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How are my chances? (Econ PhD)


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Hello all,

I am a soon to be graduate playing the waiting game with my Economics PhD applications. I only applied to 4 programs (Vanderbilt, Florida State, University of Kansas, and University of Houston), and I am starting to worry. Do I stand a chance or should I consider applying to some terminal masters programs?

GRE Scores (V/Q/A): 158/156/5

Undergrad: Business with specializations in Economics and Management, Math and Security and Intelligence Studies minors, member of Honors Program (will graduate as fellow), 171 credit hours in 4 years

GPA: 3.82, all A's in Economics classes, one B+ and the rest higher in math classes

Math classes include: Calc I, Calc II, Intro Stats, Stats for Social Sciences, Discrete Math, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations

President of Economics Club

Economics Teaching Assistant, lots of research experience

1.5 publications (1 published, 1 currently under review, 1 revise and resubmit at a Cornell undergraduate journal), 3 presentations (conferences and poster sessions)

2 Strong letters of recommendation (1 from excellent econ professor), 1 LOR not sure about but from Chair of Math Dept/Asst. Dean of Arts and Sciences

If I do have a chance at getting in, what are my chances of getting funding? Thanks!!!


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Hi econhopeful23, let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert of what it takes to get admitted into a Econ PhD program. That said, it seems to me your profile is not horrible at all, especially given your target grad schools. The general sense that I got from the comments often posted in these forums is that:

1) LORs matter A LOT, especially if who is recommending you has numerous connections and is known by someone in the faculty associated with the PhD program you are going to apply for;
2) The GRE is very often the first screening tool adcoms use and, if the scores are pretty low, it can be very well the only thing the adcom will look at in your entire application before throwing it away (it's sad to say, but that's the way it is...). There indeed exist some thresholds above which your application is worth assessing, most of the applicants say this is the 90° percentile in the Quant part. But who really knows...;
3) The more math courses you have taken before applying, the better it is. Always;
4) Funding is a quite delicate topic, since there are universities which grant scholarships to all admitted students, while there are others who allocate resources only to the best applicants. It's worth to check out each program's webpage for more precise information about this.
5) All in all, the competition for admission into Econ PhDs in the US is very fierce, but (I guess) less so the more you move down in the rankings. So don't get your hopes up!

I applied to Vanderbilt too with a MS in Management Engineering with specialization in Business Econ (earned with full marks from a good, but pretty unknown in the Econ field, polytechnic university in Europe) and a MS in Econ earned from a quite known grad school in the US (top 20 in the Econ field). Let's see how it goes! 

All the best!

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  • 1 month later...

The answer to my question was the chances were slim to none. No one should even bother applying to an Econ PhD without a quantitative at least above 160 but really 163+ would be better. I have been rejected by all schools but FSU who I expect to also get rejected by. I got into a MS in Demography program that I will be attending then I will retake the GRE and try this all over again.

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  • 2 years later...

Adding my results to help others worried about their  quant score. Background: econ major at regional unknown school, math minor (cal 1-3, dif eq, foundations), honors with thesis (Not published but 2 conferences).

My gre was 157q/160v/4.0. I have heard back from 2 econ PhD programs already (still January and early in the admissions cycle) and was accepted to both, with full funding and tuition covered. These are similarly ranked as the op applied to. So, it is possible with a gre below 160q.

Edited by Econ3rdid
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