Wanted: Candidate PhD programs

With the turn of the year, I am now shifting into a higher gear in my pursuit of a PhD in economics. I have sought advice from several of the economists at my job, including former university faculty and recent PhD recipients. Their advice tends to coincide with what I’ve already seen online:

1) Apply to the best programs for which you have a reasonable chance of admission.

For me, this excludes the Ivy League, but still includes members of the top 25, and all members of the top 50. With an interest in macroeconomics rooted in the fact that I have come of age in a major financial crisis, I am particularly interested in programs with faculty who specialize in macro. I have a strong interest in the broad area of industrial organization and its role in short and medium term macroeconomic performance. Consequently I am currently seeking advice on programs with strengths in these areas of research.

2) To the extent that you can, look for programs with permanent faculty in the fields in which you are most interested, and try further to determine how committed they will be to your success.

Though I have been spoiled in my past by an economics faculty that was very supportive of my academic pursuits, I am highly self-sufficient in my own success. Nonetheless, I will want an advisor with more than a passing interest in my dissertation. Other advice in this area would be much appreciated.

3) Develop a solid trio of individuals who can speak positively and authoritatively to your ability to succeed in an economics PhD program.

For me, I think that my success in mathematics courses speaks to my ability to handle quantitative aspects of success in a PhD program, and as a research assistant I am in an excellent position to seek out an economist who has seen what I can do. It is important to receive recommendations from individuals who can speak to my skill, creativity, and success in developing and executing original research. To me this will include at least one former professor (probably my academic advisor) and one economist with whom I currently work. I have been warned that more than one recommendation from either my college or my current work environment may not be the best, but would not be the worst, mixture of recommendations. Suggestions on sources of a third recommendation that I could pursue would be appreciated.

4) Get as close to an 800 as possible on the GRE math section.

Tough, doable, and wholly self-explanatory.

5) A stellar statement of purpose.

Though I understand that the importance of the SoP varies across institutions, it is nonetheless an integral part of the application. I also think my relatively unique past and current experience as a research assistant affords me an opportunity to develop an interesting account of how I came into the field of economics and flourished in it.

6) Any publications, including revise and resubmits.

I have an opportunity in my current position to get one of these, which would be fantastic. I’m currently working as hard as I can towards its completion given the resources at my disposal.



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