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As the cycle is mostly over for most people, starting this thread now. Some people have been interested in knowing whether some programs have shrunk their target cohort size, so if you have that information and are willing to share, please do!



Type of Undergrad:

Undergrad GPA:

Type of Grad:

Grad GPA:


Math Courses:

Econ Courses:

Other Courses:

Letters of Recommendation:

Research Experience:

Teaching Experience:

Research Interests:












What would you have done differently?

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Type of Undergrad: HYP (you can probably guess which)

Undergrad GPA: 3.70

GRE: 169 Quant

Math Courses: Calc I-II (AP), Calc III (B), LA (A-), Analysis (A-), PDEs (B+), Probability Theory (P), Stochastic Calc (A), Measure Theory (A) (latter two were non-degree seeking courses as an RA at a much easier university)

Econ Courses: Honors Intermediate Micro/Macro/Metrics (A-), Game Theory (A), Junior Paper/Thesis (A), All Other Electives (A)

Letters of Recommendation: Two from undergrad professors in the Labor section, for my independent projects, two from Federal Reserve economists (one with ~3K cites, the other with much less)

Research Experience: Two independent projects as an undergrad with two different advisors, two years at regional Fed working on structural urban/macro projects

Teaching Experience: I graded for honors intermediate micro and macro as an undergrad

Research Interests: Broadly macro and labor, also open/international macro and spatial economics

SOP: Felt it was pretty good, although I updated my research statement halfway through my applications to be crisper (however, the place I'm ending up at ironically got the weaker version)

Other: On the diversity spectrum, I am a first-generation college student, but that's about it



Acceptances: UW-Madison ($34,000 stipend years 1-2, $25,000 stipend years 3-5, no TA responsibilities in years 1 and 5), Boston University ($25,134 stipend), UT-Austin ($22,000 stipend, although offered more), UVA ($25,000 stipend), Maryland (I forget lmao), Rochester ($22,000 stipend years 1-2, $26,000 years 3-5), OSU ($34,420 year 1, much less thereafter)

Waitlists (all ended in rejection...): Chicago, NYU, Michigan, Minnesota, Duke, Cornell, Brown

Rejections: Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Northwestern, Columbia, UPenn, UCLA, Penn State

Pending: None

Attending: UW-Madison

Comments: Despite a fair final result, I'm a little disappointed in some ways. On one hand, UW-Madison is a decent result in line with both mine and my letter writers' expectations. However, to have been put on 7(!!) waitlists and to have converted 0(!!) of them was very disappointing, dare I say unheard of. To be fair, I did not try to convert Michigan, Brown, or Cornell. They were not good fits for my interests, and they knew this. But I was particularly disappointed with Duke (attended virtual visit day and later did an interview with them that I thought went very well) and Minnesota (attended virtual visit day also) because I felt they matched my research interests perfectly. I can't say I would've chosen differently, because UW-Madison really pursued me aggressively and made me feel like they wanted me/that I would belong there. But certainly made me feel shitty in the end. 

What would you have done differently?

I probably would've just executed a bit better early in my undergrad coursework, but other than that I can't say I'd have changed much in particular. 

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Type of Undergrad: Go8 (Australia)

Undergrad GPA: 4.00 (Hons)

GRE: 169Q

Math Courses: Analysis 1-2, Algebra 1-2, Linear Algebra 1-2, Calc 1-2

Econ Courses: Hons Micro, Macro, Metrics and Thesis

Letters of Recommendation: 3 Profs: thesis supervisor, RA supervisor, other

Research Experience: RA and policy internships (no pre-doc)

Teaching Experience: TA for 2 semesters 

Research Interests: Macro theory/monetary

SOP: Generic


Acceptances: Penn State ($$)

Waitlists: Stanford, Northwestern, NYU, UCLA, Minnesota

Rejections: Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Chicago, Columbia, UPenn, Yale, UC Berkeley


I am very grateful for my acceptance and my waitlists!! I offer some advice/reflections below (mainly for Aus students).

Waitlists are hard to convert and every school will express optimism about admitting you -- I should've been less hopeful about getting off any given waitlist.

(This is wild speculation, but) being a macro and non-applied student appears to narrow your options among top schools -- it will be interesting to see the results from other macro candidates. Maybe this should have been obvious. Most Australian students are a long shot for T5, but might be considered by UC Berkeley, Yale and the other T10. If you do macro theory, I can't imagine UC Berkeley or Yale being a strong match. That leaves only the lower T10 schools such as NYU, Columbia and UPenn, which would target macro students. On the other hand, I imagine applied micro is targeted by almost every school.

If ex-ante I wanted to maximise the average rank of my offers or the number of offers I got, then I shouldn't have done macro (or macro theory)! If I wanted to do macro (or macro theory) anyway then I should have lowered my expectation of offers to lower ranks within T20.

Maths and Real Analysis doesn't seem to be important anymore -- an Aus hons degree in Econ could be enough.

I was given some helpful advice when choosing between offer: don't focus on initial placements -- they are noisy and being over-placed can be stressful; and look at outcomes 5-10 years out to get a better sense of value-added. 

What would you have done differently?

I would have applied to pre-docs much earlier. I would consider revealing a different part of my research interests -- maybe expressing an interest in applied macro. I wouldn't have focused on the name behind my letters so much! I wouldn't have done so much maths.

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Type of Undergrad: Top 50 LAC

Undergrad GPA: 3.74

Type of Grad: N/A

Grad GPA: N/A

GRE: N/A. I have a strong hostility toward standardized tests and its nonsense since I applied for undergrad, so I decided not to take it at all.

Math Courses: Linear Algebra, Matrix Analysis, Calc Sequence, ODE, Probability, Math Stat, Abstract Algebra, Real Analysis (All A)

Econ Courses: Intermediate Micro & Macro, Econometrics I, Optimization, Advanced Macro, Behavioral, Theory of Firms, some other electives (Mostly A, some A-)

Other Courses: N/A

Letters of Recommendation: All from undergrad profs (2 econ + 1 math). I am sure they are stellar as I am one of the best of my college in the past few years. Also they told me that the letters directly compared me with other graduates of my college who entered most programs that I applied to, so it is a huge plus. 

Research Experience: RA for my undergrad profs. No predoc. Write one solo paper that eventually was presented at some economic conferences.

Teaching Experience: N/A

Research Interests: Experimental, Micro, Political Economy

SOP: I think I tried my best in SoP, since I really spent time to tailor different statements to different schools. I think my interest was really clear as I targeted specific faculty members and kept my eyes on their research pretty closely.




Acceptances: UCSB (off the waitlist), IUB, GMU, MSU (MA), BGSE (MA)

Waitlists: UCSB (eventually accepted)

Rejections: Booth, Maryland, Pitt

Pending: None

Attending: UCSB

Comments: Happy with the ending. Here are what I have taken from this cycle (of course, some of them might not be objectively true):

- Don't underrate SoP. I know that this is controversial. But one of my profs told me that he talked to the DGS of two Ag Econ programs, and they rank SoP just below LoR in terms of importance. Of course, this for sure differ from school to school, as a lot of them practically do not care about SoP. But it really does not hurt you to craft your SoP well. A good SoP does not guarantee you an offer, but a bad SoP, especially a generic one plugging faculty members' names to show artificial interest, will definitely throw you out of the pile.

- For people who come from lower-ranked LAC or state schools like me: apply to programs where your professors have a solid network, or programs where alums of your current school have gone to (and succeeded). This allows the prof to directly compare you with names that are familiar with the adcoms.  I was unlucky since my profs' network is mostly with Ag Econ, which is not my cup of tea, but at least I was able to get good letters.

- Talk to alums of your schools who ended up doing PhD. They are extremely helpful during the whole application process, especially with preparing for interviews.

What would you have done differently?

- I realized too lately that the lack of GRE really limited my school list. There are some other schools that might be a reasonable gamble with research fit for me, like UC Irvine, but I couldn't apply without the GRE. Also, I should gamble with some more schools that didn't require the GRE like Stanford, UMich, UWash, or Cornell. I decided not to do so because of either loose research fit or low change of getting admission, but now I think I should have done otherwise.

- I also should have tried to push harder for one of my papers for publication, but well the online time really degenerated my productivity.

- Prepare my application materials earlier. I was a little bit rushed near the deadlines, though everything ended up to be fine. But if I finalized most of my materials during the summer I would be in a way better state.


Edited by proletariat
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Type of Undergrad: US-news top 30 

Undergrad GPA: 3.92

Type of Grad: N/A

Grad GPA: N/A

GRE: 168 Quant 

Math Courses: Calc II-III, ODE and PDE, Nonlinear dynamics and chaos (B), Matrices, Linear Algebra, Intro Prob theory (A-), Intro Math Stats (B+), Advanced Prob theory (B+), Math of Finance, Mathematical Interest Theory, Adv Calculus, Complex Variables (B+), Numerical Methods, Stochastic Process, Linear Programming  (All A/A+ unless otherwise stated) 

Econ Courses: Intro Micro/Macro (A/A), Intermediate Micro/Macro/Metrics, Matching and Market Design, Enviromental Economics, Strategy, Game theory, Migration Econ and Policy, Honors Seminar (A), PhD Micro I (B+), PhD Macro I, PhD Math-Econ, PhD Metrics I, PhD Adv Metrics II  (All A+ unless otherwise stated) 

Other Courses: a few statistics /finance undergrad courses  (10+, all A) 

Letters of Recommendation: 2 course letters, 2 research letters  

Research Experience: no RA, a few math/stats independent or class research projects, all at elementary level  

Teaching Experience: a few semesters graders, 2 semesters of TA 

Research Interests: econometrics, with broad interests in applied micro and finance

SOP: standard, tailored each with one paragraph for each school

Other: non-first generation (probably third or fourth) international student ; I decided to apply for econ phd in late junior year (without any econ coursework other than intro micro/macro) and then stayed one more year at my institution for preparation.  



Acceptances: Cornell, Penn State, Michigan, Madison, UCSB 

Waitlists: UCSD 

Rejections: Yale, Northwestern, UCB, NYU, UCLA, Caltech, Duke, Brown, JHU

Pending: UNC (Just don't apply to this school) 

Attending: Michigan 

Comments: Unless you have super strong (e.g all A+) and hardcore math background such as topology/ measure theory / functional analysis / Grad Math and you prefer to work on theory, it seems that nowadays it's really hard to get into top 10 from a non top 10 undergrad without predoc at big places / Fed / NBER and etc. This site helps me a lot and I checked a few times during the application season, so I think it would be helpful to share my profile with future applicants.


What would you have done differently?

Would apply to more programs in top 10, perhaps at least try Stanford, Chicago, Columbia and Upenn; Would decide to apply for phd earlier, so would have opportunities to work as RA, do more econ-related researches, submit a better writing sample;  Would try harder to not bomb my phd micro exam but this was also partially due to my crashed schedules and stress given the previous point; Would take more analysis courses since I indicated heavy theoretical interests in SOP and work harder on math-stats courses in earlier undergrad, some interviewers questioned my proof-based/abstract math capabilities to do Metrics. 

Edited by econmasterabc
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Type of Undergrad: US News Top 100 University, unranked in Economics

Undergrad GPA: 4.0

Type of Grad: N/A

Grad GPA: N/A

GRE: 157 Q, 163 V

Math Courses: 4.0 in Cal I-III, Linear Algebra, Intro to Stats, and Intro to Advanced Mathematics (proofs class). Enrolled in Real Analysis with an A at time of applications.

Econ Courses: 4.0 in Intermediate Micro, Intermediate Macro, Econometrics, Advanced Macro, Math Methods for Economists, and International Economics

Letters of Recommendation: 1 letter from a professor I'd known for 2 years. 2 letters from professors that read and sat for my presentation on my Econometrics Senior Thesis. (These two also had PhDs from Northwestern University, which is where I got accepted to.)

Research Experience: 1 year undergraduate RAship

Teaching Experience: None

Research Interests: Game theory, decision theory, I/O, and labor economics 

SOP: Put A LOT of effort into my SOP because I have a unique background in CS and video game development that I plan to incorporate into my research.



Acceptances: Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame, and University of Alabama (all fully funded)

Waitlists: UC Santa Barbara, University of Arizona, and Vanderbilt University. (Asked to be removed from all of them in lieu of the Northwestern offer.)

Rejections: UT Austin, University of Washington, U Chicago (Booth), UC Berkeley, Harvard University, and Stanford University

Attending: Northwestern University

Comments: "I can't believe that GRE score." I comment on what happened there below. This cycle, I took advantage of the fact that I did not have to submit GRE scores everywhere, and I only submitted them when necessary. In an ironic twist of events, the only schools I did submit my GRE scores to either accepted me without a waitlist or waitlisted me. I feel for international students that have to jump through perfect GRE scores, graduate degrees, and predocs to get into a T20 program, but I have to wonder if my experience shows that US students have a pretty definite upper hand (and perhaps should tone down the stress to do extra unless you performed poorly in your undergrad program).

Also, Notre Dame and Northwestern commented on my SOP positively in the admissions process, indicating that it might have played a larger role than people usually think it would. 


What would you have done differently?

Take the GRE earlier... much, much earlier. I had some really sour circumstances that forced me to take it last minute with near zero studying, and application deadlines were right around the corner so I couldn't retake it. Had I gotten a higher GRE score, I could have applied to a much wider range of schools (maybe I should have anyway seeing my results). Still, I can't complain at all, and Northwestern was my dream school anyway. Call me a happy camper!

Edited by kingwilling
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Type of Undergrad: Maths and philosophy integrated bachelor's and master's from top 2 UK undergrad.

Undergrad GPA: First class.

Type of Undergrad 2: Economics graduate diploma (undergrad level) from uni that's unknown internationally (studied in evening classes while working).

Undergrad 2 GPA: Distinction.

Type of Grad: Very good UK master's.

Grad GPA: No grades at time of application.

GRE: 170 Q / 164V / 5.5 AW.

Math Courses: Linear algebra, Analysis, Calculus, Probability, Groups and group actions, Linear algebra II, Metric spaces and complex analysis, Topology, Rings and modules, Logic, Set theory, Representation theory, Galois theory, Extended essay in mathematics; marks in the 60s-80s -- good but not stellar, first class overall; mainly studied irrelevant pure maths; all proof-based.

Econ Courses: Intermediate micro, Intermediate macro, Intermediate econometrics; marks in the 80s-90s (from much lower ranking uni than maths courses). Currently taking advanced courses in micro, macro, econometrics, growth and development in historical perspective.

Other Courses: Several philosophy courses; marks in the 60s-80s -- very high mark overall, won an award.

Letters of Recommendation: (1) Maths professor who taught me several courses and supervised summer research project and extended essay; should be strong and detailed, but they're not an economist; (2) Master's micro professor and academic mentor (young AP); discussed my writing sample with them but they only knew me for ~3 months at the time of writing the letter, so can't have been that strong/credible; (3) Master's programme director (full professor); must have been very generic and not detailed as they barely know me.

Research Experience: No RA; I wrote a decision theory paper last year to discuss with letter writers so they could comment on research potential in their letters and to submit as a writing sample. Maths summer research project, which developed into maths extended essay. Econometrics research project for graduate diploma. Master's philosophy thesis in decision theory and ethics.

Teaching Experience: None.

Research Interests: Mainly micro theory, maybe economic growth.

SOP: I got good feedback on it but I don't think it was anything special. One paragraph tailored to each program. Some regrets (see below).

Other: Worked for a couple of years in an unrelated field between undergrad 1 and master's (did undergrad 2 during my first year of work).



Acceptances: Northwestern (waitlist), Bonn, UT Austin.

Waitlists: Northwestern, Brown.

Rejections: MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Chicago, Columbia, Brown (waitlist).

Attending: Northwestern.

Comments: Very happy with this outcome! My master's sends a small number of students straight to top 10 programs without predocs, so I figured it was worth a shot. I didn't have time to do 20+ applications while doing my master's and I expected that my profile might be significantly improved after completing the master's and doing a predoc (as I'd have more detailed letters and master's grades on my transcript). So I applied to a relatively small number of programs, with the intention of doing a predoc and reapplying more broadly if things didn't work out. Given I had no super strong, credible letters from economists and not a lot of relevant research experience, I feel lucky to have these acceptances!

What would you have done differently?

I'm very happy with how things turned out but it's potentially useful to reflect on what I could have done differently.

My letters were probably the weakest part of my application so if there were things I could have done to improve them, they might have made a big difference. I don't think there's a lot I could have done to improve them for this cycle though (e.g. I couldn't take econ courses during my undergrad, so it would have been difficult to build a relationship with an econ prof during my undergrad and a letter from my economics graduate diploma would have carried very little weight outside the UK unfortunately). I think I did a good job with the 3 months I had before application deadlines to get a relatively good letter from my master's, and I expect the strength/credibility of my letters from my master's would always be limited by the short time between starting the master's and applying to PhD programs. If I'd been really organised and proactive, maybe I could have done some RA work before starting my master's to replace letter (3). I think it would have been really difficult to make this happen though, especially during covid.

My maths grades were very good overall but somewhat inconsistent. I worked hard but probably could have done better by using better studying techniques and by managing exam anxiety better.

I didn't really try to get off the waitlist for Brown because I was pretty sure I preferred other options, but I should have made more of an effort so that I had a higher chance of having that option too.

My SoP focused on two completely unrelated ideas/literatures (decision theory and growth theory) because I'm really not sure where I want to specialise yet. To some extent, this is fine -- I don't think having a set research agenda is at all necessary for admission (e.g. several professors I spoke to at visit days encouraged incoming students to keep an open mind regarding research directions). But I think it's easier to create a coherent narrative by focusing on one area, or on related areas, and this might be better for application purposes. Given my background and research experience, I can write much more credibly about decision theory, so maybe I should have focused there. I highly doubt my SoP was decisive for any of my rejections though and I doubt it helped my acceptances (beyond not being disqualifyingly bad). I don't think this matters much for many programs.

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Type of Undergrad: Econ/Math BA + Accelerated Masters. Top 100 US Research University. Flagship State Uni. 

Undergrad GPA: 3.66

Type of Grad: Top 5 US Masters

Grad GPA: 3.6 

GRE: 170 Q / 164 V / 5.5 AW

Math Courses: (A unless stated otherwise; see note below for more detail) Undergrad: Calc I&II (AP), Calc III, Linear Algebra (B+), Discrete Math, Numerical Analysis, Diff Eq (C), Intro to Stats, Math Stats I&II, Probability Theory (B+) Grad: Real Analysis I&II (B), Topology (C+), Complex Analysis I, Numerical Analysis, Graph-Matrix Theory

Econ Courses: (A unless stated otherwise; see note below for more detail) Standard undergrad courses. Graduate Micro/Macro/Metrics and Economic Forecasting. PhD Metrics I-III at 2 different Unis (A/A/B & B+/B+/A), same with PhD Macro I (B & A-), with the second uni being much higher ranked. Also PhD Macro II at first university. 

Other Courses: Econ research, data mining, Probability theory of ML, classes in R and Java

Letters of Recommendation: 1. Older research mentor/co-author who speaks very highly of me. 2. Recently tenured Ass Prof pretty well known in field. 3. Older. established in field, doesn't know me personally super well. 

Research Experience: Several years. Dissertation-level RAship. At the stage now I'm trying to publish. 

Teaching Experience: Lots of TAing (3-4 years)

SOP: Well-written, could have stood to narrow down research into sub-fields. 

Other: I retook graduate Real Analysis II (D) and PhD Macro I (B-), but these grades did show up on my transcript. More details below. For LORs I'd recommend a similar breakdown as I had, with the exception that you should ideally have 2 young profs and all of them know you well. 


Offers: BC, WUSTL, USC, Vandy, Emory, UCI, Indiana, Notre Dame

Rejections: LSE, Texas, Duke, Maryland, JHU, Rochester

Comments/What would you do differently: Vibes are great at Indiana and USC both from current students and faculty. This is my third time applying to programs so I have a lot to say. I hope this reaches at least one person is in my old shoes

First briefly, when applying Start applications early and apply to as many programs as your letter writers are comfortable writing letters for. I applied to a healthy number of schools but unless financial burden from fees is too big, apply to even more than me (as many as possible). This process is noisy as hell and you never know how your thinking will change in 6 months. We've seen lots of people get "randomly lucky" (i.e. just had good fit but poor credentials) over the years (search UCSD grad cafe and scroll through acceptances for a heartwarming story). The downside of this is more apps take away from your most preferred schools apps, so again start early. 

Ok more important stuff. 

1. For Classes- Quality over Quantity!!!! 

This is the biggest thing I would have done differently. When I settled on this as a career path and looked at EMJR/this forum I got scared by my schools lack of prestige. So I decided I was going to take 7 graduate classes a semester, well more than I needed to graduate *early to simultaneously earn a double-major bachelors and a accelerated masters* all while being in a time intensive extracurricular to pay for my school, and manage to get a 4.0 so I could write my ticket to a big shot program. Obviously in retrospect, a horrible idea that had no chance of succeeding. I had several professors who didn't know my full academic history surprised at my results given my PhD course and and research experience. But ultimately I had too many red flags in math classes to be as successful as I should have been.  Bottom line: get As. Don't overload yourself; put yourself in a position to succeed. Just taking the class isn't worth it if you don't do exceedingly well. Bs won't kill you, as other profiles show, but really it doesn't mean much (at least, it doesn't help you at all really but might hurt you) to AdComs that you just took a class if you don't do that well. This is the advice I've gotten after talking to lots of people. When you take too many classes the damn will break at some point. When you have so many finals, things don't go well. My graduating semester I bombed a topology final I hadn't studied enough for, bringing my grade down to a C+, then rushed in late to my PhD Macro final, bringing all that residual stress with me, and bombed that final too, bringing me from the top student (5 person class) to a B. I managed to pull out an A on graduate complex analysis and PhD time series metrics but I could've had an A in Macro too had I just not taken topology. 

2. For program selection -- focus on hypotheticals, faculty, and how it feels to interact with schools 

Being my third time applying, I was not prepared for the experience of actually getting into schools. I had hoped I'd get into one top choice and this would be easy. But I got into by Middle-Safety schools. And even though I had a ranking of preference, this all went out the window and I was left with a list of programs that were stronger in some areas relative to others, and in the end no clearly dominating offer. Don't just stand idly by waiting for emails. Here is what I wish i had done before I got results: imagine you get into a subset of your non-top choices. How would you feel? For instance just randomly imagine you get into your 5th, 7th, and 10th choice. What are the pros and cons of each? Which school has the faculty you want to work with the most? Which school has the place you'd be happiest waking up every day? Which school has the best culture? For the latter two questions, what's really important is having lots of contact with schools, go to visit days virtual or otherwise. Get a sense of the vibe and the culture. Ask your advisors and alumni (or grad students at your current school if they know anyone). When you talk to students at the prospective school, remember that most all grad students are going to be miserable to some extent, but look at their body language when you ask current students about departmental support and quality of life and see what happens. Ask them about the people you are considering for your advisors; do the "star faculty" actually care/help? Email/talk to the profs you want to be your advisor *after you get accepted*. Size up your potential cohort even if they're on a zoom with you; would you like doing a problem set with them? If you're on the waitlist, tell your current advisors/mentors in case they have any leverage and email the points of contact at these schools and tell them you really wanna go (if that's true). When it comes down to making the final selection for a school, here's the most important factor/thing to remember: prestige is nice but the most important is your advisor relationships. If you aren't super confident about your field, go to the place with the most well-rounded program. If you've got a good idea, really look at the professors who are working in the same domain, whose papers you really like reading. Advisors are a lot better when they like what you're working on. Also try to avoid cut-throat, toxic places unless that kind of thing drives you (e.g. Chicago -- if the idea of your office space being contingent on your first year grades scares you don't go). In the end, it's better to be a star at a lower ranked place than to be below the median at a top 10 (they won't push for you as earnestly on the market). Of course, you don't want that pressure to have to be a star ideally, but you really have to break down what programs will give you want you want research wise. Most of the top 20 won't, in terms of interests aligning pretty perfectly. So when it's time to make a decision when you have your results  make a list of the schools where a) you'd be happy from a location/culture perspective b) who has faculty "at the frontier" of your specific paper writing aspirations ahead of what you've gotten into. Once I did this I found there were pretty much 2 schools clearly dominating (didn't include Stanford because grad school is hard enough without having to compete with that cohort) , and they both are very hard to get into, so I'm happy with how things turned out. 

3. For admission season, get rid of unnecessary stress! 

There are two types of people -- ones that should be on GradCafe and those who shouldn't. Know yourself! For some people looking at results come out is reassuring because there's not an unknown, which is worse. But a lot of people on there are making their anxiety worse. Most of the comments on there are asking questions that aren't going to help them at all. If you haven't received an email, you haven't received an email. Just take a deep breath and if it comes it comes. Asking things like "when did you receive this", "when did you apply", "has anyone been accepted off the waitlist" are highly irrelevant questions in 99% of cases. Eventually (unless the school is a bunch of dicks like UT Austin who keep applicants in the dark) the results will come. Do not punish yourself any more than the inevitability of the mental burden of admission season will. Stay off this forum and grad cafe if you find yourself in worse shape after looking. However, please do post when you turn down offers. That's something very constructive and helpful for people. Also don't make more than one "please reject offers" posts. At some point there is diminishing returns. One final related note: be careful about asking anonymous forums for advice. People on the waitlist at certain schools (if we ignore morality) should be telling you not to go there; people will lie. Just be careful with that. I wish there was a better forum than EMJR to get advice for this stuff. In the end just keep thinking and working through it and eventually you'll come to an answer you are happy with. 

4. General advice implicit from my profile

Research research research. That's the name of the game. These places are getting lots of applicants that are good students. That is not the ultimate aim of the PhD. The biggest fear from admin side is you won't be able to make the transition. Become an RA as soon as possible. Keep a list of research ideas. Attend seminars and read papers on your own. Do a thesis. My biggest problem on this end is I was interested in too much. In the process of narrowing down schools, I got a better sense of the "flavor" of what I wanted to do. I wish I had this on my SOP.  Don't be like me and try to put yourself in the mindset of getting there beforehand. As far as classes, Real Analysis is not only a good signal but it's great prep. Even though it gave me a black eye in the form of a D, that class is one of my favorites I've ever taken. For PhD classes, don't overload yourself but if possible take what you're interested in filed wise or Micro. The sooner you start taking hella math the better. Again if financial cost is not prohibitive, take the GRE until you get perfect quant. It's worth having another box to check off. Also for letters, you want them to be able to compare you favorably to past students. So try to get one big name but the other two should be people who really like you and can cheerlead for you. 

Edited by fktg9090
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Type of Undergrad: US News Top 30

Undergrad GPA: 3.8

Type of Grad: Economics 1 year master in Europe top 5

Grad GPA: 3.7 equivalent

GRE: 170Q 161V

Math Courses: Calc 1-3, Linear Algebra applied, ODE, Intro to proofs, Real analysis 1, Linear Algebra, Topology, Intro to Stats (A/A+)

Econ Courses: Micro 1 (B lol), lots of other undergraduate level courses (mostly A); 1st year PhD sequence in Micro (A+\A\A-); 1st year sequence in Metrics (B\A-\B); Phd Macro 1 (B)

Other Courses: A programming course in Python

Letters of Recommendation: Both advisors for my bachelor thesis - I would say good letters because they know me pretty well and are well-established in their field, PhD Micro 1 prof who I RA for after the Master's program - "Super good"

Research Experience: A bachelor thesis in labour, a master thesis in inequality, an experimental paper in the master, RA with prof at master program.

Teaching Experience: loads of group tutoring during UG

Research Interests: behavioural/experimental economics, micro theory

SOP: Alright I think emphasized some research interests. Lightly stated some research lines that I would like to do in the future.




Acceptances: Arizona ($$$), Maryland ($$), UCSB ($$)

Waitlists: Brown(declined)

Rejections: Cornell, Duke, BU, Texas A&M,UT Austin

Attending: 1 of the accepted places.



What would you have done differently?

  • I didn't intend to do a PhD in economics until the end of my third year, so I had to do all of those math courses in a very intense year.
  • Reach out to my profs earlier and more during the application process.
  • I didn't apply to a lot of good programs like Caltech, UCSD, CMU, NYU etc. because I completely forgot about the deadlines to apply in these places. Keeping track of these deadlines should've been a priority.
  • After missing out on deadlines, I freaked out a bit, and I applied to some schools that didn't really fit my interests like BU, UT Austin, and Cornell where I tried too much to conform my SOP. 
Edited by quantitypham
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Type of Undergrad: Top-70 US News, BS, Double Major Math and Econ

Undergrad GPA: 3.86

GRE: 168Q/162V/5.5AW

Math Courses (A unless otherwise noted): Intro Stats (A-), Calc 1-3, Linear Algebra, Intro to Proofs (B+), ODE (A-), PDE (B+), Real Analysis, Complex Analysis, Numerical Analysis, Math Modeling, Seminar Class in Math (A-), Math Logic

Econ Courses (A unless otherwise noted): Intro Micro, Intro Macro, Intermediate Macro (A-), Intermediate Micro (A-), Mathematical Economics, Econometrics, International Trade Theory, Game Theory, Development (A-), Labor Economics, Financial Econ, Thesis

Other Courses: Some random comp sci courses

Letters of Recommendation: One from UG professor, one from well know Fed economist, one from newer Fed economist (all graduated from top econ/finance programs). UG Professor and newer Fed economist very strong, well known Fed economist probably not as strong.

Research Experience: Some undergrad RA work, undergrad thesis, 2 years at Fed Board

Teaching Experience: N/A

Research Interests: Labor, Education, Macro

SOP: Nothing extraordinary, but fine



Acceptances: Boston University ($$$), Wharton (Finance) ($$$$)

Waitlists: Cornell (declined spot on waitlist)

Rejections: Basically every other top ~20 econ and top ~10 finance.

Pending: None

Attending: Boston University

Comments: My research experience was more finance related, so I think that's why I got into Wharton for Finance without better econ results. My actual research interests are in labor/education, so while Wharton was a hard offer to turn down, I couldn't see myself spending 5 years doing finance research. If I could do it again, I probably would have been more clear about my research interests with letter writers, rather than convincing myself I'd be happy in a finance program. Nonetheless, very happy with BU, though the Wharton stipend would have been nice...

Edited by chubwagon1
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PROFILE  International Student from Latin America

Type of Undergrad: US News Top 15. Lower for Econ (around 30)

Undergrad GPA: 3.95

GRE: 167Q/169V/5.5AW - The GRE is noisy. I took five practice tests and got 169-170Q in all of them, and never above 163V. 

Math Courses: Calc I,II,III (As); Linear Algebra (A-); Intro to Math Reasoning (A); Real Analysis (A); Intro to Op. Research (A); Probability (A); Math Stats (A); Numerical Analysis (A); Intro to Math Research (A); Topology (A); Problem Solving in Math (A); Intro to Stoch. Processes (A); Math Meth. in Fin. Econ (A).

Econ Courses: 

  • Undergrad: Principles of Micro/Macro, Intermediate Micro/Macro, Stats for Econ, Econometrics, Monetary Theory, Game Theory, Advanced Macroeconomics. All As
  • Graduate: Microeconomic Theory I (A-), Econometrics I (A)

Other Courses: Intro to Programming/C++ (A). 

Letters of Recommendation: Three full-time professors. I did research with two of them for over two years on a huge project. The other one I just took a class with.

Research Experience: RA as an undergrad for two years for two professors. Senior Thesis (Mentioned in the SoP, but it was not ready in time for the application)

Teaching Experience: Math Grader + Tutor for the last two years

Research Interests: Macro-Finance: Forecasting and Indexing

SOP: Pretty standard, I assume.


Acceptances: None

Waitlists: Stanford, UPenn, Northwestern

Rejections: Harvard, MIT, Stanford Business, UChicago, Chicago Booth, Berkeley, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, NYU, NYU Stern, Wharton, UCLA

Attending: Off to a Predoc at a top department. Although I am not happy with my results, I thought it was important to post them here for future applicants. 


I know from the Stanford waitlist group that over 90% of people in a top Ph.D. have either a Masters or 2-year predoc. So, it is pretty reasonable that I could not get in this time. I also suspect that I was automatically put into the pile of applicants from my home country, and they are all two or three years older than me with a lot more research experience. If you are an international student at a US undergrad, know that your path will be more challenging than for Americans (I know one guy from my school that got into the top 2 with a weaker overall profile). 

If you doubt if doing a predoc is worth it, you are not alone. It is two years of your life in an underpaid job (do not forget: you are giving up 200k you could have earned in the industry for 2/3 recommendation letters). All of that in preparation for yet another underpaid position for 5-6 more years. So, if you cannot get into a Ph.D. directly from an undergrad, stop for a bit and think if your love for economics and research is enough to put you in a stressful position until you are in/close to your 30s (for me it was).

Also, you cannot believe how crazily competitive it is to get into a predoc these days. The best ones (OI, SIERP, Chicago...) now have many applicants with predoc experience or masters. Most prestigious predocs also have their application deadline in December, so apply to them before knowing the results from your Ph.D. applications.

My two cents: it is sad to see where the Econ Ph.D. system is heading to. A few decades ago, you could have become a doctor at around 26. Now, it is becoming more and more common to see people finishing it when they are close to 32-35.

What would you have done differently? 

My profile has some flaws (not perfect GRE, my writing sample was a 15-page class paper and not my Senior Thesis, A- in Grad Micro, etc.). Nonetheless, I think I did as most as I could have done in the last three years, and when I compare my profile to the ones from previous years, I was expecting better results. I came really close in some of the waitlists, but it was not enough. The path to getting a Ph.D. is rough (primarily for international students), so dive into it with caution. 

Edited by Latino_in_Economics
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Type of Undergrad: one Bachelor in Economics and one in Business Administration at one of the best European Business Schools

Undergrad GPA (Economics): 4.0 equivalent (Top 5% of Cohort)

Type of Grad: 2 Year Master in Economics at a Top 10 European Economics Department 

Grad GPA: 4.0 equivalent (Top 5% of Cohort)

GRE: 165 quant

Research Experience: One year Research Assistant for a Math Prof. which does Research in Game Theory at a Top 10 University 

Letters of Recommendation: One from a very well known Prof. with whom I wrote my Master Thesis, one from a Prof. with whom I wrote my Bachelor Thesis and one from the Math Prof. I assume all three where pretty strong.

Teaching Experience: TA for Intermediate Micro

Research Interests: Labor and Public Economics



Acceptances: Bonn, Zurich, Mannheim, St. Gallen

Rejections: LSE, UCL

Attending: Zurich

Comments/What would you have done differently?
I messed up the GRE due to an unexpected illness. Without that I would have scored a much higher score. I guess that with my low GRE score I was probably automatically sorted out at UCL and LSE. Nevertheless Zurich was anyway my top choice so I'm very happy with the results.

Edited by SwissEconomist
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Type of Undergrad: US News Top 30

Undergrad GPA: 3.98

GRE:  169Q 163V

Math Courses: (all A except B+ in analysis) calc I-III, diff. eq., linear algebra, intro proofs, real analysis, intro stats, data analysis in R.

Econ Courses: (all A) intermediate micro and macro, intro and applied econometrics, labor, thesis sequence.

Research Experience: 2 independent research projects as an undergrad including a senior thesis. 6 months of a pre-doc, 6 months industry research work.

Letters of Recommendation: 2 from the advisors of my undergrad research, 1 from an econ professor who taught me twice. They were great advocates for me, and also kind. I know this helped.

Research Interests: applied micro, IO, labor

SOP: the usual, though letter writers said this was probably a strength of my application.


Acceptances: UCLA

Waitlists: UVA (eventually admitted, but declined)

Rejections: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, Northwestern, Penn, NYU Stern, Michigan, Duke, Brown, Cornell, UMN

Pending: NYU, UCSD, USC (I'm sure I'll be rejected, but they haven't actually told me so)

Attending: UCLA!

Comments: I was advised to apply to as many schools as I could and then more to play the numbers game. I think this was great advice. You really do only need one admit.


What would you have done differently?

I would have prevented a global pandemic, prevented every unpredictable road block, and given myself infinite money and capacity for more math courses. In all seriousness, things have been tough the past couple years, things haven't gone perfectly, but I did my best given the circumstances and I can't ask more of myself. I am very lucky and very happy with how things worked out for me. I hope future applicants reading this can feel proud of everything they have accomplished, not obsess over every way their profile was imperfect, and not compare themselves to other people even when schools do this for us.

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Type of Undergrad: Economics BA from a T50 program. 

Undergrad GPA:  3.7 overall; 3.85 upper division 

Type of Grad: No graduate degree 

Grad GPA: No graduate GPA

GRE: 169Q/161V/5.0AWA 

Math Courses: Real Analysis (A); Advanced Linear Algebra (A); Linear Algebra (A); Differential Equations (A); Methods of Analysis (A); Probability Theory (A-); Vector Calculus (A)  

Econ Courses: Game Theory (A); Micro Theory (A); Advanced Micro Theory (B+); Econometrics (A); Advanced Econometrics (A); Senior Thesis (A)  

Other Courses: Introduction to R (A); Introduction to Python (A); Graduate Level Introduction to Data Science (A) 

Letters of Recommendation: Senior thesis advisor and two federal reserve economists 

Research Experience: One year of in undergrad writing a senior thesis and working as an RA part time. Then another three years working as an RA for the Federal Reserve 

Teaching Experience: TA for a course at Howard University.

Research Interests: Open minded. I find questions in applied micro and empirical corporate finance interesting.

SOP: Standard, not tailored 

Other: A lot of service work 


Acceptances: UCLA ($), UW-Madison ($$$$), BU ($$$), UNC Chapel Hill ($$), UT Austin ($$), UC Davis ($$)   

Waitlists: UM Twin Cities, UMD College Park

Rejections: A lot LOL 

Attending: UCLA


Don't tell your parents you've gotten into a program until you receive the offer letter. UC Davis gave me a informal acceptance and then moved me to a waitlist because too many people held onto their offers. 

What would you have done differently?

Stress less. If you work a 9-to-5, then take a week off to make your decision. 

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