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Thread: What weighs on the balance?

  1. #1
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    What weighs on the balance?

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    Hey mates,

    I have taken advantage of this forum for a while. Now, I finally took the courage to ask you some questions I have about the application process for the PhD in economics around the world. I hope you can help me.

    I'm planning to apply to 15+ programs in this year.

    PROFILE:
    Type of Undergrad: BA in economics top Latin American school.
    Undergrad GPA: 3.7/4

    Type of Grad: Msc Economics, same school
    Grad GPA: 3.5/4

    GRE: 166Q, 159V, 3.5AW

    Math Courses: Calculus I-III(A), Linear Algebra (A), Real Analysis (C), Statistics I-II (A+), Econometrics I-III (undergrad) and Econometrics I-III(grad) (A).


    Other relevant Courses: Micro I (C, grad), Micro II (A, grad), Macro I (A, grad), Econometrics I (A, grad), Econometrics III (A, grad), Labor Economics (A, grad).

    Research Experience: 5+ years as RA. Bunch of topics: labor, applied econometrics, trade, development, IO, environmental economics and economics of education. 5 different profs (3 potential LoRs).

    Teaching Experience:4+ years as TA: Statistics, Econometrics, Micro and Macro for both undegraduate and graduate levels.

    Other: Honor undergraduate thesis and a master thesis published in a fair journal. Participated in 8 conferences (national and international). Top 3 in undergrad.

    Letters of Recommendation:
    1 - Undergrad. supervisor (PhD at a top 10), very famous in my country, sent lots of students to PhD in the last 10 years. I've also been his RA and TA. Tenured.
    2 - Grad. supervisor (PhD at a top 30), not so famous, but I consider a strong letter. Also sent some students to PhD in the past.
    Tenured.
    3 - Prof. I've been RAing for 1+ year (also my teacher in undergrad) (PhD at a top 5). Very young.

    Concerns:
    1 - My lack of math courses (at least in comparison with the folks in this forum).
    2 - My C's in Real Analisys and Micro I.
    3 - My 166 in GRE quant (should I retake, I have plenty of time, but not plenty of money).

    Could it be that my strong recommendation letters combined with my extensive experience as TA and RA compensate for these flaws in my transcripts? In other words, can the selection committees give more/less weight at any of these points and this increase/decrease my chances of being admitted?

    I know these questions do not have objective answers, but I would like your opinion on how high I should aim when I decide which schools to apply to (top 10, 20, 50, etc.).

    Could any of you give me a light?

    Cheers!
    Last edited by winstow; 01-31-2019 at 09:51 AM. Reason: Help the users to better understand my question.

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    I'd recommend editing your post and adding the standard profile template. The template helps users spot areas of weakness quickly.

    ETA: the OP did so.
    Last edited by tm_member; 01-31-2019 at 01:16 PM.

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    There are perhaps more informed responses, but the way I think about it there are two aspects that a school wants to see: ability to pass the first/second year courses, which are very difficult, math-heavy courses, and conditional on that, ability to produce quality independent research. Of course it's not exactly that simple, but I think it's a reasonable way to think about it. Different parts of your application might inform their opinions on those two things to a different degree; GRE scores and undergrad math courses could say a lot more about your ability to grasp the mathematical concepts in the first year, while research experience and strong letters of recommendation might do more to signal your ability to do actual economic research. Again, it's obviously not that cut and dry, but might give you an idea of how to weigh your own profile.

    So if I were you I would feel fairly confident that I look like a pretty good researcher, but less confident about my ability to do well in the difficult early courses. As tm_member says above, it would probably be easier to try to place you in a range if you filled out a standard profile template, but at first glance I would guess that if you wanted a shot at top 15 or 20 you'd want to do something more to prove that you can handle the math.

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    I'd recommend editing your post and adding the standard profile template. The template helps users spot areas of weakness quickly.
    Thanks for that! I've just edited in order to be more objective!

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    It seems to me that your outcomes will depend largely on the past history of students from your school. You should ask your LOR writers about how they think you compare to students they have sent to US PhD programs.

    With that said, it seems to me that you can expect to get in somewhere just around the median outcome of students from your school - you have some positives (research experience, good relationships with professors), and some not-so-positive aspects to your profile (grades in key classes and overall GPA). The combination of factors probably rules out the top 15 or so programs. Outside of that, you'll be pretty competitive if your letters are strong.

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    Thanks cdreier and tm_member for the answers!

    Indeed, my math background is not very competitive, but I think that my research skills could put me in the game.

    I've had long conversations with my LoRs about this and all of them agreed that I should apply for PhD programs in the next season. One of my advisors even said he will try to make my case with regards to my low scores (especially in microeconomics I), he is the of chief of the department.

    I am aware that expecting something in the top 20 range could be naive and I believe that something in the top 20/50 range would be more feasible.

    My point is:Is my profile competitive to try something in the top 20/50 range or should I give up applying? I really want to do PhD in economics but, unfortunately, at the moment I can not do anything else to improve those flaws in my transcripts (not possible to retake any course or something like that).

    I am willing to apply for 15+ schools within the top 20/50 range, but I do not know if I have good odds. I've been digging this forum for some time, but I have yet to find anyone with a profile similar to mine to be able to compare me.

    Obs: my school has a considerable tradition in sending students to PhD. Last year, we had 4 addmited: 1 top 5, 1 top 15 and 2 top 30. I feel more comparable to the top 30 students (and my LoR's have already told me they would put me in that position as well). However, my profile is quite different from theirs (much more RA experience and worse grades).

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by winstow View Post

    My point is:Is my profile competitive to try something in the top 20/50 range or should I give up applying? I really want to do PhD in economics but, unfortunately, at the moment I can not do anything else to improve those flaws in my transcripts (not possible to retake any course or something like that).

    I am willing to apply for 15+ schools within the top 20/50 range, but I do not know if I have good odds. I've been digging this forum for some time, but I have yet to find anyone with a profile similar to mine to be able to compare me.

    Obs: my school has a considerable tradition in sending students to PhD. Last year, we had 4 addmited: 1 top 5, 1 top 15 and 2 top 30. I feel more comparable to the top 30 students (and my LoR's have already told me they would put me in that position as well). However, my profile is quite different from theirs (much more RA experience and worse grades).
    I don't feel comfortable answering with any level of certainty, given my lack of experience on the admissions side, but I would guess that you would have a shot somewhere in the 20-50 range, of course depending on the LORs.

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by winstow View Post
    Thanks cdreier and tm_member for the answers!

    Indeed, my math background is not very competitive, but I think that my research skills could put me in the game.

    I've had long conversations with my LoRs about this and all of them agreed that I should apply for PhD programs in the next season. One of my advisors even said he will try to make my case with regards to my low scores (especially in microeconomics I), he is the of chief of the department.

    I am aware that expecting something in the top 20 range could be naive and I believe that something in the top 20/50 range would be more feasible.

    My point is:Is my profile competitive to try something in the top 20/50 range or should I give up applying? I really want to do PhD in economics but, unfortunately, at the moment I can not do anything else to improve those flaws in my transcripts (not possible to retake any course or something like that).

    I am willing to apply for 15+ schools within the top 20/50 range, but I do not know if I have good odds. I've been digging this forum for some time, but I have yet to find anyone with a profile similar to mine to be able to compare me.

    Obs: my school has a considerable tradition in sending students to PhD. Last year, we had 4 addmited: 1 top 5, 1 top 15 and 2 top 30. I feel more comparable to the top 30 students (and my LoR's have already told me they would put me in that position as well). However, my profile is quite different from theirs (much more RA experience and worse grades).
    As I guessed, based on the info about past students, if you apply for schools ranked outside the top 15 you'll do just fine.

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    If you are so inclined to try for top 10, you can try applying to places who actually consider non-traditional candidates (like UPenn and Columbia).

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    Re: What weighs on the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    As I guessed, based on the info about past students, if you apply for schools ranked outside the top 15 you'll do just fine.
    Thanks for the answer! I hope you're right!

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    If you are so inclined to try for top 10, you can try applying to places who actually consider non-traditional candidates (like UPenn and Columbia).
    To be honest, I'm not so inclined to try for top 10. Being realistic, I believe that such attempt would be a shot in the dark. Given the randomness of this proccess, I believe I should invest my (limited) money in schools outside this range, based merely on the odds of being addmited.

    I've spoken again with my 2 advisors. They think I should definitively try. Now I'm a little more relieved. Thanks for your insights!

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