College Preparation For Economics Major

You have to pull on your sleeves if you plan to go for Graduate school in economics. It is a not an easy road, but it can be a rewarding and enjoyable process. Graduate school is about doing research, reading a lot and work a lot.

Applications are  due early, often in Fall of the year preceding admission. There is a big advantage in future success in employment if going to the best program that will admit you, especially for Ph.D. programs. You should apply to a number and range of programs, to hedge you bets and because there is a certain element of chance involved. We have compiled a guide for students interested in pursuing a graduate school program in economics.

Tips for Standardized Tests

  • Prepare well for Standardized Tests like GRE, and appear for the test no later than June or July of the year before entering the program. This is because if you do not get the score you expect you still have the time to reschedule a second test and try to improve your score. A retest in January or later could jeopardize your application due to late submission of result.

  • Study for the math GRE.  It used to be that a perfect score (800) was necessary for admission to a top program; however, this no longer appears to be the case.  The American Economic Association found that admissions committees now generally have a threshold math score of around 750 to 770.  You must meet the threshold to be competitive, but exceeding the threshold doesn't add much value.

  • Your verbal score is not very important – unless you are really terrible in verbal, you are generally better off allocating your time towards studying for math. The economics GRE doesn't usually count for much, but it does give a chance for people who haven't taken much economics to make a positive impression.

  • TOEFL/IELTS tests are essential for students from outside US whose medium of instruction during undergraduate study is not English. Same guidelines apply for these tests: schedule the test as early as possible and improve the score if needed. Universities only consider the highest scores.

Study Mathematics

In general good grades in hard mathematics class will boost your chance to get into a top grade Economics PhD class. Being able to work with mathematical logic, arrive at conclusions and prove statements is essential for success in the graduate study.  At the very least a candidate should have a sound knowledge of
  • Multivariable Calculus
  • Linear Algebra
  • Mathematical Statistics and Econometrics
  • Real  Analysis
  • Measure Theory
According to one economics professor at Harvard, “Real analysis is an especially important class because it tends to be demanding everywhere, and forces you to do logical and formal proofs.  Get a good grade in this class.”

The important thing is that the student should have knowledge of these subjects before stepping into the Grad school.  Take these classes during college days. At the least you need take recommended math classes along with doctoral preparation.

Tips for Financial Assistance

Most graduate schools provide merit based funding to their students. Funding is generally awarded in the form of fellowships, or in combination of fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships. This kind of funding eliminates any need for the external borrowing. However there are situations when RA and TA is available for later part of the program and candidate has to show the funding source to the schools for initial years to get admission. In such case borrowing- loan from bank, Federal government or using family savings - becomes essential.  Here are the key tips for getting the funding for your graduate education
  • Ensure all applications related to scholarships or loans are submitted to concerned authority in time, completely without any mistakes.

  • Apply to as many funding sources as possible. Speak to admission advisor at the schools to know the sources and search the web. You should also apply for any outside funding for which you qualify. Outside funding sources include National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, Javits Fellowships, Ford Foundation Fellowships, and Soros Fellowships.

  • Do some negotiation with school to receive more aid. Ask the officer who signed your admission letter if the school has a policy to reevaluate the aid given. The answer is likely to be yes, then ask if your case can be reviewed. Schools know that you may be considering other offers and may arrange for more support.

  • Getting a doctorate at a biz school with an economics group is at least as good as a straight-up economics program. It is easier to get in and you will likely have more financial aid and a nicer place to work. The same holds for some policy school doctoral programs. Explore these options.
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