice. Research is fallible and I, the researcher, am to blame.

Finally, what do Strunk and White say?
“The habitual use of active voice, however, makes for forcible writing. This is not true only in narrative concerned with action but with writing of any kind. Many a tame sentence of description or exposition can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice for some such perfunctory expression as there is or could be heard.

EconCandidate
02-09-2008, 10:32 PM
08Applicant has the right idea.

Let me address a few different things.

1. Math - the amount of math review you should do over the summer will vary greatly person to person, and will vary based on what type of program you expect to enter. For me and TruDog, math review would have been very helpful, and this is because Wisconsin doesn't have a math camp, so you get thrown right into *everything* at once. Neither of us had a true real analysis course in undergrad, so if you think you are in this situation, you should definitely spend time working through some analysis and doing what you can. If you feel comfortable with analysis and are going to have a math camp, reviewing math stuff is probably less essential.

2. You should try to get organizational things done, such as finding an apartment and making sure things are all set up there before you start classes, because you don't want any other distractions once you start.

3. You should try to relax and have fun over the break. Do some reading for fun, go out with friends, travel, and enjoy yourself.

4. I disagree with what a-square said about reading journal articles and papers before grad school. Unless you're doing it for your own enjoyment and interest, it seems like it will not help you with your first year courses at all.

5. I agree with what a-square said about your graduate econ textbooks however. You shouldn't try to tackle MWG yourself because you won't be very productive. However, putting time into the math will pay dividends.

6. I agree that you should buy your textbooks beforehand so that you aren't scrambling to get them once the semester starts. Once the semester starts, you want to be able to focus your time on your classes.

econphilomath
02-09-2008, 11:04 PM
I just ordered this on Amazon for 5$. My GRE analytical writing score suggests this is one area I need to improve on.

Also ordered a copy but paid 19 plus shipping. I like books and I never minded paying a bit for one. Thank the allmighty god (of your choice) for amazon.com...

asquare
02-10-2008, 02:47 PM
I completely agree with EconCandidate about getting organized and settled in over the summer. Finding an apartment, opening a bank account, all that sort of thing.



4. I disagree with what a-square said about reading journal articles and papers before grad school. Unless you're doing it for your own enjoyment and interest, it seems like it will not help you with your first year courses at all.
You're right that reading journal articles won't help with first year courses, but that's not the point! Reading journal articles gives you a sense of the bigger picture, of economics beyond first year classes. I think that perspective is important for keeping you motivated and for giving you a sense of why the core material matters and what to try to get out of it. Also, while you will have to reread the important articles in your field many times ;) seeing them before you start grad school is a nice way to start to think about fields and research topics, and gives you some familiarity with key concepts that can make sitting in on seminars a little less bewildering at first.

Ultimately, first year classes are NOT the most important part of the PhD program. They are certainly the most immediate concern for new graduate students, and they require a lot of preparation and effort during first year. But it is important to keep in mind the bigger picture, and that was what I was getting at by suggesting people take a look at some seminal articles in their fields.

EconCandidate
02-10-2008, 10:05 PM
Well, it might be hard for me to see the forest through the trees because I am in the first year of the grad program, and my entire world right now is the first year courses. However, a strong argument can be made that if you don't get through those first year courses or the prelims, then nothing else ever happens. So, from that perspective, the first year is everything.

asquare
02-10-2008, 10:18 PM
EconCandidate, you're right that the first year is important. But it's necessary and not sufficient, and I would argue that anything that helps you see the forest actually makes it easier to push through first year, and to get what you need out of it. Reading articles won't help you solve problem sets and probably won't help you pass the prelim, but it will help you understand why this stuff matters, and thus help you stay motivated. It will also give you a sense of what material you will ultimately need to know in more depth.

And it's precisely because of the need for near single-minded focus on course work during the first year that I think giving yourself some context in advance can serve incoming students well. It's unlikely anyone will have the time or inclination to read extra articles during first year, but having read a few things the summer before starting can provide a glimmer of the bigger picture to fall back on. (When you can make the time for "extra curriculars" during first year, I think attending seminars is a better use of time than reading papers.)

It's one of my pet peeves about econ PhD programs that the first year is so disjoint from the rest of the program. The models, mechanics, and math are crucial and do deserve a lot of the time and effort devoted to them. But I think students would be much better served if they were provided with some guidance about how this stuff is used down the line.