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Thread: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

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    Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

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    I am lucky to have an offer from a T12 school in this godforsaken season with a very solid fit. The location is also very good though funding is not excellent. But I have been rejected/implicitly rejected from most of the T10s. But I am wondering, assuming I have rejections from the few T10s yet to respond, whether it is beneficial for my long-run outcomes to delay for one more year and try again next year. I am currently an RA at a T3 for a fully tenured faculty member who is very respected in my subfield. I was planning to just do a one year RA'ship, but given this rough season I am considering taking more time to do research and extending my stay. While nothing is guaranteed obviously, surely my odds ought to go up (right?), because both I will have more research experience and also class sizes are projected to go back to normal post-covid (or at least be much better than right now).

    I am just weighing the tradeoffs and I was hoping to hear some of your opinions. On the one hand, I am a little tired of RA work as, while I am picking up very useful empirical skills, I am not able to do too much creative work. I have a few set of ideas from my RA work, and I want to enroll in a PhD program sooner to take grad classes in my subfield and adjacent subfields, so I can begin working on my projects and writing papers. I also do not want to spend another >$1.3k on applications, plus my mental health has taken a massive hit during the past two months. Yet on the other hand, there is much evidence that, even accounting for selection, that being in a T5 is very advantageous (see e.g. Jim Heckman and Sidharth Moktan's paper on the Tyranny of the Top Five).

    wondering if people had any thoughts to take into consideration. On average are advisors at T7's not available/there is a lot of competition amongst students for good advisors than at T15's? On the other hand, what are the peer networks like at T15's, are they as motivated and enterprising as those at T7's (both for self-motivation purposes and for potential coauthors)? Is being a star at a T15/T20 better than being middle-of-the-road at T7 (not saying I'll be a star but I'm just curious)? Should I take into consideration the fact that the job market in five-six years will probably be a bit easier due to smaller cohorts? Have I overestimated the likelihood of next admission season being easier (maybe because top students are thinking of deferring/delaying)?


    (please don't say past your first job nobody cares about your degree. Sure, conditional on that first job your degree won't matter, but it's precisely getting that first job that is very difficult and where I'm sure pedigree matters, see Heckman and Moktan 2020 as above.)

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    Idk, if you want to do theory I feel the advantage of t10 and esp t5 is that big. So it is a coin toss
    for other fields definitely take umich I guess

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    Just want to say there's no certainty next cycle will be all that much easier. There's lots of reasons it should be, but maybe just as many why it might be another tough one and I'd make sure to weigh that uncertainty in your decision against the difficulty/cost (financial, physical, mental) of going through another applications cycle.

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    I think it makes sense to do this if you are pessimistic about your prospects as a researcher and believe that you are a lemon. If you are optimistic and believe you have immense potential, it makes no sense whatsoever to do this.

    Edit: I am pretty sure that Heckman and Moktan applies to journals, not PhD programs so I have no idea where your reasoning is coming from? If you look at placements, plenty of candidates from top 5-20 schools get superb job offers!

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    While I don't doubt that going to a top 5 school has its benefits, isn't Heckman's paper about the top 5 journals not the top 5 schools? In any case, being the top student at a top 15 school is likely better than being at median/below median at a top 5 school because the department will place more emphasis on placing you well. I'd also be very wary about assuming next year's admissions will be any easier than this year's admissions.

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    I once had the chance to speak about admissions and economics research with a T10 tenured professor (along with other predocs in my corhort). According to them, once you're into the T15 PhD programs (or in their words, "Rochester and above"), your post-grad placement is going to be more a function of your individual effort than a function of the quality of training the institution provides. In particular, among the T15, they argued that the quality of faculty/advising is generally not that different. To emphasize this point, this professor repeatedly said to us that every year Rochester always produces great candidates who do well on the market.

    My take-away from this discussion is that while there may be some stronger peer effects from attending Harvard/MIT, ex-ante going to a T15 (as long as it's still a good match by field) is not going to make or break you. Given the concerning statements you've made about your mental health and the type of RA work you're doing, I suspect that going to grad school now may be better for you than continuing the RAship.

    In my predoc, for example, it is generally thought that the first year gives you a lot of training, but the second year is for the supervising economists to reap the rewards from training the predocs (i.e. the benefits for predocs are mostly done by the end of the first year). I'm not sure another year of RAship will benefit you much if you don't seem to like it a lot and don't see it resulting in your actively participating in creative research. With regard to the quality of your letters, note that it's not enough for you to just be the RA for a professor at a T3. This year's admission cycle proves that. Plus, you can also look at placements of predocs from SIEPR and Opportunity Insights. Not everyone does well. For the letter from your T3 professor to be great, that professor needs to actively vouch for you in their letter and favorably compare you to other students that professor has sent to top schools.

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    Yes, but there's a part in the paper where they discuss "incest coefficients" (see Table 8 in paper) of being in top programs and likelihood of publishing in T5 journals, which are crucial for long-run outcomes as an economist.

    (also consider that JPE is housed at Chicago, and QJE at Harvard, even if we do not want to say that there is nepotism in the process, being trained in ways that will be rewarded by those journals, e.g. because your advisor is also on the editorial board of these journals and hence they will help you write papers that are likelier to be rewarded by the top journals).

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    Quote Originally Posted by hallowedelegy View Post
    I once had the chance to speak about admissions and economics research with a T10 tenured professor (along with other predocs in my corhort). According to them, once you're into the T15 PhD programs (or in their words, "Rochester and above"), your post-grad placement is going to be more a function of your individual effort than a function of the quality of training the institution provides. In particular, among the T15, they argued that the quality of faculty/advising is generally not that different. To emphasize this point, this professor repeatedly said to us that every year Rochester always produces great candidates who do well on the market.

    My take-away from this discussion is that while there may be some stronger peer effects from attending Harvard/MIT, ex-ante going to a T15 (as long as it's still a good match by field) is not going to make or break you. Given the concerning statements you've made about your mental health and the type of RA work you're doing, I suspect that going to grad school now may be better for you than continuing the RAship.

    In my predoc, for example, it is generally thought that the first year gives you a lot of training, but the second year is for the supervising economists to reap the rewards from training the predocs (i.e. the benefits for predocs are mostly done by the end of the first year). I'm not sure another year of RAship will benefit you much if you don't seem to like it a lot and don't see it resulting in your actively participating in creative research. With regard to the quality of your letters, note that it's not enough for you to just be the RA for a professor at a T3. This year's admission cycle proves that. Plus, you can also look at placements of predocs from SIEPR and Opportunity Insights. Not everyone does well. For the letter from your T3 professor to be great, that professor needs to actively vouch for you in their letter and favorably compare you to other students that professor has sent to top schools.
    Thanks a lot for this response! very helpful and a lot to think about.

    Just a quick clarification on my RA position: I like it a lot, I am learning a lot, and my boss is nice; it's just a gripe I have with not being involved in the creative aspects as much as I want to (I think that's the case for most RA'ships so I'm not attacking my boss or anything, just comparing PhD enrollment vs staying another year as RA). Your comment made me think maybe if I stay for another year, I will further my own research skills, and maybe I will be able to make better suggestions leading to my boss listening to more "creative" side suggestions more. I don't know...

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    Quote Originally Posted by T5mafia View Post
    Thanks a lot for this response! very helpful and a lot to think about.

    Just a quick clarification on my RA position: I like it a lot, I am learning a lot, and my boss is nice; it's just a gripe I have with not being involved in the creative aspects as much as I want to (I think that's the case for most RA'ships so I'm not attacking my boss or anything, just comparing PhD enrollment vs staying another year as RA). Your comment made me think maybe if I stay for another year, I will further my own research skills, and maybe I will be able to make better suggestions leading to my boss listening to more "creative" side suggestions more. I don't know...
    First, I think it's still worthwhile confirming with your advisors what they think your chances will be next year (e.g. in a more "normal" year, especially the extent to which your T3 professor plans to advocate for you in their letter).

    Second, I would put your mental health first and foremost. If you feel relatively confident that you won't do worse next cycle, then you should make whichever choice will improve your mental health. Grad school is not known for beingthe most hospitable place for one's mental health.

    Third, I think the most growth you'll get, unless you start working on substantially new material next year, is from doing your own research on the side. I had the time and depth of knowledge in my field of interest to pursue my own research. I arguably learned a lot more from doing my own research during the second year of my predoc than from the predoc work itself, and it also gave me some idea about the various pitfalls you'll encounter as you start doing research. In particular, people always say that the biggest hurdle first-time researchers have to overcome is actually starting on a research project. A lot of students struggle with their first idea because they feel like they have to have a winning idea right out of the gates, which is rare. It would be great if you could learn how to handle the disappointment from seeing your bad ideas turn out to be bad and how to develop your initial ideas into something workable.

    Assuming you want to work in academia, your "tenure clock" essentially starts once you enter grad school (5-6 years of funding + 5-8 years for tenure (depending on the school, postdoc, etc.)). By taking an extra year to do your own research on the side, you won't have to struggle as much with starting on research in the middle of your PhD and thus squander time that matters for tenure. But if you don't think you'll have the time or sufficient training to do your own research as an RA next year, unless we know more about what you'll be doing, it's hard to know for certain that you'll actually learn that much compared to the past year.

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    Re: Should I delay and apply next year or take my T12 offer?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheDeadFlagBlue View Post
    I think it makes sense to do this if you are pessimistic about your prospects as a researcher and believe that you are a lemon. If you are optimistic and believe you have immense potential, it makes no sense whatsoever to do this.

    Edit: I am pretty sure that Heckman and Moktan applies to journals, not PhD programs so I have no idea where your reasoning is coming from? If you look at placements, plenty of candidates from top 5-20 schools get superb job offers!
    Even though this is a quite harsh comment, I have to say I agree with every words he/she said...

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