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Profile Evaluation (Last semester as undergrad - planning predoc)


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Undergrad: US, T5 in Economics

GPA: 3.38

Courses: Analysis I (B+), Linear Algebra I-II (B/B+), Probability (A-), Multivariable Calculus (A), Econometrics I-II (B+/A-), Advanced Macro (B+), Intermed Micro (A)

Currently taking: Honor thesis, Analysis II

Potential LOR: Senior professor whom I did RA last semester, honor thesis professor (world renowned), professor whom I'd work for as predoc


There are few questions that I've struggled with myself in past months, but there was no one around me to tell how I'm faring:

1) Is my quantitative skill simply not good enough for PhD? I do envision myself loving and studying economics, but that is a different question from whether I'm capable of it. 

2) Which school should I target? (Given I'll have a decent predoc experience)

3) Should I continue taking Analysis II to make up for B+ in Analysis I? (Still have some time to drop) Or should I not risk a bigger downfall? 


Looking forward to some sincere advices. Thanks!

Edited by jkim1109
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I think getting Bs in these math classes at top tier schools is not necessarily a sign of weak math skills. The grades may affect which programs you get accepted to, but don't necessarily suggest you cannot get through the math/theory in the first year of graduate school. You don't say what fields of economics interest you. Some fields are much more math and statistics intensive than others. 


We really can't and shouldn't tell you which schools to target. Your letter writers are your best guides for this. They know you best, their letters will carry a lot of weight, and they hopefully have experience with past students to guide you. In any case, you should target a diverse range of schools and focus on schools that are a good match for your research interests. 


I wouldn't drop Analysis II just because you got a B+ in Analysis I (unless you feel like you are really struggling in the course). However, if you have room for additional classes, I would consider a class in statistics. I assume the probability class you took is the standard one-semester class in probability theory. It is usually followed by a one semester class in statistics. 



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Thank you for the comment. 

I'm interested in public & labor economics. Per taking courses, this is my last semester so I only have a room for one more technical class. If so, should I just carry on with Analysis II? It's on Lebesgue measure & multivariate functions and I'm quite intimidated by the fact that most of the students are pure math majors...

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  • 2 weeks later...

1) Not just saying this to make you happy, but not at all. You are competing with some of the smartest and hardest working undergrads in the whole world. Some of the T5 are known as grad deflation schools (e.g. Princeton and MIT). For applied your background is more than good enough. Even if you go towards theory, while not a great signal, the stress and pressures of exam-based grading is quite different to the process of writing theory papers.


2) you are a very wildcard profile. To put it lightly, your GPA is very low for top PhD programs in econ. However, you have letters from very famous academics that can really shoot your application to the moon. My view is that unfortunately econ PhD admissions are very close-minded and obsessed with GPA (unlike, say, computer science PhD's), so you'll probably be shut out of the very top programs (but still apply in case). If you can get past the initial filter, I think a few programs in the 8-25 range will take a punt on you though, so apply widely in the top 30 range. Of course, you should adjust this depending on how strong the content of the letters will be; an excellent letter from a very renowned professors might overcome all barriers. (

I'd politely ask your letter writers to note or assuage concerns about your quantitative skills. I might even suggest asking your advisors (in a very polite and careful way) to  reach out to adcoms to prevent your application from being filtered out in the first stage due to the low GPA. (maybe you can ask them "I'm worried my application won't even go past the initial filter, what should I do?")

Make absolute sure you get 167+ on the GRE to ensure people's doubts about your skills are reduced.


3) I think you should take the analysis II class, unless there is a substantial chance you get B or lower. Why? Because the upside is good if you get A or higher (as in you'll be showing an upward trajectory and this will compensate for some of your other grades in other classes), and if you get B or B+ again, it fits with your prior pattern. Of course if there is a substantial risk of lower than that then it could further tank your GPA so don't take it in this case.

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