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Profile Evaluation for PhD


galv
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Hi, I'm applying to PhD economics programs for Fall 2022 entry and would like to receive some evaluation.

Should I be more realistic with my chances and apply to lower ranking schools or do I have a decent shot with the top 15?

I come from an applied math background but want to switch to econ/ finance departments. More on my research interests below.

 

Profile:

Undergraduate school: National University of Singapore

Undergraduate Major: Quantitative Finance

Undergraduate Minor: Statistics

GPA: 3.72/4.00 in US standards

 

GRE: Q 163, V 158 Messed up GRE Quant here... disappointing. Retaking it as I know I can do better.

Math classes : Analysis 1 & 2 (A), Ordinary Differential Equations (A), Graduate Stochastic Analysis (A), currently taking a PhD class in Measure-Theoretic Probability, and then there's those fundamental classes like calculus, linear algebra, multivariable calculus (A/A- in them). I got B+ and B for numerical analysis and machine learning.

Econ classes: PhD Continuous Time Financial Economics (A-), game theory (A-), Mathematical Finance 1/2 (A, B+)

Statistics classes: Probability (A-), Mathematical Statistics (A-), Stochastic Processes (B+ but I exercised the P/NP option), Regression Analysis (B)

 

All but one of the B+, B classes were taken during the COVID outbreak and I was affected by it so I couldn't focus as well. I am explaining this in my SOP.

 

Research experience:

3 projects - One is related to financial market microstructure (uses stochastic control, Bayesian learning) and we plan to publish it in a top MS/OR journal; another bore no substantial fruit because someone published the idea in JFE; last project is my undergrad thesis on automated market makers (Fintech). My thesis centers on stochastic control and machine learning.

 

LORs: I'm getting letters from the 3 people I researched with mentioned above. One is writing me a strong letter, is a finance professor with an OR background. The other 2 are math professors who afaik, are only connected to Columbia IEOR, for the States.

 

Research Interest:

Honestly, I'm most interested in financial market microstructure theory at the moment. However, it intersects with mechanism design (market design, auction theory, IO alike), which is why I'm considering the econ program. I like studying mechanisms/ systems, with an engineering flavor hence the interest in microstructure/ mechanism design.

However based on what you have read so far, is it obvious to you that my profile fits a business PhD better than an econ PhD?

 

Teaching Experience: Tutored 3 high schoolers math and they all got As.

 

For economics schools, I'm considering those that are strong in micro theory/ market design. Stanford, Princeton, Northwestern, Columbia, NYU. I probably missed out some schools within the top 15 region that are strong in these area. May you suggest some schools to look at? What about Duke, UCLA, Michigan, UPenn, Maryland, NYU, UCSD, CMU, Cornell?

For business schools - Stanford GSB, Columbia, Toronto Rotman.

 

Thanks :)

Edited by galv
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First, the obvious advice: ask people at your university, specifically the 3 researchers that you have worked for, what they think. They will be *far* better able to help you answer these questions than anyone on here. I suspect this is especially true because people here may have a hard time evaluating a candidate from a top South East Asia university without knowing the school.

 

Other thoughts:

1. Retake the GRE and get a 167+. 163 is likely low enough that your profile will not be considered by most schools you list

2. Many international students do an MA program in Europe or the US before applying for top 30 programs

 

Your research experience, classes, and grades are all very impressive. But even with an improved GRE score, my feeling is it is unlikely that you will get into the programs you listed without an MA or competitive predoc, though you may be more competitive for schools in the top 50. However, take my opinion with a grain of salt, and go talk to the people in the position to better answer your questions, ie your advisers.

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Your letters aren't from econ faculty and their connections aren't with the econ department. Unless they're really going out on a limb for you, I wouldn't put my hopes entirely on their connections, unless they are huge in their respective fields.

 

You definitely need to retake the GRE (and also take the TOEFL, in case you are unaware). I feel that you're aiming too high for an Econ programme, and yes, you might be better suited to apply to Business school programmes instead (where your letters might hold more weight).

 

You should also check the past 5 years of Profiles & Results. I remember a few people from NUS/NTU on here a couple years back. That'd be a better/more relevant yardstick to measure your profile against.

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You should be applying to more B-school PhD programs and fewer Econ PhD programs. As tutonic said, for econ Phd programs LOR's outside of economics (and maybe finance) are not worth much. And almost every top person in financial market microstructure is in a B-school finance department, and a lot of mechanism design stuff is also being done by B-school faculty outside econ departments. B-school departments are also a little more flexible about who writes your LOR's so long as they are from people who work in relevant fields and are well published, though obviously the closer the business field you are applying to is to the LOR writers' field, the better it is. Since your LOR's are from OR people, besides for B-school finance and econ departments you should also look at B-school departments such as OR, MS, Managerial Econ and Decision Sciences. Obviously you should look at the faculty at each program at each school to see what fits you best at each school. Your LOR writers are connected to Columbia IEOR which is strongly connected to Columbia Business School, especially the DRO department, and you should look at that.

 

You will need to improve your GRE score. And I think you should add on some lower ranked programs whether for Econ or Business, unless you would rather do a masters degree and apply again in a couple of years should you not get into a top 15 this year. Most B-school programs only take 1-4 students each year (maybe 4-8 for a few top tier finance programs) so the number of slots is extremely limited.

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Hey Tutonic, thanks for reaching out! I had a look at past profiles & results for students who did their undergrad in Singapore before pursuing an econ PhD in US. There was only one person (who went to MSU).

 

Question: is taking TOEFL essential? Only some schools require TOEFL from students who studied in Singapore - Cornell for e.g.

Does taking TOEFL increase my chances for funding - because a good TOEFL score suggests I am suitable for TA?

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Hi Zshfryoh1,

 

Thanks for your suggestion.

Would you be able to suggest other OR/ MS/ Decision Sciences department that has researchers working on financial market microstructure [theory]?

I have been looking for a long time, but I only identified Columbia's DRO.

I would love to apply to lower ranked programs, if they work on microstructure theory but really seems limited :\

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I vaguely remember one other person from NUS getting into a Top 15 school a couple years back, but can't seem to find that post. Maybe it's stuck in the Admissions & Rejections page somewhere.

 

You might want to re-check the admission requirements for TOEFL for each school. When I was applying back then (to the Top 20-30s), a number of schools required the TOEFL. I don't think the TOEFL score does anything. It's usually a requirement from the university (not necessarily the econ department) when accepting an international student that their TOEFL/IELTS scores be above a certain value.

 

Do note that if you are applying to a school that requires the TOEFL, your application package won't be considered complete (and therefore won't be evaluated) until you submit the TOEFL scores. Same goes with the GRE, so you need to make sure it gets sent and that they've received it.

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Hi Zshfryoh1,

 

Thanks for your suggestion.

Would you be able to suggest other OR/ MS/ Decision Sciences department that has researchers working on financial market microstructure [theory]?

I have been looking for a long time, but I only identified Columbia's DRO.

I would love to apply to lower ranked programs, if they work on microstructure theory but really seems limited :\

 

From what I see (I am a finance PhD student with a secondary interest in empirical microstructure) not much is being done anywhere right now on the theory side of market design in financial market microstructure. A lot is being done right now on the empirical side of that, and a lot of theory work is being done on information and transaction cost topics in microstructure. But the specific stuff you mention does not seem to be very active at the moment (unless there is stuff being done on the OR side that I am not familiar with). Therefore it might be better for to just look at programs that are strong in mechanism design, or programs that are strong in microstructure in general though this will be more in finance departments than OR departments.

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Hi Zshfryoh1,

 

In your opinion and experience, which schools do you think are strong in mechanism design (for both econs/ B-schools)?

 

Also, since you have an interest in (empirical) microstructure, which schools (in US) do you think are strong in (general) microstructure? A few B-schools come to mind - NYU, MIT, Stanford GSB, Berkeley, Maryland, Columbia’s DRO, Cornell but these are top schools. Might there be any less competitive programs?

 

Thanks

Edited by galv
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Hi Zshfryoh1,

 

In your opinion and experience, which schools do you think are strong in mechanism design (for both econs/ B-schools)?

 

Also, since you have an interest in (empirical) microstructure, which schools (in US) do you think are strong in (general) microstructure? A few B-schools come to mind - NYU, MIT, Stanford GSB, Berkeley, Maryland, Columbia’s DRO, Cornell but these are top schools. Might there be any less competitive programs?

 

Thanks

 

I am not as familiar with mechanism design and who is doing what at the moment.

 

For microstructure no lower ranked school has a large group. Even at the top schools most only have 3-4 microstructure people. But a few lower ranked schools come to mind. Rutgers Business School has a couple microstructure people with a couple more doing work in information or financial econometrics that overlaps with microstructure and the university has a few other people split up between the OR, econ, stat and math departments that do some work in microstructure. Baruch - Zicklin has a few people in the finance department and I think one or two more in the Stats and IS department. UIUC - Gies has Mao Ye who has started making a name for himself in microstructure, plus a couple junior faculty. I think Copenhagen Business School in Denmark has a few people. Emory U - Goizueta has Clifton Green, and possibly a couple other people who do it as a secondary area. There is Ingrid Werner at Ohio State University but I don't think any one else there. USC Marshall has Larry Harris, but I don't know of anyone else, though David Hirshleifer just moved there and he has done work in almost every part of finance. ASU - Carey has Hendrik Bessembinder and couple others. WUSTL - Olin has a few people who do it as a secondary area, but off the top of my head I don't think anyone does it as a primary area. University of Houston used to have a few people but I am not sure if they still do.

 

If you want to add a few more top departments, there are a number of people at U Toronto - Rotman and a couple at UCLA - Anderson. Columbia actually has two top people in the Finance department, Larry Glosten and Charles Jones. CMU - Tepper also has a few people. Wharton probably has the most well rounded finance department out there and has people doing everything. Duke has some people doing econometric theory work that has applications in microstructure, but I think they are actually in the econ department (Tim Bollerslev, a couple others). The Bendheim Center at Princeton has a couple of people, but they don't have their own PhD program. Instead you get accepted into either Econ or ORFE and then get into Bendheim Center.

 

Honestly, your grades are all over the place, and that may keep you out of the top programs, even if you do explain it in your SOP.

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I am not as familiar with mechanism design and who is doing what at the moment.

 

For microstructure no lower ranked school has a large group. Even at the top schools most only have 3-4 microstructure people. But a few lower ranked schools come to mind. Rutgers Business School has a couple microstructure people with a couple more doing work in information or financial econometrics that overlaps with microstructure and the university has a few other people split up between the OR, econ, stat and math departments that do some work in microstructure. Baruch - Zicklin has a few people in the finance department and I think one or two more in the Stats and IS department. UIUC - Gies has Mao Ye who has started making a name for himself in microstructure, plus a couple junior faculty. I think Copenhagen Business School in Denmark has a few people. Emory U - Goizueta has Clifton Green, and possibly a couple other people who do it as a secondary area. There is Ingrid Werner at Ohio State University but I don't think any one else there. USC Marshall has Larry Harris, but I don't know of anyone else, though David Hirshleifer just moved there and he has done work in almost every part of finance. ASU - Carey has Hendrik Bessembinder and couple others. WUSTL - Olin has a few people who do it as a secondary area, but off the top of my head I don't think anyone does it as a primary area. University of Houston used to have a few people but I am not sure if they still do.

 

If you want to add a few more top departments, there are a number of people at U Toronto - Rotman and a couple at UCLA - Anderson. Columbia actually has two top people in the Finance department, Larry Glosten and Charles Jones. CMU - Tepper also has a few people. Wharton probably has the most well rounded finance department out there and has people doing everything. Duke has some people doing econometric theory work that has applications in microstructure, but I think they are actually in the econ department (Tim Bollerslev, a couple others). The Bendheim Center at Princeton has a couple of people, but they don't have their own PhD program. Instead you get accepted into either Econ or ORFE and then get into Bendheim Center.

 

Honestly, your grades are all over the place, and that may keep you out of the top programs, even if you do explain it in your SOP.

 

 

I will look up your suggestions.

 

I recognize some of my grades can raise eyebrows at the top places. All but 1 of my B+/ B grades were taken during the COVID period. I was severely affected by it. My grades before and post-COVID paint a more consistent picture (3.8+ GPA). I will specify these details in SOP and I'd be happy with tier 1.5 schools.

Thanks for pointing it out nevertheless.

 

Out of curiosity, where did you eventually pursue your PhD? Did you eventually pursue a masters?

Edited by galv
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I will look up your suggestions.

 

I recognize some of my grades can raise eyebrows at the top places. All but 1 of my B+/ B grades were taken during the COVID period. I was severely affected by it. My grades before and post-COVID paint a more consistent picture (3.8+ GPA). I will specify these details in SOP and I'd be happy with tier 1.5 schools.

Thanks for pointing it out nevertheless.

 

Out of curiosity, where did you eventually pursue your PhD? Did you eventually pursue a masters?

 

I sent you a PM.

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