Sorry to bump my own post but can anyone comment on whether this range of schools seems reasonable/safe?
Type of Undergrad: BA in Economics and Mathematics from a small liberal arts school, not very highly ranked or well known
Undergrad GPA: 3.93
Math Courses: Calculus and analytical geometry I, II and III (A, A-, A); Foundations of Math (sort of intro to proofs and set theory) (B); Probability and Statistics, I and II (A and A); Differential Equations (A); Linear Algebra (A); Abstract Algebra (A); Mathematical Modeling (A); Topology (contains early real analysis) (A)
Econ Courses Undergrad: Intermediate Micro (A); Intermediate Macro (A); Game Theory (A); Econometrics (A); Environmental Economics (A); History of Economic Thought (A); Senior seminar (thesis paper) (A); Political Economy of Africa (A); Independent research course/paper (A)
Other Courses: Object Oriented Programming (Java): A
Letters of Recommendation: Really strong letters from three economics professors, including my senior thesis advisor, that will place me near the top of students they have taught. A fourth strong letter from a math professor who does the same which I may submit for some schools.
Research Experience: I wrote my senior thesis, and then a paper for an independent research course I designed with a professor, on capital flows in the eurozone, the Greek Debt crisis, and monetary unions. I was also a research assistant for a professor’s consulting business doing union arbitration cases, mostly doing research on local economies, development projects, and city finances.
Since leaving undergrad 1 year ago I have worked as a labor market researcher for a state labor department. At first this was a pretty sleepy job that gave me a lot of time to do independent research and work on my programming skills. Since COVID-19 began I have been involved deeply involved our state’s response to the unemployment crisis, including data analysis, forecasting and modeling for unemployment insurance programs and the trust fund, and implementation of new federal programs.
Other: I applied to PhD programs in fall of 2018, for admission in fall of 2019. I received several funded offers, from schools like Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. I was also waitlisted at UT Austin and Maryland, and received an offer off the waitlist from Maryland. I was excited by several of my offers, but my partner got into an amazing master’s program and I made the tough decision to move with her, find a job, and wait on grad school for two years.
Unfortunately I expect this year to be significantly more competitive than when I applied before. Having gone through this once, I feel I should know where I have a shot, but COVID-19 and my work experience makes this tricky. I am planning to apply for a few reach schools in the teens and 20s (Minnesota and Hopkins), several schools in the 30s and 40s (Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt), and a few “safer’ options in the 50s and 60s, for about 12 total.
Does this seem like a sufficiently cautious path? Any advice on leveraging my work experience? In my SOP I lean on this to talk about how my research interests have shifted from monetary economics towards labor economics. Unfortunately I also feel like my research interests are less specific and clearly defined than last time (when they were pretty honed in on monetary policy, monetary unions, debt crises). Not sure if this helps or hurts.
Self-assessment: I think I made the most of my possibilities given the undergrad I attended. Not accepting a grad school offer in 2019 may have been a bad decision in retrospect. There are plenty of things that hurt me and things that help me in my background.
Weaknesses: Having gone to a small not-highly-ranked school, lack of publications, working in government the last year instead of as an academic RA
Strengths: Really good recommendations, solid GRE, high GPA, subject matter expertise in labor economics, especially with the state response to COVID-19 unemployment crisis.
Last edited by Wahasky; 09-22-2020 at 07:36 PM. Reason: Edited for more readable formatting
Any opinion on how my competitiveness might have changed from 2 years ago, or about the range of schools I'm looking at?
I would expect your competitiveness to be about the same as last time.
By the way, it might be a good idea to include in your personal statement (or have one of your letter writers do it) that your side trip was to accommodate your partner going to grad school and that you are no longer constrained.
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