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Thread: Int'l student, where to take masters?

  1. #1
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    Int'l student, where to take masters?

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    Hello, I'm an int'l student in Korea trying to get into us ph.d programs and this forum has always been of enormous help to me. I thank you all nice people and this place to share similar thoughts and exchange useful info. I would like to let you know in advance that my English isn't good, so please be patient with any possible non-fluency you find as you scroll down my post.

    I'm currently an undergrad in Economics in top 3 econ department in Korea. It has been only 6 months or so since I made up my mind to pursue my career as an economist (To be an economist for intíl financial institutons like IMF or World Bank is my dream), so I'm really hustling these days to boost my profile to be good enough. I have two more semesters to go till I graduate, and with my resonable expectation, I will graduate with CGPA of about 3.75~3.8 out of 4, with my econ & math gpa being just around the range. By then, I will have taken lots of econ classes, and 9~10 math subjects. Roughly speaking, I will be about top 3% of my cohort.

    I expected that if I achieve this kind of profile by the time I graduate and also continue my studies in graduate school of the same institution, I will be able to aim for top 20 by the time I take masters degree here. But as far as what I have heard from my seniors who are already in the grad school preparing for us Ph.D in econ, top 20 school like Rochester, Maryland,. etc are reserved for those who were the very top students in the undergrad, and I could reasonably expect to give a shot for 25~45 US programs. I don't want Maryland to be out of my reach, (because it's the best school around the DC area, where IMF, WB are located), so I started to look for alternatives, where I can get better letters and perhaps get away with the int'l student pedigree (terrible in English and not proactive and stuff like that)

    So, I looked up the posts in this forum regarding the MA programs that can be good bridges to US ph.d program, and the ones that I found nice are: CEMFI, BGSE, PSE, Tolouse, Boconni and etc. (I didn't include those in England because they were too expensive) I thought it would be very nice if I can get into these good MA programs, but I have found literally NO record of Korean student who took these programs to later apply for us Ph. Ds, so I'm worried about a couple things. (There's tons of Koreans who did their MA in LSE, but none in the aformentioned ones)

    ---‐‐‐---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    1. Given that I get a decent score in GRE, what do you think are my chances of getting into these MA programs (they seem pretty tough to get into) and if possible, of receiving some finincial aid? I also have a 6 month RA experience (not economic RA) in an UN office in Korea if it is any of help. Also, if they are off my range, other alternatives you would recommend for good briges?

    2. Do you think it is recommendable for an asian student like me to take masters in those programs? I'm afraid that I'll be like the only asian in those program whose English isn't good and because of that, the faculty will not likely consider me for RA or write a good letter for me. I'm particularly worried about this, because in my grad schools, competition seems pretty tough among grad econ students to stand out and get better letters. If the same thing goes for European MA's, I'm afriad it is unlikely for asian student like me to stand out and get a good letter, in which case I might as well just stay in Korea.

    3. If it is all okay for me to be in the programs, I would try to get a letter from the faculty who have strong connection to US adcoms. How would I be able to tell who have strong connection?

    Any comment would be very appreciated.
    Big thanks in advance
    Last edited by jongrud; 02-04-2020 at 10:26 PM.

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    I tend to slightly disagree with Kexin on European master's because the thing is all thsoe prominent institutes that Jongrud talked about has teachers that have done their PhD from top 10 and have worked in those schools quite a while before going there. Hence, they have very decent connection between those schools so their LOR is as credible as their counterparts in USA.

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    To Kexin,

    Whoo, it's the first comment, thank you! It's nice to hear a couple cases of Asians who have made it into US ph.d. programs through the Masters. You assured me those programs would be also suitable for non-English speaking students like me. But you aren't entirely sure about my chances into the programs, are you?

    For your suggestions on US masters, I completely agree with you that they are good bridges, but it's the $$ that deters me from them. Also, as you mentioned, SNU is no doubt the top school in Korea, but I noticed that the professors in SNU are mostly theory-oriented scholars, which bis direct opposite to my research interest. Besides, I've heard that the professors in SNU tend to favor the students who came from the same undergraduate the most, which is pretty discouraging.

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    Quote Originally Posted by ahududu View Post
    I tend to slightly disagree with Kexin on European master's because the thing is all thsoe prominent institutes that Jongrud talked about has teachers that have done their PhD from top 10 and have worked in those schools quite a while before going there. Hence, they have very decent connection between those schools so their LOR is as credible as their counterparts in USA.
    This makes me want to join those programs even more! But do you have any idea about how difficult it is to get into the institutes?

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    What Kexin says is nonsense. Kexin's unsupported assumptions and personal anecdotes cannot replace empirical placement data. First of all, "suitability" should never be a concern in a masters program. You attend a masters to send a positive signal. Secondly, all of those European MA's listed use MWG tier instruction in their MA core courses. Even Duke's program is not as rigorous.. Plus, one cannot make the assumption that they will be the top student; with this fact in mind, and the fact that one is going to pay at least 45-60k in the USA, attending a US masters would be a very bad decision. Kexin, you frankly do not know what you are talking about and this is just misinformation.

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    I have a friend who was top of his class with 3.71 GPA in Economics from Istanbul University which is basically no name school in US and also none of his professor did even do their PhD in USA however, he got accepted from BGSE. If you specifically want to do macro, I think BGSE is one of the best choice. Sadly it is a bit expensive than the ones that you talked about only marginally. Also you get to meet the 'M' in MWG in Macro they have Jordi Gali, coming from MIT and almost all of his professors are coming from top 10 institutions. I am pretty sure though with your current GPA and LOR, you should be able to get an acceptance from BGSE, without funding. I have no knowledge about other schools so I cannot make any comments. I hope I was helpful!

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    The general consensus is that you go to Europe to get a rigorous masters programme, since (as Bayes mentioned above) there is the option of taking the PhD-level sequences to fulfill your masters course requirement. Doing well in them will send a credible signal of ability (but only if you attend the reputable programmes like BGSE, CEMFI and Bocconi).

    With regards to BGSE, there are a couple things to note. By default, you'll have access to the normal track which allows you to take MSc-level coursework. You'll need to apply for special permission to take the Advanced Track at BGSE. This is because the Advanced Track is essentially the first-year PhD sequence. If you Google a little bit, you'll learn that the Advanced track at BGSE is rightfully demanding, based on past experience from students. Secondly, BGSE does offer merit-based tuition waivers (both partial and full ones) to all students, regardless of nationality. The "easiest" way to boost your chances of getting a waiver is to get 170 Q for your GRE, based on past results.

    CEMFI used to offer full-funding to all students but now reserve funding only to those in the PhD programme. For CEMFI, you're essentially doing the first 2 years worth of coursework, alongside the PhD students, so it is similarly rigorous as the one at BGSE.

    If you are financially constrained, PSE is worth considering, since there's essentially no school fees, except for an administrative fee of a couple hundred euros, per academic year, so you'll only need to cover living expenses.

    Echoing what Bayes said above, you should never assume that you'll be the top student enrolled in any of the good masters programmes listed above here. This is because virtually everyone who enters have the same intention as you; i.e. to perform well in the programme and use it to springboard into a better PhD programme.

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    To Bayes:
    Then I guess I don't really need to be worried about "getting in". I would rather try hard to perform well in there. Thanks!

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    Re: Int'l student, where to take masters?

    Meh, I know decent European programs provide very rigorous training, but what I say is about connections. I didn't assume OP would be the best student in the MS program, but given OP's rank and the undergraduate institution, my educated guess would be OP would get a satisfactory ranking as long as OP put enough efforts. Finally, different consumers have different willingness to pay and budget constraints. Although some consumers may think it is a bad idea to attend a costly US program, others don't. I know many would like to pay a lot for a marginal increase in the probability to get into a top 20 PhD program in the US.

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