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Thread: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

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    Smile Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

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    Hi, I'm beginning to focus on applications for Fall 2021 and would really appreciate any insight! I'd love any advice on where I can improve my application/what programs to apply to. Thanks!

    Test Scores (GRE): 163Q, 158V ; retaking this again in a month - aiming for 167+Q
    Undergrad GPA: 3.3 (major GPA: 3.8); BS Econ/Math
    Graduate GPA: 3.5; MS Financial Engineering
    Research Experience:
    1. decision theory research paper (submitting for publishing in 2 weeks with well-known professor in the field)
    2. industry research for biggest bank in Europe where my strategies were implemented firm-wide
    3. masterís thesis on optimizing factor-based investing strategy & building a model using Bloomberg

    Teaching Experience: N/A
    Work Experience: valuation analyst focusing on intellectual property at a litigation consulting firm - 1 year + various internships with banks


    Concentration Applying to: decision sciences/strategy
    Number of programs planned to apply to: ~10
    Dream Schools: MIT, Duke, University of Michigan, Boston College, UCLA




    Other Questions:


    What made you want to pursue a PhD?


    Working on research papers in school, specifically in my PhD level decision sciences class. I really want to be a professor so I know this is something I need to do. Iíve done almost all of my research papers on sports in uni so I want to continue to work within applicable strategic theory and model building in the same industry/field. The paper I wrote now has a model I built from scratch using Bayesian probability updating and forecasting focusing on the NFL.


    Questions or concerns you have about your profile?


    I know my undergrad GPA isnít great, but I put my major GPA to show that I did well in my major after I switched into it. I want to aim for a 167Q on my GRE.


    Also I recognize that there are probably a very tiny number of professors that do research on sports and decision theory, if any. Iíve been trying to be open minded when looking at research done at the schools, but I think that regardless I can fit in as there are professorís who do focus more on applicable strategy versus just working on abstract theory.


    Any additional specific questions you may have:


    Iíd really appreciate any advice or insight into where to aim in terms of schools as I donít know anyone who applied to PhD programs so I am figuring it out on my own (first gen college student). I looked at the UT Dallas Ranking (is this the specific list everyone is referring to when they mention ranks??), but again I'm not too positive on where to aim.


    Thank you so so much in advance, any advice helps!

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    Re: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

    You research interests are curious.

    On one hand, they seem quite broad.

    Decision sciences can include a lot of different things, for example. I think many researchers will focus on something more specific than that. For example, some specific types of decisions, some specific aspects of decisions, some specific methods that can be applied to research decisions, etc.

    So, I don't think it's rare to find professors who do have interests in some part of decision theory. But not broadly like that.

    On the other hand, they seem quite specific.

    Being industry-specific can really be a problem here. There are professors who work a lot with specific industries. But even then they are often not able to be sure they will be able to provide something for you to do in that industry. By the time you really start to do some heavy research, maybe they don't have the data, maybe they don't have the partnership, maybe they don't believe you have the skills to do what you want to do, etc.

    So, unless you are flexible about that, it can be a problem. Not only for PhD applications, but also when you look for a job later on.

    I wouldn't worry too much about people "just working on abstract theory." Although there are professors who are much stronger on the theoretical side, there is strong pressure on business schools to make research that is applicable. I'm not in strategy, but even the most theoretical professor in my department always says that there is nothing more practical than a good theory.

    If you do a good job at finding the professors who would be the best potential advisors for you, I doubt they would be the heavily theoretical ones. It wouldn't make sense with your profile.

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    Re: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

    What exactly do you consider 'decision science'? Depending on who exactly you talk to there are some subtle differences, and that could mean certain programs are much better fits than others. E.g. at Duke are you specifically looking at the Decision Sciences group? If you are, then that's a significantly more quantitative program that is maybe more on the methodology side than the application focused side.

    In terms of people working on sports, there are a few at some good schools, but it would depend a little bit on what type of sports problems you want to look at - e.g. dynamic ticket pricing, betting/fantasy sports, scheduling. There aren't as many people working on direct applications to things like on-field strategy. There are some, but there are also some challenges with this because most of these projects require data, and that data is often proprietary which can make it hard to publish.

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    Re: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

    Hi, I am looking at schools that have decision sciences groups, like Duke and GWU. But also, I am considering those that have "strategy" concentrations as they have research that focuses on decision making theory. I understand how difficult it will be to try to find someone who is doing research directly within what I have the most interest in (sports + decision theory), but I'm hoping that even within these methodology side departments, there are professors who focus more on application vs theory that I can connect with. I hope this better explains what I'm attempting to find a match with in terms of programs!

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    Re: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

    If you're interested in groups like Duke Decision Science, then that's going to be significantly more quantitative than what most programs in 'strategy' would be. I was in a somewhat similar situation when I was applying.

    From my perspective, there aren't all that many pure decision science groups that are actually listed as 'decision science'. One potential way to find more like-minded groups though would be to look at programs like Duke and GWU and see where their graduates are. The departments where they are might have a good fit even if they are listed as part of an operations or management science department/group.

    For example, I was in a similar situation when I was applying. I personally felt that Duke DS was too methodologically focused for my tastes. Instead, I picked a group that has slightly less focus on methodology, but my advisor and our co-author are both Duke DS grads.

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    Re: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

    Decision sciences to me is too broad for sure and needs more refinement.

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    Re: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

    This is really good advice and not something I thought of... thank you so much!

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    Re: Profile Eval - PhD in Strategy/Decision Sciences Fall 2021

    Strategy is mostly economics and sociology and is focused on explaining firm performance from 30,000 feet. While Strategy is often less quantitatively rigorous on the sociology side, it can also be very quantitatively oriented and indistinguishable from economics. So it's a mixed bag.

    Decision Sciences is mostly psychology with a bit of microeconomic theory and is focused on understanding the processes behind how individual actors make decisions in an organizational context.

    These are two very different fields on average, but there is a very small amount of overlap. You need to do more homework by reaching out to current PhDs that you know, reading journals, and possibly RAing. This will help you define your interests even more.

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