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.
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.
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