View Full Version : are there any chances for me to go to top departments?

02-24-2008, 03:42 AM
My profile is:
- undergraduate in economics : GPA ~3.0 from an Asia country.
- Ms in economics in European country GPA ~ 3.5.
- First year phd in economics in US, my school is <top150. I will get Ms next fall GPA ~3.3-3.5.
- GRE: Q700, V510, W3.
- I have studied many economic courses but only two math courses and the math course in undergraduate is C.

I plan to apply for fall 2009 in top 40. What could I do to strenthen my profile? how about my chance of getting in top 40?.
I hope you could give me some advice.
Thank you.

02-24-2008, 03:59 AM
Your GRE seems too low to make it past the cuts, that is the first and easiest thing to fix... You should probably get the Calc series, Linear Algebra and Stats...


02-24-2008, 07:25 AM
Unfortunately, you are in a very bad position. I'll try to address my concerns one by one:

1) You are applying to yet another school when you are currently doing a PhD at another institution. Usually this is done in only two kinds of cases:
a) where you are doing so well that the professors think that you would be better off at a higher-ranked school (this is rare, but it happens); or
b) you are an excellent student, but your interests do not fit those of the department or you otherwise do not fit into the department. One of my professors transferred from one top school to another (yep, both in the top 10) because of b).
Given your grades, unless the school is particularly tough (which is doubtful, given its ranking), both cases are highly unlikely. You have not one, but (will have) two master's degrees in economics, and your performance has not improved. Schools see PhD students as investments, and you wouldn't look attractive in the eyes of the adcom. Perhaps if you are willing to go unfunded, you may be able to get an admit in schools ranked 30 or over; however, you would need extremely strong recommendations, or a valid reason for bolting from your current PhD program (such as a) or b) above).

2) In terms of GRE scores, you really need a quantitative score of 770 or higher these days. Also, your analytical writing score raises serious red flags. usually such an issue is ignored if all of your other credentials are in order, but this is not the case in your situation.

The best advice I could give you is to talk to your graduate program coordinator with your concerns. If a PhD is really what you want (to either be a teacher, an academic, or you need it for the job you would like to do), then there is nothing wrong with getting a PhD at the school you are at currently. Pedigree is extremely important for the academic job market; however, if you want to be a professor at a good school, research is what is going to set you apart. Last year, someone from a noname school (rank 100+) in Europe got interviewed at quite a few top schools, including a handful of top 10s, because his job market paper was outstanding.

To summarize, if you have a valid reason for bolting your PhD program, and are able to get very strong recommendations, and are willing to put the work in to score well in the GRE (it's no big deal to raise the 700Q to almost 800, but the AWA will require many hours of practice to get it at 4.0 or above), then you could apply to a better school.

Be absolutely sure that a PhD is really what you want to do... attrition is high as in most disciplines, and you don't want to transfer to a third school to get a third conciliatory master's degree in economics and have wasted all those years just to be saddled with debt.

Best of luck.

02-24-2008, 08:19 PM
Hi Lukykid and Olm, thank you very much for your advice. I will work to increase my GRE.

I have came up with several solutions for my case, please give your commends:

1) Take more math and statistic courses and apply again in Fall 2009 with Ms degree of my present school.
2) Study another Ms in economics in another university and try to get GPA close to 4.0 and take more math course then apply.
3) Study master or BS in statistic or mathematic and apply again.

I know that they will take me time, effort money... but if I can get in top 40 it is worth to do so.

And the safe solution for me is: 4) continue to study and get phd. But my concern for this case is if I can find a job in US after graduation or I will be unemployed?( as no school choose me as a professor and private sector does not hire me).

02-24-2008, 08:26 PM
You'll be able to get a job somewhere in the US with an economics PhD. It very well may be at a small state school without a PhD program, but there isn't exactly a bread line for unemployed economists.

02-24-2008, 08:37 PM
I can only recommend 4) at this point. As I said in my above post, you simply aren't an attractive candidate for a top 40 school for admittance, let alone funding.

Yes, a degree from a non-prestigious institution hurts you on the job market (for academia, mostly), but a great job market paper can get you placed well out of the starting gate, and a good research record can bring you all the way to the top (see Prof. John List at Chicago, he got his PhD from a school ranked >100).

It is ridiculous to think you will be unemployed after graduation, no matter where you get your PhD in economics from. If you are, it's your fault and has nothing to do with where you got your degree from.

A degree is a way of signalling your skills to the job market. If you have a PhD in economics, people assume you are competent in economic theory, statistics and mathematics. Those are very valuable qualities!

You can get a job doing economics consulting with a salary of 100k+ a year right after you graduate. Most private sector jobs will pay you at least 80k+ a year with a PhD. Public service and teaching colleges will pay you a minimum of 60k+. The important thing is to improve your English to a point where your writing resembles that of a native and your speech is perfectly understandable (despite an accent).

There is a chance you may not even be able to get the PhD in the first place, and you should definitely consider this fact. You may not be able to produce research that your school will deem good enough to hand you the PhD. This happens quite often at schools of all rankings. Why waste time with yet another degree when there is a chance that you may never have a PhD, and enter the job market with two BAs and three MAs, all in economics?

If you want to get into a top 40 school, aim for schools ranked 30-40, kick *** on the GRE (770Q or higher, AWA 4.5 or higher), and graduate with a 3.5 in your current degree (if you still have courses left to take, you had better work your *** off in them). Make sure you impress the profs enough to get excellent recommendations and cross your fingers. At the same time, do not leave your program until you have an acceptance in hand from another program. If you don't get in anywhere better, you can at least say you gave it your best shot.

02-24-2008, 09:04 PM
I agree with Olm. At some point you have to stop collecting preparatory work and either continue along your current path (and get a PhD at your current institution) or stop and get a job with your masters degrees. To be frank, the fact that you haven't excelled at these programs and haven't done particularly well on the GRE does not bode well for admission or subsequent success at top programs.

The good news: regardless, if you are competent and do good work, you will be able to get a job.

02-25-2008, 12:52 AM
Olm's advice seems to be right on. I just want to underscore his point about improving your English skills if you plan to get a job in the US. IMHO, this is doubly-important in your case because, with a Ph.D. from a lower-ranked university, your best employment opportunities will be in the smaller liberal arts and state schools that emphasize undergraduate teaching. In that situation, being able to communicate well in English may be even more important than the quality of your research.

02-25-2008, 08:12 PM
Thanks for all recommends, it appears that I have to apply again, and if I can not make it in fall 2009, I will spend some other years to study math or statistics and re-applied later on, along way to go...

02-25-2008, 08:31 PM

02-25-2008, 10:52 PM
its a no brainer. you really wanna try again???
getting a math/stat BA? Do you (((understand))) "opportunity cost"?
(in terms 4 years salary from any decent job...couldnt be worser than
from Mcdonald)

02-25-2008, 11:18 PM
Let's assume you can't transfer to another school because you don't get accepted into another program. That leaves you about 3 options.

1. Get the Master's at your current school, get the PhD at the same, then try to apply to other schools.

Problem here is that schools almost certainly will not accept you if you have a PhD in the same program at a different school.

2. Leave you program after getting another Master's and studying more math and economics (the option you seem to be contemplating.)

Having two Master's degrees will probably raise some "red flags" as will dropping out of a PhD program. Schools will wonder if they want to take a chance even if you are able to improve the rest of your profile. Plus, the marginal benefit of doing more classes is decreasing, which means that any improvements won't necessarily outweigh the the "red flags" I mentioned.

3. Stay in your current program, get your PhD, and move into the job market.

This is probably your best choice at the moment.

Everyone wants to get into a highly ranked program since the rewards are much more handsome than the rewards for a lower ranked one. At some point, though, we have to take what we've done in the past as a given and settle for the best we can get. That doesn't mean you should settle for anything less than the best you can get from your current situation (which is almost certainly more than you think.)

02-25-2008, 11:20 PM
I would recommend you stay in your program. I know it's hard to let go of one's dreams, but at some point you have to realize that past mistakes have a permanent effect and the cost of imperfectly making up for them is increasingly high. Especially the opportunity cost. If you want to be a good researcher and you feel you are not getting enough technical tools in your program you can always take advanced math and statistics classes at the math department while finishing your PhD.

02-25-2008, 11:22 PM
It seems zappa and I are on the same page.

02-25-2008, 11:24 PM
It seems zappa and I are on the same page.

It looks like we are indeed on the exact same page, but why is it my page has so many more words to explain the exact same thing :p

02-26-2008, 12:30 AM
I would also add that getting an MA in math is NOT got a idea.

A graduate degree in math is very serious business. Even in undergraduate analysis, solving problems in Rudin's book is a lot of work (sometimes it will take you a couple of days until a solution "comes"). Graduate level is even more intense.. It will be impossible for you to get anything near a 4.0 GPA in graduate math courses if you had trouble with undergraduate level classes.

02-26-2008, 02:13 PM
I'll throw in my two cents here. Very brief.

Opportunity cost of ANOTHER degree (going on two MSes, plus a BS means you're older than most starting their PhDs) along with being in a PhD program now means you shouldn't worry about top 40.

Try to become the next big hit from a no-name. Sharpen your English and math and write the best damn job market paper you can.