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Thread: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

  1. #1
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    Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

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    Hi everyone, I am a junior planning to applying for graduate econ program of 2020 fall. My undergraduate school is in China, while I spend the whole junior year exchanging in Notre Dame.

    In China (freshman & sophomore):
    Overall GPA: 3.2
    Main Econ Courses: Micro (A), Macro (B+), Metrics (B+), Game Theory (A), Labor Econ (A)
    Main Math Courses: Mathematical Analysis I-III (C), Linear Algebra (C), Prob & Stata (C)

    Exchange (junior):
    Overall GPA: 3.91 (last semester)
    Main Econ Courses: Advanced Micro (A), Public Econ (A-), IO (taking), Health Econ (taking)
    Main Math Courses: ODE (A), Operation Research (A), Real Analysis (taking), Stochastic Process (taking)

    Gre (preparing):
    In recent practice, I could keep Q 167+

    My first two years are terrible, especially in math, and I'm sure that they'll have large negative effects. I was wondering if there is any possibility to compensate these drawbacks? (online math courses/gre math sub/undergraduate research?) Basing on my background, my expectation is top50 programs, is that too high? Or it's a better choice to apply some master programs first. Welcome to any suggestions! Thank you

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    My sense is you should be a credible candidate for a top 50/30/possibly 20 with those grades. Adcoms will downweigh older grades in favour of newer grades, so the fact that your recent (and hopefully future!) math grades are much better than your old ones is going to be a positive, and the committees will have an easier time interpreting the Notre Dame grades than the Chinese grades anyway.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    Does "Mathematical Analysis I-III (C)" mean 3 Cs? If so, that puts you at 5 C's on your transcript in math courses. I think this will be a serious hurdle for any school in the top 50, unless you get straight A's in both of the math classes you are currently taking, score very high on the GRE, and have a good reason why your math grades were low. I think a common solution is to use a master's to basically clean the slate of bad grades. This works because most schools weigh your graduate grades much more than undergraduate. You could apply to a mix of PhD and master's programs and see what happens.

    On another note, it is also worth considering whether an economics PhD is what you really want. Are you enjoying/tolerating real analysis? If so then perhaps the answer is yes, and you have just become better at math (which is great!). But if the answer is you hate real analysis and it is a struggle, you might consider other options, since first year econ PhD is basically applied math.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    Thank you so much for your advice! I'm now trying to perform well in this semester, and plan to participate in some research back in home university. Hopefully I could slightly compensate my freshman and sophomore years.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    Quote Originally Posted by plexus View Post
    My sense is you should be a credible candidate for a top 50/30/possibly 20 with those grades. Adcoms will downweigh older grades in favour of newer grades, so the fact that your recent (and hopefully future!) math grades are much better than your old ones is going to be a positive, and the committees will have an easier time interpreting the Notre Dame grades than the Chinese grades anyway.
    Thank you so much for your advice! I'm now trying to perform well in this semester, and plan to participate in some research back in home university. Hopefully I could slightly compensate my freshman and sophomore years.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    Quote Originally Posted by laborsabre View Post
    Does "Mathematical Analysis I-III (C)" mean 3 Cs? If so, that puts you at 5 C's on your transcript in math courses. I think this will be a serious hurdle for any school in the top 50, unless you get straight A's in both of the math classes you are currently taking, score very high on the GRE, and have a good reason why your math grades were low. I think a common solution is to use a master's to basically clean the slate of bad grades. This works because most schools weigh your graduate grades much more than undergraduate. You could apply to a mix of PhD and master's programs and see what happens.

    On another note, it is also worth considering whether an economics PhD is what you really want. Are you enjoying/tolerating real analysis? If so then perhaps the answer is yes, and you have just become better at math (which is great!). But if the answer is you hate real analysis and it is a struggle, you might consider other options, since first year econ PhD is basically applied math.
    Thank you for your time and advice!

    I really did a terrible job in the first several semesters. Though there are excuses such as different teaching methods and training (as an athlete of school team), I would admit the main reason is that I was a little lax with coursework. Now I am trying really hard this year to compensate my history grade. A mix of PhD and master's programs seems to be a suitable choice for me.

    As for math course, I'm getting better now (got 2 'A' in mid), but still need efforts future. I'm kind of passionate with econ so far, especially in micro and behavioral parts. So I believe an econ PhD is what i want now.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    IMO, if OP wants to get into a top 50 program then they should enroll in graduate micro at a top 50 program and get an 'A' before applying. They should also endeavor to get legitimate research experience and have a letter writer who can attest to their strengths as a researcher.

    Personal anecdote time, only because I think that it's relevant for OP: I had bad undergraduate grades. After undergrad, I got serious. I went back to school and got more-or-less straight 'A' grades in:

    i) an economics masters
    ii) the relevant part of an undergraduate degree in math
    iii) the relevant part of the first two years of a doctoral degree in math.

    I also performed very well on the GRE.

    Guess what? I had to apply twice to gain entry to a top 50 phd program.

    Of course, this is N=1, and who knows what my letters of recommendation said coming out of my masters. However, to me it looks like OP needs a lot of work before they can reliably get into the top 50. I don't think that it's insurmountable, but it would really help their cause to both get an 'A' in graduate micro at a respectable place like Notre Dame and get some research experience.

    Best of luck, OP.
    Last edited by to2012; 03-24-2019 at 09:04 PM.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    I think other posters in this thread are providing advice based on the US grading/academic system.

    The typical advice from our forum does not apply to most candidates from China. The grading system, extant of research opportunities, and flexibility of coursework are all significantly different in most Chinese universities. There are better sources of information for Chinese undergrads. PM me if you need more guidance.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    Quote Originally Posted by to2012 View Post
    IMO, if OP wants to get into a top 50 program then they should enroll in graduate micro at a top 50 program and get an 'A' before applying. They should also endeavor to get legitimate research experience and have a letter writer who can attest to their strengths as a researcher.

    Personal anecdote time, only because I think that it's relevant for OP: I had bad undergraduate grades. After undergrad, I got serious. I went back to school and got more-or-less straight 'A' grades in:

    i) an economics masters
    ii) the relevant part of an undergraduate degree in math
    iii) the relevant part of the first two years of a doctoral degree in math.

    I also performed very well on the GRE.

    Guess what? I had to apply twice to gain entry to a top 50 phd program.

    Of course, this is N=1, and who knows what my letters of recommendation said coming out of my masters. However, to me it looks like OP needs a lot of work before they can reliably get into the top 50. I don't think that it's insurmountable, but it would really help their cause to both get an 'A' in graduate micro at a respectable place like Notre Dame and get some research experience.

    Best of luck, OP.
    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Actually, I should have enrolled in any grad econ courses this semester, since it seems more helpful for me now. During the coming senior year, I hope I could participate in some research.

    It seems that a master program is more realistic for me now.

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    Re: Choices under low math grade (2020 fall)

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    I think other posters in this thread are providing advice based on the US grading/academic system.

    The typical advice from our forum does not apply to most candidates from China. The grading system, extant of research opportunities, and flexibility of coursework are all significantly different in most Chinese universities. There are better sources of information for Chinese undergrads. PM me if you need more guidance.
    Chateau is correct - my advice was US centric. I recommend you reach out as chateau gives solid advice from my experience.

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