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Thread: European Masters Profile Evaluation (non-econ bg)

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    European Masters Profile Evaluation (non-econ bg)

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    Hello! I am a Business graduate from a South Asian country looking to switch to Econ. I ultimately want to work for international organizations (especially IMF), so I'm looking for a Master's program that will allow me to get a PhD - not necessarily top 10/20, but definitely macro-focused and ideally a shorter duration.

    Profile:
    Undergrad: Bachelor's in Business Administration (BBA), with a major in Finance and minor in Economics. Top 5 University in South Asian country but not significant ranking/well-known internationally
    Undergrad GPA: 3.79/4.00
    GRE: 170Q, 166V, 6.0AWA
    Math Courses:

    • Mathematics for Decisions - A
    • Business Statistics - A
    • Quantitative Analysis - A


    Econ Courses:

    • Microeconomics - B+
    • Macroeconomics - B+
    • Econometrics - A
    • Public Finance - B+


    Other Courses: Most of my other courses are focused on finance, accounting, management, and marketing
    Research Experience: Negligible in terms of economics, was part-time RA for a professor for Human Resource Management.
    Work Experience: Joined PwC as an analyst last month. Work here involves primary research and market analysis as well as econometric modeling.
    A Levels: Economics (94%), Mathematics (98%), + 2 other subjects, also A*

    The Masters programs I've considered so far include:

    1. IHEID International Economics
    2. Bocconi Economic and Social Sciences
    3. CERGE-EI Economic Research
    4. University of Cambridge Advanced Diploma
    5. BGSE Economics


    From my understanding and research on the forum so far, these programs tend to accept non-econ backgrounds. How likely would I be to get in? Do you guys have any other recommendations for similar programs? I would especially love to hear from people who have similar backgrounds or non-econ backgrounds who got admitted into such programs.

    Thank you!!
    Last edited by mirth67; 05-01-2021 at 01:51 PM. Reason: formatting

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    Re: European Masters Profile Evaluation (non-econ bg)

    I came from an Accounting & Finance undergrad with very good grades but little to no math, and only 5 econ courses on my transcript (3 taken, 2 in progress) when I applied to BGSE and Bocconi 4 or 5 years ago. I got into both of them. I didn't end up attending since I got a better offer elsewhere. I think you should be able to get into those 2. I can't speak about the other programmes though. A levels are largely irrelevant at this point. You should make sure you get good letters that can attest that you're a good student; preferably from your econometrics professor since you got an A in that class.

    That being said, 3 B+ out of the 4 econ courses you've taken doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence. You also must find ways to remedy your current math deficiency, either through mathematically rigorous (PhD) coursework, or straight-up math classes. Do note that the former will be exceedingly difficult at your current math level.

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    Re: European Masters Profile Evaluation (non-econ bg)

    Thank you so much for your response!

    An issue here is that at my university, a B+ is the immediate next grade after an A, i.e. there is no A- or anything in between. I'll be sure to have my professors highlight this in my letters as an explanation, as otherwise my grades in all other courses are strong and I completed in the top 10% of my cohort.

    Bocconi is definitely one of my targets, but I am unsure about BGSE. While it is an excellent school from what I've read on the forum, the normal track Masters is only 1 year, which is not enough time for me to make up for my Bachelor's or get LORs from my grad school professors, and the Advanced (PhD) track Master's which leads to MRes is apparently exceedingly, excruatingly hard?

    Finally, as I work full-time, it is not possible for me to take university courses at this stage. I am also planning to apply this year which does not leave me with a lot of time. However, I have completed several online courses to add to my math skill and have also been reading textbooks as suggested by other threads in this forum. I am aware that this is no replacement for university courses on a transcript, but the purpose is to demonstrate to adcoms that I am willing to put in the work, and hopefully also improve my own abilities.

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    Re: European Masters Profile Evaluation (non-econ bg)

    If that's the case, then as long as your letter writer highlights that in the letter, it should be fine. Make sure your letter writer knows that you're in the top 10% of your cohort. That's a more quantifiable metric.

    If you don't have enough math, it's unlikely that you can even survive the Advanced track of BGSE - let alone do well -, since the first year PhD coursework is more math than econ.

    I suggest you wait another year before you apply. This is because you won't have the full set of grades from your masters, and so, you'll effectively only be applying to PhD programmes with your undergrad grades, for the most part (since getting into BGSE/Bocconi isn't really worth that much, as a signal), as well as maybe a couple of classes from your masters.

    It ultimately depends on which online courses you've done. If it's the more popular/recognised ones like Harvard Extension or something, then it's fine. Otherwise, I don't think it's worth wasting money on those. You can get almost as much out of the free resources available online. A good place to start is this. It covers the bare minimum of what's required for grad school (and is a lot more interactive than just going through a textbook on your own). Do note that that math camp series doesn't cover basic topology, which you'll also need.

    Lastly, and also unfortunately, it's not about whether you're willing to put in the work or not. At this level, everyone has good grades and are willing to work hard so it's a nonevent. Furthermore, if you're applying to a decently ranked school, they get hundreds of qualified applicants each year. Having demonstrated mathematical capabilities (either through math classes, or through good grades in rigorous/PhD coursework) shows them that you can, at the very least, survive the first year. Once they're convinced you can survive the first year, then the other bits come into play like research experience and whatnot. Therefore, you need some kind of quantifiable metric to show them that you are sufficiently able to handle the first year coursework.

    The only reason, in my opinion, how I managed to get into a Top 30 with only 2 classes of math on my transcript is because I got pretty decent grades in my masters (which was essentially the entire first-year PhD coursework), as well as my research experience (and by extension, solid letters). I took an entire year after my undergrad to self-study the required math before my masters, and even then, I struggled quite a bit at the start. I also ranked 3rd in my undergrad cohort, but I doubt that played any role in PhD admissions. It probably only helped me get into my masters programme.

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    Re: European Masters Profile Evaluation (non-econ bg)

    I second Tutonic's assessment. The MSc programmes will be pretty brutal, but they will be necessary for you to showcase your ability to do a PhD.

    Now, this is taking into consideration your aspiration of one day joining the likes of the IMF (which, by the way, is insanely competitive). If that is the case, I would start now to think about how to best prepare yourself to specialise in monetary economics, international economics, and international finance. If you plan to target the World Bank, then you will want development, health, and/or labour economics (with a strong empirical component). IMF you will also want a strong empirical component to your work, and showcase that you know the theory well too. Check on the IMF EP recruitment webpage, they often indicate which departments in Europe they visit to hold interviews.

    Some of my friends went for those in Frankfurt, and basically if you are successful there, the next stage will be the (final round) panel interview in Washington (although this may be done remotely nowadays).

    The reason I say this is because it is very difficult to course correct half way through a PhD if you are doing Game theory or contract theory and suddenly realise you want to do development work.

    There are also other ways to join the IMF at times. One guy from Frankfurt joined after being at the Bundesbank, basically on a secondment. So, this kind of path is also possible, but not ultra common or reliable. Joining the World Bank might be a tad easier if you are willing not to work in Washington and instead join a regional office. Still tough, but possible.

    Regarding your more immediate concerns. The Maths courses aren't bad, but the econ courses are not the best. If you can get a strong performance in your MSc, it will compensate somewhat. Actually, in that case Cambridge might be useful. If this is what I think it is, then it is exactly for you. These Diplomas in the UK exist to bridge the gap for non-econ majors to later do an econ MSc. It's basically a lot of Year 2 and Year 3 classes packed into a single year.

    If you do well there, then you are set for doing an MSc. I would recommend that option if it is not too expensive, because it will be the least brutal in terms of expectations and it will leave you room to get better over that year to be able to get into your best possible shape for an MSc, which will lead to a better performance in a PhD programme later. FYI, there are also plenty of universities that still do standard PhD programmes with no structure coursework, where you just do research for 3-6 years. Notably in France, Germany, and the UK. Can't speak for the rest.

    So again, my recommendation is Cambridge if you can afford it (I have no idea what the costs are, and also the UK is expensive, and visas aren't cheap), and otherwise Bocconi or BGSE. But these two would be tough, straight out of a non-econ bachelor with ok grades.

    FYI, in the UK, plenty of universities offer this Diploma that bridges non-econ bachelors and econ msc. It's often not super well advertised, but plenty do it, not just Cambridge.
    Attending: Frankfurt GSEFM
    Admitted: Frankfurt GSEFM ($$), EUR ($$), Barcelona GSE (MSc)
    Interview: Munich GSE (declined)
    Rejected: sooo many places- Bonn, Manheim, Caltech, NYU Stern, Chicago, BU, UCSD, UT Austin, Virginia, UCSB, USC, GMU

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    Re: European Masters Profile Evaluation (non-econ bg)

    Thank you so much, to tutonic for replying again and jrdonsimoni for your advice.

    tutonic, I will definitely be using the Math Camp to improve my quantitative skills. I'll also do a few free courses to brush up on additional, helpful topics before my Master's. Thank you for being frank about the difficulty of getting into a good PhD program. I understand that I will have to perform exceptionally in my Master's to make up for my background.

    jrdonsimoni, thank you for the information regarding IMF! So far what I've seen mostly comes from other forums like EJMR. Yes, the Advanced Diploma at Cambridge is definitely one I am considering. It is indeed quite an expensive program, especially including the MRes if I succeed in progressing to it, but I reckon that I would be able to get some level of external funding and also be willing to pay more for the Oxbridge name.

    BGSE seems a bit irrational now as the Advanced track is notoriously difficult, but I will be targeting Bocconi and some other places such as IHEID (Geneva), CERGE-EI, SSE, UC3M, and Science Po. They seem to be within a good range and also encourage non-econ applicants.

    Thanks once more for your advice! I was feeling quite anxious at the time I posted this but now I feel more informed. I hope I can come back to this post in the future with a happy update!

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