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Undergrad in Need of Advice about Possible Transfer


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Hey everyone, I am a first year at the University of Virginia and am hoping to a PhD in economics. The main problem I am having is I feel that there is very little support for me at this university, for example: the vast majority of resources seem to be devoted to our business school, I am unable to assist in or conduct any research until my third year, and there is only one economics related club. In only a few weeks, I have made a few connections with the top economics professors at our university and feel that letters of recommendations from them will not be too hard to get. I am very motivated, have already taken high level math classes, but it seems like I could excel much more if given the proper opportunities. I few options I have been considering that aren't too far out of reach include: Northwestern, Georgetown, Cornell, Berkeley, UPenn, and Columbia. I have lots of other extracurriculars I am very excited about, but none of them are quantitative and all of these other universities have vastly more assistance for econ majors.


I am hoping to get into a top 10 PhD program and was wondering how beneficial/hurtful transferring to another university would be.


Thanks in advance.

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Switching to Berkely, Penn, Columbia or NWU would likely improve your profile (assuming you maintain grades, get good LOR's etc) and Cornell probably would too, but Georgetown almost definitely will not. And don't think too much about things like econ club or econ honors society. I don't know of many PhD students who bothered with any of that and it does nothing for your application. Research assistantships matter a lot, but few students anywhere get a chance to do serious RA work before Junior year either way.


UVA has a top 30 Econ department in its own right. You should have a solid shot at getting into a top 10 econ PhD program coming from UVA so long as your grades and LOR's are good and your chances will be even better if you take the PhD Micro and/or Metrics sequence and do well. Ask the professors in the department where recent undergrads going for PhDs have gotten into, but it would not suprise me if they get a couple students each year into top 10 PhD programs, and a couple more into Federal Reserve positions who then get into a top 10 PhD 2-3 years down the line.


If you just started your Freshman year which is what it sounds like the costs of transferring are probably low, so if you want to transfer do it soon. But if you have extracurriculars at UVA that you enjoy and those might not be available elsewhere, it might be better for you to stay. While it is a good idea to get started on coursework, getting RAships, connections for LOR's etc as early as possible, the people I know who centered their entire undergrad years around getting into grad schools (of any type) tended to regret it in the long run. And again you are at a school that should be capable of getting students into top 10's.

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