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Thread: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    Question Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

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    I decided a bit late to try to pursue an Econ PhD--it's been a major of mine for a while, and I've been taking some math courses, but I do graduate in a year, so there's not just a whole lot of adapting I can do at this point. I understand the programs are competitive, and that's okay. I'd just like some thoughts on what I can do with what little wiggle room I've got, and what rank of school (Top 20? Top 50?) I should focus on. I'll work on my applications plenty, but that's easier to change.


    Graduating: May 2021

    Type of Undergrad: Unranked (top ~120) U.S. University. BS in Econ, BA in Political Science & Spanish, Data Science minor. Think liberal arts school for what I’m studying--some research, but teaching-oriented.

    Undergrad GPA: 3.9+, should remain above or maybe dip into high 3.8s

    GRE: 170Q/170V/5.5

    Undergrad Econ Courses: AP Macro, Intro Micro, Intermediate Macro/Micro, Applied Econometrics, Theories of Economic Growth, Labor (As). Game Theory and History of Econ (the latter required, unfortunately) planned.

    Math Courses: Linear Algebra (A), Stats (A). Calc III (summer), Mathematical Statistics planned. I have two spots open, and I’m trying to get into Advanced Calc I, but I don’t have the prerequisites; without a waiver, ODE + PDE or ODE + some proofs course.

    Other (Relevant?) Courses: Intro to Data Science (A). Data Mining planned.

    LORs: Professor I had for Intro Micro and will have for Game Theory (Dept Head), other I had for three courses and will assist with (informal) research over the summer. Unsure on 3rd, so will be shakier--but could be related to a fall research project.

    Programming: R, limited Python

    Research Experience: None in Econ at the moment, will have limited experience after summer. Was chosen for a Canadian Fulbright for the summer, but, y'know, pandemic. Fall project and (Spring) senior thesis planned.

    Teaching Experience: I tutored HS students (in government and US history) this past year; TAs are basically STEM-only at my UG.

    Work Experience: Nothing relevant to Econ/PhD.

    Research Interests: Transit/Transportation is a hobby interest of mine, so I’m looking at UC Irvine. Other than that, I’m fairly open, but skew toward Labor, Development (Micro), Public, maybe Resource.

    Concerns: At this stage, I feel like I’m doing what I can in terms of making myself competitive--I’d just prefer not to waste my time and money applying and getting rejected from schools beyond my reach. What kind of schools (rankings, though specific ones are good, too) should I be focusing on? I’m also not really sure where ranks lie (I’ve been using thissince it has subfields). I’m hesitant about going to a “low-ranked” PhD program, even though I’m not sure where that cutoff is.

    Thanks for your help!

    Last edited by alexanderplatz; 06-04-2020 at 04:07 PM. Reason: formatting

  2. #2
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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    You probably don't have enough math for a top 20.

    Consider trying for a pre-doc RA. Yes, it will add two years. But it could make a very big difference in (a) where you get in and (b) whether you still want to do en econ PhD after you learn more about what being an economist is really like.

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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    You probably don't have enough math for a top 20.

    Consider trying for a pre-doc RA. Yes, it will add two years. But it could make a very big difference in (a) where you get in and (b) whether you still want to do en econ PhD after you learn more about what being an economist is really like.

    Is the difference between top-20 programs and others that significant? That's certainly worth considering, but two years to add on top of five or six in a program seems like a lot. (I certainly agree with the idea of getting a feel for what it's like, though.)

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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    I didn't mean to suggest that a pre-doc would get you into a top-20. I just meant that you don't seem to have enough math yet to be considered at a top 20. A pre-doc will help at all schools.

    There is no sharp line between top-20 and other ranked programs. One thing to think about is whether you know whether you are interested in an academic career. Higher ranked institutions generally place better in academics, although there are exceptions. If you want a non-academic career, the rank is somewhat less important.

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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    Quote Originally Posted by alexanderplatz View Post
    Math Courses: Linear Algebra (A), Stats (A). Calc III (summer), Mathematical Statistics planned. I have two spots open, and Iím trying to get into Advanced Calc I, but I donít have the prerequisites; without a waiver, ODE + PDE or ODE + some proofs course.
    I don't think you'd need Advanced Calc I after taking Calc III, but with ODE and Real Analysis (proofs course) you should have enough math to be considered at a top 20 school... maybe not the top 5 or even 10, but top 20 should be more fair game, particularly as your GRE scores really blew it out of the water...

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    Taking the Homotopic path Bayes's Avatar
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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    Quote Originally Posted by dogbones View Post
    I don't think you'd need Advanced Calc I after taking Calc III, but with ODE and Real Analysis (proofs course) you should have enough math to be considered at a top 20 school... maybe not the top 5 or even 10, but top 20 should be more fair game, particularly as your GRE scores really blew it out of the water...
    Advanced Calculus is Real Analysis. It is not advisable to delude the applicant. Top 20 is beyond reach coming from an unranked program with no research experience or strong letters.

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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    Quote Originally Posted by dogbones View Post
    I don't think you'd need Advanced Calc I after taking Calc III, but with ODE and Real Analysis (proofs course) you should have enough math to be considered at a top 20 school... maybe not the top 5 or even 10, but top 20 should be more fair game, particularly as your GRE scores really blew it out of the water...
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayes View Post
    Advanced Calculus is Real Analysis. It is not advisable to delude the applicant. Top 20 is beyond reach coming from an unranked program with no research experience or strong letters.
    I had missed that Advanced Calculus is real analysis. If you can get into a real analysis course then you won't be automatically out at a Top 20. However, as Bayes explains, the chance of getting in a top 20 without something else very strong is not at all good. The great GREs are admirable, but will make little difference to admissions.

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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    Synthesizing what the last few posters have said, I think a decent strategy then is to maybe throw one or two top 20 schools into your application portfolio, while not being under the false impression that you are likely to be admitted. It is worthwhile to dig deep into the connections your letter writers have with faculty at other schools. Because academic hiring is so top skewed, you might find out some faculty at your school actually went to pretty good programs, and have connections to faculty at schools you are interested in.

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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bayes View Post
    Advanced Calculus is Real Analysis. It is not advisable to delude the applicant. Top 20 is beyond reach coming from an unranked program with no research experience or strong letters.
    If the OP can talk about the fall research project in the personal statement (should be just about completed by the time applications are due), then that could be a great opportunity to build on research experience and interests that match with faculty in the schools you're applying to (and should be an ideal fit with at least 1-2 faculty for research). Also mention the spring senior thesis on your personal statement, as that's a second research project of yours. You should probably already have a fairly good idea as to what that will be about, I'm guessing...

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    Re: Profile Eval & Where Should I Aim?

    Quote Originally Posted by dogbones View Post
    If the OP can talk about the fall research project in the personal statement (should be just about completed by the time applications are due), then that could be a great opportunity to build on research experience and interests that match with faculty in the schools you're applying to (and should be an ideal fit with at least 1-2 faculty for research). Also mention the spring senior thesis on your personal statement, as that's a second research project of yours. You should probably already have a fairly good idea as to what that will be about, I'm guessing...
    What is meant by Research Experience is being an RA to an active researcher. Independent research/thesis holds little value (as most are never read).

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