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Thread: What differentiates higher ranked PhD programs from lower ranked ones?

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    What differentiates higher ranked PhD programs from lower ranked ones?

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    I am currently taking the advice from the forum to pursue an Masters in an attempt to have a shot at a better PhD program. The threads have been very useful in gauging the likely PhD placement outcomes of various tiers of universities. However, it got me thinking. What are the factors that distinguish a top tier PhD program from a lower one in terms of placements?

    I have thought about this a lot and have come up with a small list:

    1) PhD training (courses etc.)
    2) Incoming student quality and previous training (elite programs on average have better and more prepared students)
    3) Network effects (being closer to those at the forefront of research)
    4) Time (having 6 years to complete a PhD)

    Just wanted to know what are the other factors? Assuming a prospective student had the chance to enter the program at Harvard Economics department for example, but instead chose a Top 50 school due to personal reasons, how would this effect their placement outcome?

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    Re: What differentiates higher ranked PhD programs from lower ranked ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by economics555 View Post
    I am currently taking the advice from the forum to pursue an Masters in an attempt to have a shot at a better PhD program. The threads have been very useful in gauging the likely PhD placement outcomes of various tiers of universities. However, it got me thinking. What are the factors that distinguish a top tier PhD program from a lower one in terms of placements?

    I have thought about this a lot and have come up with a small list:

    1) PhD training (courses etc.)
    2) Incoming student quality and previous training (elite programs on average have better and more prepared students)
    3) Network effects (being closer to those at the forefront of research)
    4) Time (having 6 years to complete a PhD)

    Just wanted to know what are the other factors? Assuming a prospective student had the chance to enter the program at Harvard Economics department for example, but instead chose a Top 50 school due to personal reasons, how would this effect their placement outcome?
    (1) is not very important. Classes are not all that different.
    (3) network effects are important, but not because of being closer to the forefront of research. The faculty at Harvard have better networks to link you to and your classmates are likely to have better networks in the future.
    (4) is irrelevant. Students from program 50 probably take about the same time to complete as students from Harvard.

    The top schools typically have better resources. (Money for data, travel, experiments, etc.) They also have faculty who are the best around. Program 50 will have very good faculty, a few of whom are as good as at Harvard...but not most.

    No one knows how much difference there is in placement for a student from program 50 and one from Harvard who are otherwise identical because no one has run such an experiment. It is true however that on average the placement outcomes between Harvard and program 50 are large.

    In general, it is unusual for a program to place students at a school ranked higher than the PhD program. Not unknown, but unusual.

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    Re: What differentiates higher ranked PhD programs from lower ranked ones?

    You asked the same set of questions on the other two threads you created earlier this month and couple of people (including me) chimed in. I do not know why you insist on asking the same questions on repeat.

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    Re: What differentiates higher ranked PhD programs from lower ranked ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bayes View Post
    You asked the same set of questions on the other two threads you created earlier this month and couple of people (including me) chimed in. I do not know why you insist on asking the same questions on repeat.
    The previous ones were for personal considerations, which made me think about the broader set of factors that are at play here. I thought it would be an interesting question to pose but I know there are some similarities to the previous threads.

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