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Thread: Committing to a school

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    Committing to a school

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    Decision day is a little bit over a month away. Unfortunately, I did not get into my top choice so the decision about where to attend is not a clear-cut one. Thus, I'm seeking advice. What do you think are important factors, general or specific, to consider when choosing the school you want to attend? What should I ask during Virtual Visit Days and meetings with faculty? Do you recommend I speak to anyone besides the faculty?


    As an undergrad, I might overestimate/underestimate the importance of certain factors or entirely missing them, so I would love to hear others' thoughts and personal experiences about what they think is relevant. Many thanks!

  2. #2
    Eager!
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    Re: Committing to a school

    Here is some of the advice my advisors have given as I've been going through the process:

    1. Think of the relative rankings of schools in terms of tiers. That is, don't get obsessed at the difference between a school ranked 19 and a school ranked 21. There are far more similarities than differences between most programs.
    2. However, as you go further down into the rankings, research fit between yourself and the department becomes far more important. Don't pick a school that only trains micro labor economists to go and study macro at, for instance. Ideally, you want a school that gives you a bit of flexibility in terms of what you can research, as your interests may change.
    3. Look at who the advisors tend to be in programs in your field(s) of interest, and the median placement of students. Do you like the placement? Do you like what the common advisors research in the program?
    4. Don't go anywhere without a stipend/tuition waiver unless you are filthy rich. Can you live off of the offered stipends? Don't overweight stipends and locations in your preferences, unless you have serious constraints (spouse, family nearby, a serious medical condition etc.), or if you're sure you'll be absolutely miserable in a given location with a given stipend - you are making an investment into your future as an academic and economist with this choice, not picking where you'll retire or your ideal spa vacation location.

    Hopefully those who are more competent than I will respond to verify if I have contributed anything of value.

  3. #3
    economist
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    Re: Committing to a school

    Talk to some current graduate students without faculty around.

  4. #4
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    Re: Committing to a school

    I agree with both posts above. It is really important to focus on the fit between you and the program. Talk to the current students to get their view on the program. Your admissions contact should give you a list of current students at various points in the program; if not, ask.

    I think you could ask students and faculty about advising relationships. Do the students feel they are being mentored or ignored? Do the students have a hard time finding professors to talk to about their work? Ask faculty to tell you about their mentoring process. Do they like to have regular meetings with their students?

    Don't overthink placements. In particular, don't just count the academic placements. In our program it is common for students to have both an academic offer and a non-academic offer. Some choose the non-academic offer because they don't want to teach, or they don't want to do academic-style research and try to get tenure. Similarly, some choose "lower tier" academic jobs over "higher tier" non-academic jobs. So, placements are useful for giving a picture of the types of jobs that graduates get, but it isn't a finely tuned score.

  5. #5
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    Re: Committing to a school

    Thank you everyone for their advice!

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