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DisraeliShrugg last won the day on January 15 2018

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  1. What a thread this has been. These are the most salient facts about the applicant I got so far: She went to school in Hawaii and started out as a pre-med, but had to drop that plan. She eventually had enough time to finish a major in economics, with math up to linear algebra. Her GPA in the math courses were straight Bs. She has been out of school for four years and wants a career change. She is not terribly committed to any career so long as it involves white-collar, analytical work. One of those options is "Econ college professor" based on her experience in those courses. She cannot afford to go back to school full-time, or at least doubt that's the best option. Therefore, she is asking the best way to move forward with the constraint of not being able to study or provide research assistance full-time (as well as a geographical constraint maybe). Her one time applying to a PhD program was to her alma mater, to which she was admitted with no funding. This is a sign from admissions that you are unlikely to pass first-year classes and qualifying exams. (see Applicant12 earlier) I apologize for twisting any words but you can see I'm building a narrative here. Conventional wisdom is that this profile is not suitable for an Econ PhD, due to the math GPA part, the "not terribly committed to a career" part and the "admitted with no funding" part. Today the admissions market is "thicker" to borrow a term I just understood, in that adcoms can rely on signals like graduate math courses or research experience to outweigh poor performance in the past. But the tradeoff for acquiring these signals is time. From your position it would take at least 2 years before your profile looks good enough to get into a decent PhD (part-time study of math + getting to know faculty), and can take up to four (say if you needed 2 extra years of full-time RA experience on the continent). Add up the 5-6 years required for a PhD, and this is 7-10 years before you are on the academic job market. Is the risk worth it? That decision is up to you. I think this is way too much of a time commitment when you are not particularly weld to a profession. One alternative is tm_member's suggestion of a MPP, but those are damn pricey and requires you to move across the country and network to get a career going. Another alternative is to take some graduate coursework in economics, parachute into a MEd and become a K-12 Econ teacher?
  2. I offer some scattered commentary: - This profile seems competitive for most Fed RA positions (like St. Louis, Philly, Chicago). NY Fed is a reach but it would be a great opportunity for you. It is also competitive for RA positions with promising APs at research departments. It is not competitive for RA positions at top RA groups like the one jjrousseau was in. - I base the above on three points: Prestige. I am a big believer that UG prestige is extremely important for the best RA positions, i.e. you need to come from a top research school or LAC that reliably sends graduates to top PhD programs. For example, jjrousseau was at a top LAC and then had two years of Fed work before his current RA group. Your mention of "Ugrad with top 30 econ program" suggests you are at a large public lacking that level of prestige, but I'm willing to discuss this further in PM if you wish. The content of your RA work. Without any additional information, I can't tell if your tasks were at the level required day-to-day at a professional RA job. But if the tasks were coding intensive that would be a big plus. Seniority of your recommenders. If they are still actively publishing, that's also a big plus. I am a bit confused about why you say you're at a top 30 when they're at a "top 20" - are they not in your department? - I don't want to discourage you with the above assessment. The only marginal cost of RA applications is time, so apply to as many as you can handle. - I think your level of math training is fine, unless you want to take a probability theory class or something. It is risky to take a PhD micro course during your RA phase, but getting an A in it will be a great signal. You can also take a field course, but that's mostly for your own training rather than as a good signal. - Even if your professor is right about your current placement (and I doubt it), the median placement at a top 30 isn't a top 50 Econ department. If you can afford it, you could send an application or two to top 10-20 schools and see where you place at the moment. - You may also want to get a private sector job after graduation too, and then work towards applying to PhDs. It is not uncommon for top American Econ PhD applicants to be admitted four years after undergrad these days (2 yrs private + 2 yrs RA).
  3. This is a tough question, but my short answer is Princeton. Both departments are going through serious fluidity right now and hiring junior faculty aggressively. Let's do a bean count, focusing on your fields: Chicago you mentioned Golosov and Kaplan and, uh, that's kind of it. Add in Stokey for being reportedly a good adviser (with work in monetary) and obligatorily Shimer for Labor. The people you're looking for are actually in Chicago Booth: Vavra, Winberry, maybe Weber and Guerrieri (since you're interested in search theory too?) Princeton Brunnermeier and Sims in monetary, but unsure how approachable those two are. Het. macro you have Violante, Ben Moll, Arlene Wong (mostly), with Jarosch and Rogerson more in the macro-labor/search tradition. At this point I'm obligated to tell you your interests are very specific, doesn't really mesh well among each other (unless you're like Kaplan, Violante or Erik Hurst) and it is likely you'll move into a different field during your PhD. Hence it's nice to look at differences in the two departments' broader recruiting strategy. In my mind at least Booth macro has had a very productive hiring session a few years back, and by the time you're doing research you'll have a group of younger faculty who will mentor you after figuring out the publishing game, plus an assortment of seniors in both departments. I mention Booth macro specifically because apparently they are more cooperative with Chicago macro than, say, their respective micro groups. Princeton has seniors who are closer on the whole to your current interests, but the department is just now going through a heavy recruitment session, aggressively hiring juniors in macro and public finance. In comparison Chicago is not hunting that hard for new junior faculty, and when they do they tend to be on the micro/empirical side. The case for Princeton then is that not only do they have some established seniors in broader macro and public finance, but you'll also be part of a new wave of research in these fields given their new recruits (even if the new recruits won't advise anyone). You should take both visit days seriously and use my post as a starting point on which faculty you want to talk to during the visit day. Once you're there, you should be forthright about their current research agenda as well as their advising levels. Also talk broadly to the grad students and see if they've had smooth transitions going in (or out) of your current research interests. Many people would still kill for those options though, so hope you enjoy the process!
  4. My pithy/glib response: It will not be. If they are unwilling to pay for your work, you are unlikely to work on a project of note to either other researchers or these senior faculty themselves. More detailed response: Kazooie is on the mark here. If you can get some unpaid work that is focused on a specific task over the summer, that's decent preliminary work experience. If you want to apply for a full-time RA, you will be competing with students from top undergrad schools who have done the same (and whose schools are wealthy enough to grant faculty money to pay for these specific tasks). Just because certain faculty are well-known doesn't mean they are active publishing still, or that they have an idea how the admissions game is done these days. One valuable fact I learned from Testmagic is that faculty will rarely straight up refuse an offer to help out an undergrad, though there are no guarantees they will help you in an impactful way. I assume you have already done this, but is there any idea you can get these faculty at your school to talk about their recent research projects? Instead of committing to a vague idea of collaboration with you, it's much better if you can express interest in one project and see if said faculty wants you to help out during the entire process.
  5. I don't believe Chicago deserves as bad a rep people may have heard on the internet, but that's because I believe the top departments will reach a stationary equilibrium with treating their first-years: 20-ish member cohorts, not using prelims to screen out an unbounded number of people, focusing on admits with as much research experience as possible. This also means the number of wild card admits is falling. Chicago doesn't admit 40-member cohorts anymore (I think last year they had 25ish?) They are offering much more generous stipends given their donations, as you must have noticed in the admit email. The program's biggest problem is not having enough advisors willing to go to bat for the median student. While they're recruiting hard for good junior faculty, given tenure concerns they won't go online as advisors for a few years longer. If you can get an admit for Chicago out of undergrad, I think you should either take it; do a 1-year RA at a prestigious institution and reapply next cycle; or, if you can get in, do a 2-year RA at one of the golden ticket programs (e.g. Chetty Lab, Laibson's group, Amy Finkelstein's NBER group). Your choice between those three depends on your risk aversion.
  6. This is the pooled research assistant program at Stanford GSB. Like the few other top business schools who coordinate their RA searches above just the faculty level (I know of at least Chicago Booth, Columbia GSB, Wharton Real Estate), this is a highly competitive position opening up a lot of doors. I would bet a few bucks that the median placement out of here is a top 10 Econ PhD. Unlike other pooled RA programs, it looks like participation in this one requires taking some classes and other research seminars (whereas usually people take them anyways but do so after talking it over with your faculty supervisor). I think the biggest question is that the salary is decent among all RA programs, but could inadequately cover living costs in the Bay Area. Don't quote me on that last sentence. I think it's natural to be turned off by the "extra two years," but trust me that the average participant thinks it's totally worth it. During those two years you can ease into graduate-level economics, gain research connections, learn programming and other soft skills less emphasized in an undergraduate curriculum. If you are accepted, you should absolutely take this. However, if you haven't received a callback email about half a month after admissions close, you should assume you were rejected.
  7. I am clearly late to the party here but thought I can give colour to the above discussion, involving Kaysa and others (Disclaimer: I was an RA at a highly ranked institution, but was never responsible for evaluating applicants.) I think many RA applicants are unaware that RA positions can vary greatly in the way they are managed. Let me give two cases somewhat inspired by reality: 1) A junior faculty has obtained access to a "rich" administrative/commercial dataset no one else is using, or has scoped out a way to collect large amounts of data stored on webpages or PDFs. These data have the potential to kickstart a series of papers. With some grant support, the professor hires a RA who will be focused on cleaning, formatting and documenting this dataset. 2) A junior faculty has a good pipeline of papers making their way through the review process. The professor needs to revise the papers for submission and hires an RA to speed up the process. The RA's work will involve a mix of augmenting the professor's Stata code and running new analyses suggested by referees (say, run a simulation in MATLAB). The ideal hedge against the uncertainty is to be a CS whiz and have expertise in all the programming languages used in econ - Stata, R, Matlab, Python, ARCGIS, Fortran etc - but this is not realistic for most candidates, even ones at top schools. Now my hunch is that most RA jobs are more like case 1) than case 2). Say you start from scratch. Knowing the above, first you learn Stata, the lingua franca of empirical micro today. Then you invest in languages rising in popularity - Python, GIS, some relational databases. If you still have time, pick up Matlab and R. Most importantly, if you say you know a language you need to show you can use it as part of a research pipeline. This is where cold-calling professors for some data work may land you an opportunity - or take a class with a data analysis project at the end. ...with all that said, talking about coding so much is looking at the tree and missing the forest. IMO, the largest constituency RA programs service are top-of-class US Liberal Arts College students who need an intermediary to match them to top PhDs. If you are not in that group, take note of the competition.
  8. My hunch is that this year wasn't that different from previous years either. I am willing to conjecture two secular trends which some people might mistake as a sudden change in the competition: - Full-time RAs are no longer an arbitrage opportunity. As a thought experiment, consider a group of top students at a school that has placed at top departments before. The best student (maybe top 2 or 3) have as good chances to attend a top department as they would have any time last decade. Let's say you're ranked 7th or 8th, though: a few years ago, you could get into a department that would ordinarily not look beyond the top 5 students in that school by getting a decent full-time RA position. If the top 5 students in your cohort and the next 2-3 cohorts are advised to apply straight out of undergrad, then you are more competitive relative to those top 5 students during your application season. I don't think this is the case anymore: even the best students in a feeder school will have interest in doing a year of RAing, if just for exposure to research (well, theorists excluded). Now, that cohort of top students will all do a two-year RA, so the ranking is preserved unless #7 is a really exceptional RA. If anything, the best students are getting too risk-averse and doing RA jobs when it's not so necessary... - There is increased age discrimination. Not sure why this would be happening, but maybe older students really do go into industry more or leave with a MA, and departments are adjusting appropriately. If any faculty forum posters wish to comment or dispute my post, that would probably be more helpful. On the point about waitlists: just because people aren't taken off the waitlists doesn't mean there is a larger number of applicants and admits. Waitlists are a function of the yield rate, acceptances/admits. If yield rates are rising in PhDs of all levels, that's honestly a good thing as it means people are targeting less blindly and making better matches. Notice as well that we haven't heard any department getting a big excess of acceptances this year either...
  9. Long-time lurker, first time poster... PROFILE: Type of Undergrad: Math/Econ major, private top 10 econ dept. Undergrad GPA: 3.64 - but wait, there's more! Type of Grad: MA in the same department (see below) Grad GPA: 3.39 GRE: 169V / 170Q / 5.0 AW Math Courses: Mostly honours courses in the math department. Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calc (B, A, A-), Real Analysis (B, A-, A), Probability (A-, A, A), some seminar courses (A) Econ Courses (undergrad): Intermediate Micro (A-), Intermediate Macro (A), Intermediate Econometrics (B+, A-), other fields. Econ Courses (grad): PhD Micro (B, B, A-), PhD Macro (A-, B), PhD Metrics (B). Took some field courses during my RA period with A's. Other Courses: Poli Sci and 1-2 Stats courses. I took the minimum number of econ field courses so would have time to explore other things. Research Experience: Undergraduate grant in the summer before senior year; senior thesis; 1-2 part-time RA tasks for undergrad faculty; 2 years full-time RA at B-school. Teaching Experience: TA/grader for intro calculus sequence and an MBA class once. Research Interests: Household finance; labour, specifically macro-labour and personnel/contracts. Letters of Recommendation: All well-published APs. RA supervisor (financial economist), supervisor/my coauthor (macroeconomist), thesis advisor (econometrician). Strong enough that they advised me to apply "as high as possible." SOP: Spent way too much time on this. In the end, just mentioned I know what I'm getting into with academic research, mentioned my bad grades are due to taking hard classes, and ensured my research interests aligned with the department Other: 1) The "MA" was due to me taking a lot of first-year PhD courses my senior year. 2) I started out being a principal RA on one of my supervisor's papers but was "promoted" to co-author status on a follow-up paper. This paper is starting to form nicely, but only recently after admissions season finished. RESULTS (in chronological order): Acceptances: CMU Tepper, Maryland, Wharton Applied Econ, BU, Northwestern (off waitlist). All with funding. Waitlists: Penn Econ, UCSD, Penn State (I think) Rejections: All of the "Top 7," plus Chicago Booth and Brown. Attending: Wharton Applied Econ Comments: 1) About the GPA thing: while I tried to explain it as the result of taking hard classes, some of which were curved down (especially with PhD micro), my grades really are bad. As a result, I cast my net widely in terms of rankings. I wasn't planning on applying at all to the top 7 (i.e. ranking higher than Northwestern, Columbia, Penn, NYU), but I was egged on by my rec letter writers. The results signal I was screened out at those departments anyway. 2) Digression on my RA experience: it seems this forum has an ongoing debate on the value-added of RA positions. I think my RA experience was immensely helpful to me, where I learned to code much better and think on the spot. That said, barring co-authoring a paper and getting a R&R during my stint, I don't think I could've done enough in just two years to make myself competitive for top departments. It does seem like certain departments weigh RA experience more highly than others; at Wharton, I think 7 of the 9 visiting students had a 2-year RA stint. (My plan is to stick around the forum in the future and clear up people's questions about the RA path to grad school in particular. Also note that among all RAs I interacted with at my school, my placement is definitely below average: others have received offers from Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford and HBS.) What would you have done differently? Planned my course load better. In terms of playing the admissions game, one of the worst decisions I made was to try and take the hardest math and econ courses when I should have applied for a PhD prep track at my university, or focused on advanced undergrad field courses and do well in them. Do I regret what I did? Not necessarily, since I still retain all the cool stuff I learned in those courses. That said, the gain from this early exposure is likely smaller than the lifetime loss of not attending a top econ department in the counterfactual. I apologize if I sound ungrateful for my placement; I chose Wharton because I found out it is a great fit. I think it's established, however, that undergraduate pedigree plays a big deal in admissions. Attending a top 10 econ school is a privilege; those who were truly top of the class in my cohort, i.e. those with perfect GPAs, received top 10 and even top 5 PhD offers. The same cannot be said for equally credentialed people at state flagships, for example. I feel like I've squandered my opportunity somewhat, but such is life I suppose.
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