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Profile evaluation for quant marketing
Hi there, thanks in advance for your time and help.
GRE: 167 Q/170 V/5.5 AW
Undergrad: Overall GPA 3.71/4, major in Economics and minor in CS from a top 5 (probably) US university.
More in-depth details: generally mediocre grades for the first two years, better grades the last two years when I realized I wanted to do a PhD.
Econ grades: Intro/Interm. Micro (B+/B+), Intro/Interm. Macro (B+/A), Econometrics I/II (A, B+), Applied Econometrics (A-), Electives in Behavioral/Experimental econ (A,A).
Math grades: Calculus III (B), Multivariate Calculus (course title something like "Math for Economics") (B-), Intro to Real Analysis (A), Real Analysis I and II (A/A), Linear Algebra/Abstract Linear (A/A-).
Computer science: Three course intro sequence (B+/B+/B+), Machine Learning (A), Data Viz (A), Discrete Math (A-), Theory of Algorithms (A)
Research: RA for a labor economist and for an Associate Prof of Marketing at top 10 (probably?) marketing program. Both for one year before graduating. Marketing prof said I was the best RA she'd had thus far.
Industry: Currently working in the research department of an asset manager. Essentially I do more or less the same things as when I was an academic RA, and I work for folks with PhDs from places like Princeton, Cal Tech, Chicago Booth. I will not be using any industry letters for applications, however.
Applying to: quant marketing. Number of places applying to: Maybe 7-8? Applying to quant marketing and econ as well, aiming for roughly 15 total applications. Dream schools: Chicago Booth, Stanford, similar schools.
I'm currently having a very hard time figuring out what is required to be competitive at top programs. I'm concerned that my grades are a bit spotty, and want to keep my expectations realistic. The marketing professor I worked for told me I should focus on top schools, but I think it was more "I think that you'd be better served going to a lower ranked economics program rather than a lower ranked marketing program" and less "I think you're a sure shot for a top ten marketing program." Any opinions regarding that point are welcome as well.
Finally, where can I get an idea of what the top programs are? Are the UT Dallas rankings accurate? My noisy proxy thus far has been going to schools that I would expect to be good and seeing which schools are represented at their marketing workshops.
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Re: Profile evaluation for quant marketing
"I'm currently having a very hard time figuring out what is required to be competitive at top programs."
For many PhD-related stuff, you will have a "very hard time figuring out" something, because there are no clear and simple answers, and it's your job to do your research and find the best answer that you can. This is no exception. It's really hard to tell, with different schools, different professors, different applicants pointing in different directions.
But some of the things that can help your application to be competitive:
- high GMAT/GRE scores
- high GPAs
- excellent grades in courses that are closely related to the topics you will need to know and learn during the PhD of your choice (it looks like this is one of your weaknesses)
- quality of research experience
- strong letters of recommendations from professors who are known, with a good reputation in research
However, all of that can be worth little, if there is no fit (especially research fit). If you apply to a school where there is no professor available who share your research interests at some level, then you are not competitive, no matter how good you are.
And that leads to the next part.
"Finally, where can I get an idea of what the top programs are? Are the UT Dallas rankings accurate?"
What is your definition of "top programs"? What criteria do you think that should matter the most? For PhD, rankings are useful, but dangerous. Because rankings may answer those questions in a way that is not the way you should.
UT Dallas is usually the ranking system that we use in our discussions for Marketing PhD. But we all know it's not perfect.
UT Dallas is, broadly speaking, based on the number of papers published in the last five-years by each school in the journals that are considered the most relevant ones in each field.
So, for us, the ranking would be a reflective indicator, that assumes that better PhD programs will publish more papers in the top journals. But there are many potential problems with that. Some examples:
- even if there is a correlation, it's not perfect;
- this system does not show if the school is improving over time or declining;
- this system does not show some criteria that should be important to you, like job placement and the number of students who start but are not able to finish the program;
- this system does not show the performance in different tracks or research interests.
As I said, research fit is extremely important. Maybe a school is considered top 5 in Marketing if you use the UT Dallas ranking. But maybe that rank is based on CB papers instead of Quant Marketing papers, and in a topic that is completely unrelated to your research interests. In that case, that rank does not work for you.
On the other hand, you may find some schools that are ranked lower, but they are particularly strong on one type of research. And for that specific type of research, they may be top 1. For example, Wharton is usually the top 1 in Marketing according to UT Dallas, better than Ross. However, if your interests are related to customer satisfaction, then probably Ross is stronger than Wharton. Because Ross is the home of Claes Fornell, who is one of the most famous researchers for that topic, he created the American Consumer Satisfaction Index that is used in lots of papers, etc.
So, applicants often start with the UT Dallas to get a general feeling, but then each applicant develop their own ranking system that better suit their needs.
You said you're applying to Quant Marketing and Econ. From what I've seen (I may be wrong), Econ PhD programs often accept many students every year. But Business PhD programs usually only accept 1 new Quant Marketing student a year. I've seen Marketing PhD programs accepting very few applicants (like 1, 2 or 3 at most) and those acceptances are not only for Quant Marketing, but also CB and sometimes Marketing Strategy. So, if you apply to only the top 10 Quant Marketing programs, you probably need to be one of top 10 applicants in Quant Marketing too (or close to that).
We often say here that chances of being accepted by a top 20 are very, very low, even for very strong applicants. I would never tell someone "I think you're a sure shot for a top ten marketing program" like you mentioned, even if that applicant seems to have a perfect profile. The competition is too hard, the level of applicants can be amazingly high.
If you go to a top 20 program in Marketing according to UT Dallas rankings, you are still going to places like Harvard. If you go to top 30, you are still going to places like UCLA and Cornell. If you go to top 60, you are still going to places like MIT. I see no reason to only think about top 10, even if you are a strong applicant.
That particular piece of advice (that I ought to only apply to the very best program) always struck me as strange -- especially since the idea of "top programs ten" is kind of a meaningless phrase since the programs are so idiosyncratic as you mentioned. I wonder if maybe I'd just misunderstood what she'd meant -- since it seemed to me that if (e.g.) I looked at some list of top 10-15 programs and narrowed it down to 5 where there were faculty doing things related to what I was interested in, then the most likely result seemed like it would be simply not getting into any program.
Based on your response, I'll probably plan to apply more widely and disregard what my professor had said. From what I can gather, since there aren't any hard and fast guidelines for what programs I should consider to have a good shot at being admitted to, I should just cast a wide net and hope for the best. (If I'm being honest I made this post partly to see if anyone would comment to say that top programs were outside of my reach entirely; just want to clear up that I'm not so clueless or arrogant to think that I'm definitely going to be admitted to a top 10 or even 30 program.)
Ha if I get in anywhere I'll let you know... For various reasons I've decided to only apply to a handful of places this year, and will apply more widely next. So there's a decent chance I'll end up with all rejections.