Good research experience but not so great grades. I think you should be applying more in the top 40.
I'm planning to apply next year, currently mulling over my best approach to the next 12 months. I just took Real Analysis/Linear Algebra combo course at the school I am a full time RA at (post-grad) and am awaiting my grade, expecting a B+ or A-
Question is whether to take more advanced Real Analysis coursework this semester, or use it to focus on GRE prep, or something else. Further plans include retaking Multivariable Calculus, and/or Linear Algebra (a standalone course as opposed to the combo analysis course I just took) next summer term, and something else next fall term at the last chance before the apps. Also wondering if and how much energy should be put into editing my thesis to get published. I have one year to get whipped into shape, help! Complete other consideration is to attempt to be an RA for 3 years rather than 2, and potentially move to a different department, more rec letter options, etc.. Here is my "top school, weak grades" rundown:
Type of Undergrad: B.A. Economics with Honors (Top 5 Econ research University)
Undergrad GPA: 3.29 overall, 3.55 Econ
Type of Grad:N/A
Grad GPA: N/A
Math Courses: Multivariable Calculus (P - took on pass/fail for fear of bad grade), Linear Algebra and Differential Equations (C), Stats (C), Stats retake under different course name (A-)
Econ Courses (undergrad-level): Macro (C+), Micro(B+), Metrics (A-), Independent Research Seminar (A), Honors Thesis (A), Case Studies in Economic Development (A-), Poverty and Impact Evaluation (A-), Intro Econ (A)
Other Courses: Computing with Data (Basically an R class)
Letters of Recommendation: Thesis advisor (very prominent development economist), current PI (AP at a top policy department, econ PhD from a top 20), 3rd letter TBD
Research Experience: Currently a full time RA at a top policy department (working on economics research for an economist professor); Two independent development papers written, one published in an undergraduate journal and other working on getting published in a real journal; undergrad RA position with a prominent economist 1 semester; undergrad RA position with a PhD candidate in econ department 1 semester; undergrad RA position with a top Poli Sci professor 1 semester.
Teaching Experience: N/A
Research Interests: Development, Poverty, Inequality
Concerns: Obviously my math grades.
Other: Interned at a prestigious development organization on less analytical things, completed many more niche Global Poverty and Inequality courses and did very well.
Coding skills: Stata, R, LaTex, ArcGIS, QGIS
Applying to: Likely all top 10, bleeding selectively into top 20
I think you should definitely work on your grade. For top 10 school applicants, I think almost all of them has strong transcript: they have to make sure you can pass the first year cores. Actually I would recommend to do a master degree.
Another route is to coauthor with one of the professors in Econ. I have to say that Econ department has prejudice against other fields of social sciences. A working paper and a very very strong letter from an Econ professor will probably make up for your grade.
This is a difficult profile to evaluate. I don't think we've ever seen a profile with such weak grades coupled with exceptionally strong research experience and connections (I assume you're working with a professor at Harris, HKS, or somewhere similar). If I were in your place, I'd add some #20-#30 ranked programs (or equivalently, top 5 ARE programs) as an insurance policy, if you can find a few that haven't closed their applications. A back-up is important because unlike some other applicants, you *don't* really have the time to wait and try again next season, because it's essential to get your theory training before you start publishing papers. But in any case, my feeling is that the research experience/connections will carry you over the line in at least one top 10 program.
I suggested ARE programs because they tend to have a focus on development, policy, or empirical micro, all of which match your interests and experiences. These programs also tend to have less stringent theory requirements in the 1st year, and are thus more likely to admit non-conventional candidates without a good math background but with strong research experience.
I can't really give you an accurate benchmark of how competitive their admissions is, but the general wisdom here is that top ARE programs like Berkeley ARE are comparable with #5-#20 Economics PhDs. WB/IMF placements are quite commonplace. The exact structure and curriculum of each program may differ in idiosyncratic ways, but they provide strong micro and econometrics training, and there should be no significant disadvantage compared to econ programs if you are sure you want to work in empirical micro.
You should try to look for more information by yourself elsewhere. There are not many examples of such programs, but if you do find a suitable program (judging by program structure, faculty, and placements), I strongly suggest you send in an application if it's not past the deadline.
Last edited by chateauheart; 01-08-2019 at 02:13 AM.
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