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Math Camp and Relevance of PhD Grades


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I had 2 questions I wanted to ask current/former PhD students


1. What was Math Camp at your school like? What topics did you cover and how relevant did you find them in your coursework?


2. I also wanted to ask current and former PhD students how relevant PhD coursework grades are to your departments. Would faculty members decide to work against a student solely on the basis of bad grades even if they would be otherwise perfectly suited with working with that said student? I'm at a school with a reputation for a strict econ department which is known to be tough when it coming to grading so I am a bit worried how important PhD grades are for nurturing future faculty relationships. Also in your own experience how correlated are PhD grades and future research potential?

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1. Math camp at the University I attended used Simon and Blume - Mathematics for Economists. We had to turn in a problem set (of around 100 problems) over Chapters 2-9 on day 1 of math camp. Then in math camp itself, we covered chapters 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.1-14.8, 15.1, 15.3, 15.4, 16, 18, 19, 20, 23, and 30. I did not use all that much of this material again. I had only had Calc 1 and Calc 2 prior to the PhD program, so math camp was a struggle. My cohort mate had only had business calc, so it was an even bigger struggle for him.


2. Ask senior PhD students what the expectations are. At my University, the PhD students in the years ahead of me told us that getting a C or two in the PhD econ courses was not uncommon. As far as I know, none of the faculty in the accounting department knew what grades we got in the econ courses, besides maybe the PhD program director, but I do not even think he looked. But this will vary from school to school. I can say that my cohort mate, who only had business calc entering the PhD program, got Cs in a couple of the PhD econ courses. I did not get any Cs. He has 7 A publications and went up for tenure early. I have A pubs (nothing close to 7) and am certainly not going up for tenure early. So at least in this anecdotal case, performance in the economics coursework had little correlation with our eventual publication success.


You are going to be time constrained. When faced with a trade-off of whether to put a few extra hours into an econ PhD course problem set or into your discipline's doctoral seminars, put the extra time into your seminars. I believe you will get more return on the extra time spent familiarizing yourself with the literature of your discipline vs. spinning your wheels for a few more hours on a problem set.

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1. Math camp used Casella & Berger for probability/stats and I think we used Simon and Blume for the rest of it. We only had to attend the sessions and didn't get any mandatory assignments. I had taken calc 1 and 2, linear algebra, and probability theory before camp, so I was definitely under-prepared compared to the econ students, but I followed along alright. I didn't use most of what we covered. I recall the kuhn-tucker theorem and envelope theorem being pretty useful, but I couldn't tell you exactly what they are now.


2. I agree with TaxPhD that this will vary a lot by school. I know we needed to maintain a 3.0 overall and needed a 3.0 in econ to get the minor. I managed B's and B+'s in the econ stuff and I don't think it negatively affected me. However, I do know that other students managed A's and professors were impressed. This mattered more for people that pursued theory. I'm not far enough out to say how well people have done at research, but the correlation is weakly positive at best. It might be slightly more predictive in finance than accounting.


Like Tax said, you end up being judged by people in your department and they are teaching you things that are much more relevant to your career. You are not only going to be time constrained, you will put in 70 hours a week and easily be able to list off 40 more hours of work that you should be doing. The ability to do a satisfactory job in some areas so you can excel in others is useful throughout your career.

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