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Thread: Need advice on what to do next

  1. #11
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    Re: Need advice on what to do next

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogbones View Post
    I think getting paid research experience would be your next best bet... try to find RA positions anywhere in the world you are comfortable (and keep in mind any COVID visa restrictions) and generate some income while building some solid research experience. This research can lead to a PhD later, or if you are hoping for an even better result maybe you would be able to find a paid predoc after your RA... but that might be redundant, not sure. Good luck regardless!
    I don't agree with this advice, at least not based on the information the OP has provided. Research experience, paid or not, is not the most important improvement to every profile. We don't have enough information to assess whether or not it is the missing piece for the OP, but based on the information provided, it might not be. The OP asked for advice about improving his/her math background, described limited math courses, and reported performing strongly in a master's thesis in a top program. The relatively weaker part of the portfolio might be coursework, not research.

    Not all research experience, even paid research experience, will have a significant effect on the admissions outcomes of all candidates. There are decreasing marginal returns, so it's less valuable for someone with a stronger initial research track record. Also, research experience that isn't credibly building valuable skills will not have much affect on admissions. To increase the chance of admissions, the OP would need to work with a researcher who is using up-to-date methods and, hopefully, who can write a credible letter of recommendation because he/she is recognized in the profession through his/her own publications or presentations. Finally, most successful PhD students do not build on their pre-grad school research work directly when they begin their dissertation research. They build on the skills or maybe return to a large, public data set they had used before, but they need to come up with their own topics that are not derivative of that previous work, and that are informed by the two years of coursework between.

    TL/DR: The OP should ask the professors from his/her master's program how to strengthen his/her profile. There are not one-size-fits-all prescriptions for admission; different candidates should pursue different strategies. Even with a "complete" profile in the "standard" format, users on this forum (especially those who are still students themselves or who have not even started graduate school) simply do not have the information or experience to offer narrowly-tailored advice to individual applicants.

  2. #12
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    Re: Need advice on what to do next

    Ok, but let me add that the OP could easily take free math classes while an RA, which I believe is almost a standard practice when there is an affiliation with a nearby university. This will solve at least three problems at once. The likelihood of succeeding in math is fairly good since the OP has already succeeded in advanced Econ courses based on undergrad math.

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    Re: Need advice on what to do next

    Quote Originally Posted by dogbones View Post
    Ok, but let me add that the OP could easily take free math classes while an RA, which I believe is almost a standard practice when there is an affiliation with a nearby university. This will solve at least three problems at once. The likelihood of succeeding in math is fairly good since the OP has already succeeded in advanced Econ courses based on undergrad math.
    There are many RA positions that do not include tuition remission or the opportunity to take courses at the host university (anyone applying for such positions should ask about this benefit if it is important!). There are other RA positions that do not allow people to take courses in their first semester on the job, which means that to have even one additional course on the transcript before applying, the OP would have to remain in the RA position for at least two years. If the real deficiency is math rather than research, taking and paying for two-three courses in a semester could have a lower total cost than spending two extra years before starting a PhD. And depending on the previous courses and universities, not all nearby universities will add much value. Again, this is all why the OP should ask his/her own professors, who can give advice based on complete information.

    NB: Full time RA positions with faculty at top universities, in arrangements that allow RAs to take one course/semester, are often as competitive or more so than admissions to top PhD programs. There are lots of valuable RA experiences out there, but the kind that nearly universally increase the probability of acceptance to a PhD program are incredibly hard to get. Other positions need to be matched carefully to individual circumstances.

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