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Thread: Suggested Plan for next 1-2 years to Improve Candidacy for Top Programs

  1. #1
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    Suggested Plan for next 1-2 years to Improve Candidacy for Top Programs

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    Hello everyone. I am aiming to do a PhD in Economics or Finance (depending on faculty research areas) in the US, with research interests in asset pricing, behavioral economics, and econometrics. However my current profile is likely not strong enough for top programs, and would appreciate any thoughts on a suggested plan for the next 1-2 years to improve candidacy.

    Background
    B.A. Economics (Major GPA: 3.8) / B.S. Mathematics (Major GPA: 2.8) at Top 50 in US

    Undergraduate studies include a published research paper in asset pricing (low ranked journal), a separate conference presentation, and a 2nd year PhD course in econometrics.

    After graduation, I took a semester of visiting graduate studies at a Top 10 program. As I am much more interested in learning than maximizing my grades, I petitioned the departments to take coursework without the pre-requisites. It's been immense effort just to keep up and while it was extremely rewarding, unfortunately it doesn't look very good on a transcript for admissions purposes. The courses I took were Analysis I (C+), Analysis II (B), and a 2nd year PhD course in theoretical finance (C+).

    GRE: 167 Q/ 160-something V

    Any suggestions on improving the profile for admissions?

  2. #2
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    Re: Suggested Plan for next 1-2 years to Improve Candidacy for Top Programs

    Unless there is more you aren't telling us--incredible recommendations for example--this doesn't look like a record for the top programs. Doing a pre-doc research assistant position might help. But those are hard to get too.

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    Re: Suggested Plan for next 1-2 years to Improve Candidacy for Top Programs

    Unfortunately, as what startz mentioned, it's unlikely that you'll gain admission into a Top 10 programme; mostly because they receive hundreds of applications from students with stellar grades. Unless you have solid recommendations from renowned faculty members, it isn't prudent to pine for admission into Top 10s.

    Also, a C+ in a 2nd year field course raises quite a few alarms since most people usually get Bs or higher for them, given the not-so-stringent grading requirements (since they are geared more towards you learning the material).

    That being said, the best way forward would be to really brush up on your coding skills (Python/R and stata), and try to land yourself a fulltime (or pre-doc) RA gig. Once you're there, focus on doing well at your job, and maybe take a class or two once you're settled in. The classes you should ideally take will be the first-year core courses. You shouldn't overload on classes once you're there since your main priority is to perform well in your capacity as a full-time RA.

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