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Re: Fall 2021 Profile Evaluation
You should try to get letters from economics faculty. Having 1 non-econs to write your letter might be fine if he/she has something good to say, but 2 might be too much.
Given that you currently only have 1 econ letter writer, try to get their opinion on the range of schools you ought to apply to. Also, try to find out where previous applicants from your school have gotten into in the past. That's a surefire way to get a feasible range of schools.
Lastly, you should look through the old Profiles & Results threads from the past 5 years to find applicants with similar profiles and see where they gotten into.
Below are a few from the 2016 thread.
Type of Undergrad: BA in math, flagship state university ranked 80's in US News, no econ grad program.
Undergrad GPA: 3.63
Type of Grad: MA in Econ at a flagship state university in a different state with a masters but no doctoral program
Grad GPA: 4.0
GRE: 170V /168Q /5 AW
Math Courses (undergrad level): Calc I/II/III (A-/B/B) Linear Algebra (B+) Fundamentals of Math (intro to proofs) (A) Ordinary Differential Equations (B+) Combinatorial Theory (A) Abstract Algebra I (A-) Applied Probability (A) Elementary Number Theory (A-) Mathematical Biology and Ecology (A) Graph Theory (A) Real Analysis I (A) Probability and Statistics I (A)
Math Courses (masters level): Mathematical Statistics (A)
Econ Courses (undergrad level): Intermediate micro (A)
Econ Course (masters level): Micro I/II (A/A) Econometrics I/II (A/A) Macro (A)
Letters of Recommendation: One from the prof I RA for, one from a micro prof and one from an econometrics prof. I think they were strong but probably not phenomenal.
Research Experience: 2 years as an RA in my master’s program and master’s thesis, both completely unrelated to my stated research interests.
Teaching experience: Taught high school math for a few years
Research Interests: Public Economics, Health, Labor, Education … still figuring things out
SOP: Decent I suppose. I'd like to believe I write well but lack of definite research interests made it difficult.
Concerns: Because my husband and I were applying to PhD programs at the same time, my biggest concern was that we wouldn't receive any matching offers. I also had no idea where I'd be competitive since my masters program rarely sends anyone to pure econ PhDs. I have a bunch of math, but got B's in easy classes like Calc and Linear Algebra, and I wasn't sure how ad coms would value math classes that have nothing to do with econ (e.g. Abstract Algebra, Graph Theory).
Acceptances: Ohio State, Michigan State, UIUC, Purdue, NC State, University of Oregon, Syracuse, Iowa State, UI Chicago, Georgia State, UConn, UMN Applied Econ
Comments: I realize it seems somewhat crazy to go with Syracuse over schools like MSU and OSU (particularly because MSU offered me a very generous fellowship), but I'm content with the decision. Things happened in my personal life this year that made staying close to my family (who are in New England) much more of a consideration. I also really liked the department at Syracuse when I visited, it seemed tight-knit and supportive, which is just what I'm looking for. It was tough to turn down MSU, as I had a great visit there and realize that I'm passing up a great opportunity.
What would you have done differently? First and foremost, I wouldn't have applied to a bunch of schools outside of the top 50 and would have applied to more schools ranked around 30. I drastically underestimated my competitiveness and ended up getting in almost everywhere I applied. Additionally, several schools offered me extra fellowships indicating that they viewed me as among their stronger applicants. I thought B's in Calculus and Linear Algebra, along with my unprestigious undergrad and master's institutions were going to be the kiss of death. It was a challenge to find profiles similar to mine since people who get B's in Calculus don't typically go on to get Econ PhDs.
Going back as far as undergrad, I'd try harder during the first two years. I also probably could've gone to a better undergraduate institution than the one I attended, but I'm pleased with the quality of education I got there, and I didn't have to take out any loans to do it.
Beyond that, I would've realized I wanted to do econ (rather than math) while I was still in undergrad, avoiding the need to spend 2 years doing an MA in econ to get the required econ courses, research experience and LORs. However, my masters program was fully funded, so I have no real cause to complain. Maybe I wouldn't have spent 4 years teaching high school math (as it now means I'll be turning 29 as I start my PhD), but I enjoyed that experience as well.
With all that said, I'm happy with the result. My husband and I both accepted offers from Syracuse, where we'll less than a 5 hour drive from each of our families. Additionally, with the fellowship offer I have, I won't have to TA in years 1 or 5, which will be nice. If you had told me going into this process that I'd end up at Syracuse I would've considered myself quite lucky, so I really have no complaints. I'm excited to get started!
Type of Undergrad: Top ~50 USNWR, private school with tiny(3 students per cohort) unranked econ phd program.
Undergrad GPA: 3.77
Type of Grad: None
GRE: 168Q, 157V, 5.0AW
Math Courses: Calc 1, 2, 3 (A, A, A), Applied Linear Algebra(A), Intro Prob and Stats(B), Intro Abstract Math(A), Abstract Algebra(A), Probability(B), Math Stats(A-), Intro Real Analysis I(B), Intro Real Analysis II (B+), Point Set Topology(A), Math Finance(A-), Markov Chains(A), Differential Topology(A), Queueing Networks(A), Proof-based Linear Algebra(A), Complex Analysis(B)
Econ Courses: UG: Intro Micro/Macro(A, A), Intermediate Micro/Macro(A, A), Math Econ(A), Game Theory UG(A-), Econometrics UG(A-), Senior Thesis(A), Phd Micro I(A), PhD Micro II(A), Prob/Stats for Econ PhD(A), Econometrics PhD I (A)
Other Courses: one CS Java class, one Physics class, Logic.
Letters of Recommendation: 2 econ assistant professors, one math associate professor. im sure they were strong
Research Experience: 7 month research senior thesis on a GT toy model(prof allowed me to take time to "feel stuck" on problem), extended over summer.
Teaching Experience: 3 years tutoring math and econ at school tutoring center.
Research Interests: Econometric Theory/Implementation. Slight interest in applications of metrics in GT
SOP: Standard, didnt tailor it. guess i should have.
Concerns: my university has a party reputation, its econ dept is not well known, it doesnt send UGs to PhD, I had assistant profs as LOR writers, not a perfect GPA, and did a ton of sports during junior year, which distracted me from schoolwork and explains my B's.
Acceptances: Vanderbilt, UNC-Chapel Hill
Waitlists: UT-Austin(first result in mid february, got accepted off waitlist on April 11th.
Rejections: sigh lol. Rochester, BU, MIT, Harvard, NYU, Columbia, Maryland, Duke, Michigan, Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern, UCLA, UCSD, Stanford, Berkeley, Penn, Princeton, CMU, Pitt
Comments: Honestly, I knew my weaknesses and did not expect to get into any of top 20, though it would have been nice. I am very happy with how it turned out. Also, i guess I didn't do my research very well since I applied to schools that weren't really strong in the fields I wanted.
What would you have done differently? In order of most to least importance: Focus on studies my sophomore and junior years, try to get research earlier than late junior year (like an RA with a prof), make sure the places I apply to fit my interests, have taken time to tailor SOP.
These are fine details though, I think I planned things very thoroughly.