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2018 (or 2019) Ph.D (unorthodox) applicant profile evaluation / advice


lakeside972
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Ok, I’m pretty unorthodox:

 

EDUCATION

 

Undergrad (2009-2013)

School: Top-5 USNWR

Major: History and English

GPA: 3.30 (almost entirely humanities classes)

 

Math/stats/econ courses:

AP credit: Micro, Macro, Calc I, Calc II

Intro Stats (A)

 

Non-degree class prep for grad programs (2015-2016)

Linear Algebra – local community college (A)

Calc III – local community college (A)

Micro Theory I MA level - #50 econ university (A+)

Micro Theory II Ph.D level - #50 econ university (A+)

Econometrics I Ph.D level - #50 econ university (A)

 

M.S. program (2016-2018)

Program: Math and Statistics

School: Top-20 USNWR

GPA: 3.8

 

M.S. courses taken/taking:

Probability Theory (B+)

Mathematical Statistics (A expected)

Deterministic Mathematical Models (A expected)

 

Future courses:

Real Analysis I – summer

Optimization – summer*

Ordinary Diff Eq (local community college) - summer

Stochastic Processes – fall

Numeric Methods – fall

 

 

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE

 

Data journalism for two years with publications in major media

R.A. at econ think tank for 1 year for a low-level economist

R.A. for econ prof at #40 econ program*

Econ research at think tank for 1.5 years, but not for an economist

 

*Currently debating the Optimization course or R.A. job for this summer

 

MISCELLANEOUS INFO

 

LORs:

1. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-5 econ program – received A+ in Ph.D course

2. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-20 econ program – received A in Ph.D course

3. Prof at top-40 econ school, Ph.D from top-5 econ program* – RA-ed for (assuming I take the RA job)

Backup LOR: Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-70 econ program – RA-ed for

 

Teaching experience: Possible T.A. for math grad course this fall

 

GRE: Taking this summer, confident I can do 167+

 

Other info: Hispanic (I assume this helps a bit)

 

Applying to: #1-25 programs

 

Research interests: Not sure, but enjoy econometrics, Micro, and IO

 

Concerns:

lack of econ undergrad courses (though I got As in two Ph.D first-year classes)

low undergrad GPA (though it was 5+ years ago and hoping good M.S. GPA can make up for it)

limited research experience

 

MAIN QUESTIONS

 

1. Should I take the Optimization course or RA for the professor this summer?

 

2. If I apply this fall (to start 2018), what rank of school do you think I can expect to be admitted to?

 

3. I’m considering delaying another year (to start 2019) so I can supplement my resume with:

Courses: Bayesian Statistics, Machine Learning, Partial Diff Eq, Measure Theory, Real Analysis II

More RA experience, possibly a formal job at IMF, World Bank, or Fed

 

What rank of school do you think I can expect to be admitted to in 2019 with this extra on my application?

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I would definitly take the RA job. In my opinion, LOR's are the most important thing for a succesful application, and given that you have already taken several math and grad-level econ courses, I would focus on making sure those letters are perfect.
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It goes without saying that you should definitely apply to all the major scholarship sources: NSF GRFP, Soros Fellowship, Ford Foundation (?, not sure on this one, but it was something similar sounding). I would look into prepping your applications now since it can be very involved (I applied to the NSF last minute but obviously wish I spent more time on it).
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Also, I say this as someone who comes from a working class background, think long and hard about dedicating more years to pursuing the PhD pipe dream (given that you graduated in 2013). Applications are absurdly competitive and the ROI of the PhD is fairly low considering the wage premium a Top 5 undergrad grad could command in the labor market.
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Well, he's had 4+ years of part/full time research and 2 years of PhD prep since college. At this point, I'd say he seems dedicated to this cause.

 

Econ is still a really good discipline if you are enthusiastic about research. We don't have to be lab monkeys for 5 years like the natural sciences, we don't have to bullshit for a living like humanities, and we are paid much more than the other social sciences. And it's easier than many other disciplines to get a R1 academic job in the U.S. or at a decent university overseas.

 

(also, the wage premium of being a top 5 undergrad isn't actually that high, unless you're in some really clique-ish industries. Most professions don't care too much. The dispersion is even less than PhD programs. The 40th percentile of undergrad salaries at a top 5 institution might equal the 60th percentile of undergrad salaries at a top 100 college, and the ranking can be quite different from USNWR)

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I would recommend taking another graduate econ class in the Fall (Grad Micro). There should be a Top 20 econ program near you (hopefully, you can make the commute work). (Honestly, it could look weird given the other courses you've taken, but people from the area who've done well in this class also tend to break the Top 10.)

 

In terms of RA placements, it would be Fed > IMF > World Bank. I think all these institutions allow tuition stipends so going part-time in your master's program and RAing at one of those places could work. I believe this is commonly done in the program you're attending.

 

I think you're very enthusiastic and have ambitious plans, but I would encourage you to temper your courseload and smooth the difficulty and number of your courses. I think you're in a very solid position now having done well in the Grad Metrics course and snagging the recommendation from a famous professor. The summer RA course you'll be taking is known to require a lot of extra work outside lectures to cover all your bases. Honestly, I would recommend just taking that course and maybe Measure Theory in the Fall (if you don't take Grad Micro at the Top 20 program). It should be doable - you should be thinking of how to preserve the strong signals already collected in your application.

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^I agree he could take a grad econ class, but probably not PhD Micro I. It can be marginally useful, but it isn't going to do much for signaling because he already has PhD Micro II with an A+.

 

Taking a PhD elective sounds better. Preferably a more technical one, like I.O. or an applied econometrics course.

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^ above advice is sensible.

 

Here's some other unconventional advice for you: you may not have to finish your master's degree if you're admitted to a PhD program after applying this Fall. Of course, this could set you back a year if you are unsatisfied with your results, but I think you have what it takes to take your application across the finish line (and it could save you a lot of tuition). Again, I would lighten your courseload, focus on getting a good letter from your RA gig, start your applications to external funding sources, knock-out the GRE, and go part-time in your Master's program in the Fall, taking maybe another grad class at the T20 PhD program near you.

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Looks like @specious has figured out where I go to school, ha. Not that I made it very difficult ;)

 

A few comments/clarifications:

 

1. I'm currently doing my M.S. part-time. During the day, I work full-time in public policy econ development research. My job doesn't involve much serious quant research, and I don't work for a Ph.D economist. Thus the reason I'm looking to RA part-time for a Ph.D economist.

 

If all goes according to plan, my next 18 months are (all while working full-time during the day at my current job):

 

Spring 2017

Classes: Finish my two classes

 

Summer 2017

Classes: Real Analysis

Research: RA for prof

Other: GRE studying, applying for grants

 

Fall 2017

Classes: (pick 2 of) Measure and Integration Theory, Stochastic Processes, and Numeric Methods

Research: Continuing research for prof

Other: Ph.D applications, taking GRE

 

Spring 2018

Classes: Bayesian Statistics, Intro to Statistical Learning (likely enough to complete my M.S.)

Other: Visiting Ph.D programs (hopefully!)

 

Fall 2018

Start Ph.D (hopefully!)

 

It sounds like a lot, but I've managed a similar schedule the last two years. These plans are up in the air, though. I've applied for full-time RA gigs at some premiere econ research institutions (to start this summer). If I were to get one, I'd likely defer applying this fall, get more RA experience, and take some extra classes like Real Analysis II, Partial Diff Eq, Measure Theory, another grad econ class, etc., and apply in Fall 2018.

 

2. I already took MA-level Micro I and PhD-level Micro II. I'm wondering if @specious meant to type "Grad MACRO"? I'm trying to finish my math/stats M.S. by Spring 2018, so taking extra grad-level econ courses will be difficult. (Plus, I don't know if $5k for a course + all the time required is worth it just for a bullet point under "courses taken.") And I've considered not finishing my M.S., but I'll be taking my final courses in the semester I'd hear back about Ph.D admissions, so best to just graduate.

 

3. I don't really have a rec from a "famous" professor (though #1 below is fairly well known in the econ blog world). My LORs currently in the bank are:

#1. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-5 econ program, doesn't publish many papers now but writes books – received A+ in Ph.D course

#2. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-20 econ program – received A in Ph.D course

#3. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-70 econ program – RA-ed for

 

I'm considering RA-ing for a prof at top-40 econ school, who publishes regularly (Ph.D from top-5 econ program). That prof would likely bump out LOR #3. I imagine it would be a sizable upgrade.

Edited by lakeside972
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Looks like @specious has figured out where I go to school, ha. Not that I made it very difficult ;)

 

 

A few comments/clarifications:

 

 

1. I'm currently doing M.S. part-time. During the day, I work full-time in public policy econ development research. My job doesn't involve much serious quant research, and I don't work for a Ph.D economist. Thus the reason I'm looking to RA part-time for a Ph.D economist.

 

 

If all goes according to plan, my next 18 months are (all while working full-time during the day at my current job):

 

 

Spring 2017

Classes: Finish my two classes

 

 

Summer 2017

Classes: Real Analysis

Research: RA for prof

Other: GRE studying, applying for grants

 

 

Fall 2017

Classes: (pick 2 of) Measure and Integration Theory, Stochastic Processes, and Numeric Methods

Research: Continuing research for prof

Other: Ph.D applications

 

 

Spring 2018

Classes: Bayesian Statistics, Intro to Statistical Learning (these will likely be enough to complete my M.S.)

Other: Visting Ph.D programs (hopefully!)

 

 

Fall 2018

Start Ph.D (hopefully!)

 

 

It sounds like a lot, but I've managed a similar schedule the last two years. These plans are up in the air, though. I've applied for full-time RA gigs at some premiere econ research institutions (to start this summer). If I were to get one, I'd likely defer applying this fall, get more RA experience, and take some extra classes like Real Analysis II, Partial Diff Eq, Measure Theory, another grad econ class, etc., and apply in Fall 2018.

 

 

2. I already took MA-level Micro I and PhD-level Micro II. I'm wondering if @specious meant to type "Grad MACRO"? I'm trying to finish my math/stats M.S. by Spring 2018, so taking extra grad-level econ courses will be difficult, since they wouldn't count toward my degree. (Plus, I don't know if $5k for a course + all the time required is worth it just for a bullet point under "courses taken.") And I've considered not finishing my M.S., but I'll be taking my final courses in the semester I'd hear back about Ph.D admissions, so best to just graduate.

 

 

3. I don't really have a rec from a "famous" professor (though #1 below is fairly well known in the econ blog world). My LORs currently I can currently bank on are:

1. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-5 econ program, doesn't publish many papers now but writes books – received A+ in Ph.D course

2. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-20 econ program – received A in Ph.D course

3. Prof at top-50 econ school, Ph.D from top-70 econ program – RA-ed for

 

 

I'm considering RA-ing a prof at top-40 econ school, who publishes regularly (Ph.D from top-5 econ program). That prof would likely bump out #3. I imagine it would be a sizable upgrade.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Quick update: So I had been set on applying to programs this fall. However, I've just received an offer to be an RA at a top institution for a two-year term.

 

Given the fact that academic research experience is a big hole on my resume, it seems like it's worth it (in terms of boosting my application) to take the job, work for two years, take some more classes, and get solid rec letters rather than applying this fall, no?

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your plan is good and if you can see it through you'll hopefully do really well !

I hope your RA gig is at the Fed or CGD. Both are nicely geared to help students take those evening class, while the Fed provides funding. The Fund won't provide tution funding and depending on the division, balancing evening classes will be harder. Don't know much aboutt the bank, except that DECRG is best for RA positions - many other are more operational/non-research work. Best wishes to you.

 

 

Quick update: So I had been set on applying to programs this fall. However, I've just received an offer to be an RA at a top institution for a two-year term.

 

Given the fact that academic research experience is a big hole on my resume, it seems like it's worth it (in terms of boosting my application) to take the job, work for two years, take some more classes, and get solid rec letters rather than applying this fall, no?

Edited by econphd1992
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  • 3 weeks later...

Not sure about top 30 programs. But for the top 2 programs you need non-linear functional analysis, and/or SDE, and/or differential topology, and/or publications on at least tier 2 journals. ODE from CC will only damage your application.

 

Though I am confidence (emotionally) that you could get in one of the top 25 programs.

 

If you need advises, here is what you could try: Let your adviser (who graduated from a top 30 program) introduce you to his Alma mater, and get recommendations from there.

 

Since you are currently in a top 20 university, why not cross-register econ classes there and meet your potential professors? Go partying with the PhD students there and get your name on their next publication. Even if you are only the fifth/sixth author, you "coauthored" an econ paper with world's top faculty!

 

And do not overlook the overall university rank. If you graduated without secured faculty position, the overall university prestige will most of time out weight the program ranking in industry.

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