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Advice for RAs planning to apply for Ph.D. programs


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I am currently a Ph.D. student in Top 50 program, and I have 3~4 years of RA experience in Top 5 institutes.I would like to leave a piece of advice or current/prospective RAs whose goals are getting into competitive programs.


In one sentence, "Do Your Own Research", not simply doing what you are assigned to do.


Adcom is primarily interested in your potential ability as a researcher, so if you work as a RA over two years, then you will also be evaluated whether you actually did something beyond your regular RA duty. If you fail to do anything on your work, then RA experience will do little good in your admission (or even negatively affect if unfortunate). I strongly believe this is why I couldn't get into more competitive programs (I was once a member here, and many people here - including myself - believed I deserved more competitive programs.)


One way I recommend is, try answering a new question related to the questions your supervisor (professor/economist/etc.) is working on. For example, "with this data on our hand, we can not only answer the question "XXX?" my boss is working on, but also we can answer another question "YYY" as well?" Or if it is empirical research, you can combine with other data or add a couple of questions in the data your boss will collect.

After you can come up with such idea, talk to your supervisor. Your boss is surely willing to give you advice. You can either write your own paper, or just add a few pages (or even paragraphs) to your supervisor's work. You might end up with your own publishable paper, or add yourself as a co-author to your supervisor's work.


Simply put, prove yourself as a potential researcher.


Edited by DoubleD
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