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November 09, 2005

Choosing a Graduate School in Economics

A correspondent writes I should recommend Mike Moffatt to people interested in graduate school in economics. It's good advice:

Choosing a Graduate School in Economics: From my own experience and the experience of my friends who also study economics in the United States, I can give the following advice:

  1. Ask the professors who are writing you recommendation letters where they'd apply if they were in your position. They usually have a good idea of what schools you'll do well at and which ones you won't. You'll also have a better chance of getting into a school if the selection committee at that school knows and respects the person writing the letter. It helps immensely if your reference writer has friends on the selection committee at that school.
  2. Don't apply to just the highest ranked schools. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you're interested in studying time-series econometrics, apply to schools which have active researchers in that area. What's the point of going to a great theory school if you're not a theorist? Apply to as many schools as possible. I'd recommend applying to about 10. I've seen a lot of terrific students only apply to Chicago, Harvard, and Stanford then not get into any of them. Make sure you have some back up plans, or else you might lose a year of study.
  3. Talk to the graduate students at the school you're thinking about attending. They'll usually tell you how things really work in a department. Talking to professors isn't as useful, because they usually have a vested interest in you coming to their school, so they've been known to bend the truth a little on occasion. Whatever you do, don't contact any of the faculty unsolicited. They'll think you're annoying and they'll blacklist you immediately.
  4. If at all possible, I'd recommend going to a larger school. Smaller schools are good, but if one or two key professors leave they can be decimated. It helps if the school you are applying to has 3 or more active researchers in the area you are interested in, that way if one or two leave, you'll still have an advisor you can work with.

Posted by DeLong at November 9, 2005 02:37 PM