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Thread: Formulating a plan to attend a good phD program

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    Formulating a plan to attend a good phD program

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    Hi everyone,

    I'm currently a student at a mid-sized state university in Texas. I have a background in computer science and software engineering, but I chose to study economics for my undergrad because I wanted to research and understand issues like economic inequality and poverty. I realized after about a year of taking economics coursework that I wanted to go into economic research, and to that end I wanted to get a PhD in economics. At that point, I added a mathematics minor to my degree plan and planned to take as many math courses as possible by the time I graduated. I have significant experience in computer programming (internships at relatively prestigious companies), and I have also applied to a fellowship that would enable me to contribute to economic research for a semester. Here are what my stats look like, along with my projected classes/experience by the time I graduate:

    GPA: 3.8+. My first semester of college I had pretty bad priorities and got, like, a 3.02. That includes a C in principles of macroeconomics (because I never attended class), and similar grades in some general prerequisites like Art and Introduction to Philosophy. Since then, I have received all As in all of my coursework, but that one semester still haunts me (and my GPA). I will have some buffer room in my last semester and sometimes consider retaking Principles so I can have a perfect GPA in Economics/Math coursework, but on the other hand, I got an A in the intermediate class, and I could just take more math classes with those hours. I think that's probably better. Any thoughts? (At my university, if you retake a class one time, that grade will replace the old grade on your transcript and GPA).

    Economics Coursework: Intermediate Microeconomics (A+), Intermediate Macroeconomics (A), Money and Banking (A), Mathematical Economics (A), Econometrics (A+), Public Sector Economics (A). I am currently taking Labor Economics and Game Theory and am doing well in both.

    Mathematics Coursework: I took Calculus 1-3 dual credit in high school, as well as AP Statistics. At my university, I have taken Linear Algebra (A+) and am currently taking Vector Calculus, Differential Equations, and TCalc (the intro to proofs class). I am doing well in all of these so far and expect to complete them with As.

    Before graduating, I will also be taking Numerical Analysis, Mathematical Analysis 1 and 2 (Real Analysis), Abstract Algebra, and Probability, for my minor.

    I have previous experience in software engineering, and I have accepted a software engineering internship at Facebook this Fall. I will be interning at a large financial technology firm in NYC for software engineering this summer. I have applied for, and am hoping to receive, a fellowship so that I can contribute to research at a think tank in DC this Spring. I am also active in a lot of stuff on campus (positions in student government, clubs, etc.) but that's just because I enjoy it, and I don't think it's going to do anything for me after college.

    I have kept doing work in software because it pays enough to help me make it through my undergrad, and I think it could help me secure an RA position. What I am trying to plan for is what to do next summer and after I graduate, in 3-4 semesters. What positions/internships would I be competitive for to apply for my last summer in undergrad? Should I apply to intern at the Fed? Here are some options I am considering:

    1. A master's degree in Economics from UT Austin, or an APE from the Paris School of Economics (PSE). I believe I have good chances of getting into one of these programs, and that they could potentially help me get into a better PhD program. However, I have heard that master's programs aren't very well regarded in academic economics anyways, so I am also considering:

    2. Trying for a RA position, at the Fed or at a T5 school. I think I could get one of these because of my strong programming background. Is that true? What can I do to prepare for something like this?

    I'm trying to figure out if I should just go ahead and apply to PhD programs, or if I am competitive for a RA position (ideally at the Fed), or if I should get a master's degree. Any advice is appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Re: Formulating a plan to attend a good phD program

    Go for plan 2.

    Don't worry about the bad first year grades.

    Talk to faculty at your current school about your plans. You will eventually need letters of recommendation.

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