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Very Low GPA, Strong Math Background.... Where to Apply?


das5473
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PROFILE:

Type of Undergrad: Double Major in Mathematics and Economics, Minor in Statistics

Undergrad GPA: 3.01

Type of Grad: None

Grad GPA: NA

GRE: Will be taking soon, am confident in high scores due to high scores on previous standardized tests

Math Courses: Calculus I & II in high school, Calc III (A), Discrete Math (A), Matrices (B), Differential Equations (B), Game Theory (A), Real Analysis (B-), Linear Algebra (B-), Linear Programs (A-), Intro to Mathematical Statistics (B), Stochastic Modeling (A), Combinatorics (F, C), Intro To Probability Theory (D, B)

Econ Courses (Undergrad): Macro Analysis in high school, Micro Analysis (A), Intermediate Micro Analysis (B+), Intermediate Macro Analysis (A-), Money and Banking (B+), Statistical Foundation of Econometrics (A), Intro to Econometrics (B-), Industrial Organizations (A-), Mathematical Economics (B-), Sports Economics (A), International Economics (B+), Strategy (B)

 

Other Courses: Chem (B) Philosophy (B), Intro to C++ ©, Spanish (A-)

Letters of Recommendation: Can get at least one outstanding one from mathematics professor who has published books recently, can get two-four good ones in either math or econ, all from Penn State professors

Research Experience: None

Teaching Experience: Tutored math and economics for Penn State, taught Calculus to high school students at a Penn State camp, Grading Assistant for a professor of Mathematics

Research Interests: Econometrics, really any that I am able to get into at this point

SOP: none as of yet

Concerns: Very low grades. Need to find a school to look past that. Would be willing to go for a Masters first, but have the same problem of not being sure where to apply, or who would accept me

 

Applying to: Pitt, USF, not sure where I have a chance

 

ORIGINAL POST BELOW

 

Hello,

 

I didn't take my undergraduate work nearly as seriously as I should have, and ended up with a low GPA. I graduated in May, and have been working as a Business Analyst since, but have realized that I would really like to go back to school for a PhD in Economics. Here is what I have:

 

  • 3.01 Overall GPA
  • BS in Mathematics from Penn State
  • BS in Economics from Penn State
  • Minor in Statistics from Penn State
  • Will be taking the GRE soon, but am confident in a high score as I scored 217 and 2190 on PSAT and SAT respectively
  • Can obtain 2 strong letters of rec, 1 decent

 

I know that trying to get in with a GPA this low is tough, but I was hoping that it would be somewhat offset by my extensive math coursework. Also, I've heard that having a year of real life work experience is beneficial.

 

So, do I stand a chance of getting into any PhD programs (they don't have to be top programs, but not online programs either)? If so, any ideas on what/where I should be looking at?

 

Thanks in advance

Edited by tm_member
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Post your info using this format:

Also include the names and the grades received for your classes. Its the best way to get useful advice. See examples here -> http://www.www.urch.com/forums/phd-economics/142512-roll-call-2013-a.html

 

PROFILE:

Type of Undergrad:

Undergrad GPA:

Type of Grad:

Grad GPA:

GRE:

Math Courses:

Econ Courses (grad-level):

Econ Courses (undergrad-level):

Other Courses:

Letters of Recommendation:

Research Experience:

Teaching Experience:

Research Interests:

SOP:

Concerns:

Other:

Applying to:

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Hello,

 

I didn't take my undergraduate work nearly as seriously as I should have, and ended up with a low GPA. I graduated in May, and have been working as a Business Analyst since, but have realized that I would really like to go back to school for a PhD in Economics. Here is what I have:

 

  • 3.01 Overall GPA
  • BS in Mathematics from Penn State
  • BS in Economics from Penn State
  • Minor in Statistics from Penn State
  • Will be taking the GRE soon, but am confident in a high score as I scored 217 and 2190 on PSAT and SAT respectively
  • Can obtain 2 strong letters of rec, 1 decent

 

I know that trying to get in with a GPA this low is tough, but I was hoping that it would be somewhat offset by my extensive math coursework. Also, I've heard that having a year of real life work experience is beneficial.

 

So, do I stand a chance of getting into any PhD programs (they don't have to be top programs, but not online programs either)? If so, any ideas on what/where I should be looking at?

 

Thanks in advance

 

Work experience doesn't help much for Econ programs. At the same time, it doesn't really hurt either - unless you try to claim the work experience is a positive in your application which signals you have no idea what is expected in a PhD program.

 

Post your profile in the format yankeefan suggested and you'll get much more responses. However, a 3.01 GPA is scary for an adcom and I don't think any program worth attending would consider you. There is an excess supply of qualified candidates. You'll likely need to return to school for an MA and crush it (3.95+) to show that the UG GPA was due to a lack of maturity rather than ability.

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PROFILE:

Type of Undergrad: Double Major in Mathematics and Economics, Minor in Statistics

Undergrad GPA: 3.01

Type of Grad: None

Grad GPA: NA

GRE: Will be taking soon, am confident in high scores due to high scores on previous standardized tests

Math Courses: Calculus I & II in high school, Calc III (A), Discrete Math (A), Matrices (B), Differential Equations (B), Game Theory (A), Real Analysis (B-), Linear Algebra (B-), Linear Programs (A-), Intro to Mathematical Statistics (B), Stochastic Modeling (A), Combinatorics (F, C), Intro To Probability Theory (D, B)

Econ Courses (Undergrad): Macro Analysis in high school, Micro Analysis (A), Intermediate Micro Analysis (B+), Intermediate Macro Analysis (A-), Money and Banking (B+), Statistical Foundation of Econometrics (A), Intro to Econometrics (B-), Industrial Organizations (A-), Mathematical Economics (B-), Sports Economics (A), International Economics (B+), Strategy (B)

 

Other Courses: Chem (B) Philosophy (B), Intro to C++ ©, Spanish (A-)

Letters of Recommendation: Can get at least one outstanding one from mathematics professor who has published books recently, can get two-four good ones in either math or econ, all from Penn State professors

Research Experience: None

Teaching Experience: Tutored math and economics for Penn State, taught Calculus to high school students at a Penn State camp, Grading Assistant for a professor of Mathematics

Research Interests: Econometrics, really any that I am able to get into at this point

SOP: none as of yet

Concerns: Very low grades. Need to find a school to look past that. Would be willing to go for a Masters first, but have the same problem of not being sure where to apply, or who would accept me

 

Applying to: Pitt, USF, not sure where I have a chance

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With those grades I wouldn't say you have a strong math background. It seems like you were essentially unable to do anything that involved proofs, and did not manage to address that issue before you graduated. I'm also not quite sure why you think you could find a school that would "look past" your grades since you have no other redeeming features in your profile. Having a high GRE will not save you, considering that the test involves nothing that is useful for economics research.

 

Your lack of research experience and concrete research interests will also raise a huge question mark about whether you know what you're getting into - which, coupled with your subpar training, will eliminate any program worth attending from funding you. If you've made up your mind to get a PhD (and I'm not sure how you'll get the information necessary to make that decision), you will need to get a master's first; check out the numerous threads about master's programs on this forum.

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With those grades I wouldn't say you have a strong math background. It seems like you were essentially unable to do anything that involved proofs, and did not manage to address that before you graduated. I'm also not quite sure why you think you could find a school that would "look past" your grades since you have no other redeeming features in your profile. Having a high GRE will not save you, considering that the test involves nothing that is useful for economics research.

 

Again, I am here asking if there would be anyone that would consider me. I know my background is very poor, and that is why I am here. It is not that I was incapable, but that I put little to no time into most of my classes. I know now that this was stupid, and want to go back and change it.

 

By strong math background, I simply meant that I do have a degree in mathematics and a minor in statistics. While I know that there are many others applying who have these qualifications, I know that there are also many who do not.

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By strong math background, I simply meant that I do have a degree in mathematics and a minor in statistics. While I know that there are many others applying who have these qualifications, I know that there are also many who do not.

 

Yes, but that's not what counts. Compared to someone with no math major but decent grades in calculus, linear algebra and analysis, that extra F you got in combinatorics and D you got in probability theory will not make you look more appealing.

 

Again, I am here asking if there would be anyone that would consider me. I know my background is very poor, and that is why I am here. It is not that I was incapable, but that I put little to no time into most of my classes. I know now that this was stupid, and want to go back and change it.

 

Which is why the suggestion is that if you want to signal your intrinsic ability, you'll have to take a master's (probably a paid one) before you apply for a PhD program. The latter is a long-term commitment for both the department and yourself, and right now neither of you are ready for that kind of relationship.

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Yes, but that's not what counts. Compared to someone with no math major but decent grades in calculus, linear algebra and analysis, that extra F you got in combinatorics and D you got in probability theory will not make you look more appealing.

 

I am confident in my ability to obtain as high a GPA as necessary in a masters program, if I could get in to one. Given my profile, do you think that I would be able to get accepted into a decent masters program? If so, what rankings do you think I should be looking at? I am okay with receiving no funding for a masters. I just really screwed up and need to get a shot to turn things around.

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I don't know what you consider a "decent" masters program, but I can tell you that you will get into at least one masters program if you apply to a wide enough range. Regardless, a masters program of any kind is a necessity for you. At this point, it's not just to help your chances of being a competitive applicant -- your GPA will actually get you disqualified by the graduate division itself at a lot of universities, so your profile may not even be seen by a lot of departments at the PhD level.

 

Don't feel discouraged, though. Just apply to a wide range of MA programs -- even a couple from directional state colleges with low in-state tuitions to be sure. If you do very well in your first year, you'll have a shot at a PhD program when you apply. Just don't get too hung up on rankings -- you're probably not going to Harvard.

Edited by moneyandcredit
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This is a case where you have to consider OP's goals. Everybody wants to get into the top 20 but financial constraints play a part.

What I mean is that OP could get funding in a low tier masters program, ace it and get into decent programs. There are many people who did that this year, (I don't know if they would like me to mention their names) and got into decent programs in the 30-70 range.

 

We also have to consider that OP went to Penn State, that does not make up for his bad grades but I think like Moneyandcredit suggested, getting funding at a unknown MA program should be possible. There OP can probably be an RA at his MA.

 

Now I'm not advising OP to do it but he could possible get into some low ranked PhD programs as is. I got into some schools with a 3.3 GPA out of a top 30 econ school and only Calc 1 to my name. I applied in March so I could've gotten funding if I applied in December!!!. I was told I would be a candiate for funding next year if I did well.

 

Despite that I went for a masters and took more math classes instead because I wasn't sure what my goals were, but it's possible, I just wouldn't advice it but I feel obliged to tell you that it's possible.

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Well, if (s)he is willing to attend a low-ranked PhD program, which I understand now that I've read the post more closely, then I think applications should be focused on direct PhD admission. A master's program is good for getting a leg up, but there's also the two years of lost income along with the chance of actually ending up worse off if some kind of extenuating circumstances hurt your graduate performance.

 

Definitely include several PhD programs that you consider acceptable (be sure to read the admissions requirements of the university itself), but also include a few low-priced MAs if you absolutely want to go back to school next year.

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Definitely have to echo everything chateau & moneyandcredit said, and I'll add this: I have no idea what the admissions criteria is for elite masters like Duke & Tufts, but you'll certainly get into a regular masters (in Econ) at any directional state uni. Funding opportunities will be scarce, but the subsidized tuition will offset this (hopefully). The problem now becomes how do we define a "decent" masters.

 

Ideally you want to attend a program that has sent students to reputable econ PhDs recently. This is literally the first question you should ask the program coordinator. Your followup question should be to inquiry about research opportunities. Finally, find out if you can take undergrad/grad math classes to count towards the masters degree (but take them anyways even if they don't). Emphasize that your end goal is an Econ PhD and they might be willing to give you some wiggle room.

 

Ultimately, if you are geographically constrained due to your job then you'll have to settle for the closest school you can commute to. You should still ask the above questions.

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Well, if (s)he is willing to attend a low-ranked PhD program, which I understand now that I've read the post more closely, then I think applications should be focused on direct PhD admission. A master's program is good for getting a leg up, but there's also the two years of lost income along with the chance of actually ending up worse off if some kind of extenuating circumstances hurt your graduate performance.

 

Definitely include several PhD programs that you consider acceptable, but also include a few low-priced MAs if you absolutely want to go back to school next year.

 

You're right that in some sense its a cost/benefit analysis but I think you significantly underestimate the costs of attending an unranked PhD (which is probably the only place the OP could feasibly be accepted). A sizable portion of the posts here regarding masters tend to come from people who are solid T30 - 50 candiates but want to move into the holy T20, which (at times) MC > MB when you account for the two years lost. However the same logic & arithmetic don't apply for the OP. In this scenario, MB > MC when it involves moving from an unranked PhD to becoming a solid T50 applicant (best case scenario). An unranked PhD will hinder job prospects (not only in academia) & reduce your lifetimes earnings (aka permanent income). Regardless of the OP's end goals (academia, industry, govt), if (s)he is willing to spend 2-3 years doing a masters then by all means do so if it translates into getting into a significantly better program.

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Thanks for the responses.

 

With my current financial situation, attending a Masters where I could get some funding would definitely be ideal for me. However, if attending a nobody Masters program would not be able to get me funding at a fairly good program, it would not be worth it. In this case, I would rather just take on the debt of a better Masters program to help myself out in the long run.

 

If I was looking at Masters programs with no funding, what range do you think I should be looking in based on my profile?

 

Any opinions on which route makes more sense financially in the long run?

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I know many universities in ohio have masters programs with funding. I think they send people to phd schools, the amount they send will vary. But I bet there are more like that across the US .

 

But I agree with yankeefan, you have the potential to dramatically raise your profile so I wouldn't rush it. If I went straight at 21 I doubt I would have made it through since I just turned 24 and I am in a different field

Edited by sulebrahim
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One last thing I wanted to throw out there and see if anyone knows, is there any money out there for sports scholarships for a masters program? Out of high school I was offered scholarships to a few smaller schools in the area for both cross country and baseball, but chose to pursue a better degree instead. I still have all four years of eligibility, and would be able to demonstrate through road races similar times in a 5k now as when I was graduating from school.
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Sports scholarships for masters programs? I've never heard of this before, and I think its highly unlikely but it certainly doesn't mean they don't exist. Attend the closest masters within commuting distance if cost is such a big concern. I'm sure anybody working full-time can afford instate tuition in order to take 2 or 3 classes. Just make sure they provide satisfactory answers to the three questions I listed earlier - if not, time to start looking elsewhere.
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You might also consider taking some challenging classes as a non-degree student if you live near a good university. Doing well in those classes (make absolutely sure that you get A's) would reinforce your claim that your lack of motivation has been remedied and could help you get into a better program. However, a handful of A's in non-degree courses would still most likely not be enough to earn you admission to any school in the top 50.

 

I would recommend that you think a little more clearly about why you want a PhD. Don't make human capital investments without knowing how you plan to use the investment. If you want to be a professor, and especially if you want to be a professor in the US, you should not just attend any PhD program that will accept you. If you want to work in industry after your PhD, you should think hard about why a PhD would be better preparation than working in that industry.

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