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FAQs

  1. Timeline for Applying
    • Summer before applying -- In the summer before you are planning on applying to graduate school you should start preparing for the GRE. You should focus your attention on the Math section, which is much more important for admissions to economics programs.
    • October – In October you should take your first GRE test. You can also take it in the summer before October if you feel you are ready, just make sure not to wait too long. If you don’t do well on your first test you should try and take it again to improve your score.
    • October-November – You should begin reaching out to professors to see if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for your graduate application. Letter writers will appreciate having some time to prepare the letter so don’t leave this until the last minute. Also, you should get your advisor’s opinions on what programs to target.
    • November – Decide whether you should re-take the GRE or not. If you feel that you underperformed relative to how you generally perform in practice tests, it is likely a good idea to retake the exam. At this time you should also be putting together your materials for the applications. It may be a good idea to reach out to advisors or letter-writers to see if they would be willing to look over and critique your materials.
    • December – Early January – Finalize your application materials. Most of the applications will be due in this period.
    • February – April – Decisions go out.
  2. How important is research as undergrad?
    • Research as an undergraduate can be helpful for many reasons
    • First, performing research will allow you to understand what research economists do. This can help you decide whether a PhD is something that you would like to pursue.
    • Second, many tools that are useful in graduate school, such as coding, are often best learned through real-world practice. Undergraduate research will give you this practice
    • Performing research generally comes under the supervision of a faculty or graduate student mentor. This mentor can be a great resource for advice as well as writing a letter of recommendation.
  3. How important is Real Analysis vs upper division statistics classes?
    • Real Analysis is extremely important for graduate admissions, both as a signal to admissions committees that you have a rigorous mathematics foundation, as well as to prepare you for first-year courses.
    • That said, it is extremely advantageous to take a few other upper division mathematics and statistics courses. For example, Linear Algebra (Math 102) and Probability (Math180 A) are two courses that will be useful in graduate school.
  4. Which of UCSD’s Real Analysis to take? (Math 140ABC or 142AB?)
    • At UC San Diego, the Math 140 sequence is the more rigorous version of real analysis. This sequence will teach you topics that economists are less likely to use but taking Math 140A is likely enough to convince graduate admissions committees that you can handle the mathematics in first year PhD program.  If you are extremely comfortable with mathematics and believe you can do well in this course, then this will be great preparation for graduate school. In your application to graduate school, you should note that there are two real analysis courses at UCSD, and that you took the more difficult of the two, as this will not be obvious to admissions committees. If you feel that you may struggle to achieve a high grade in 140A or have a difficult schedule, it would be better to take the 142AB and do well rather than struggle in 140A. In many cases, the admissions’ committees will want to see that you have performed well in a Real Analysis course, and so it is important to take a course that you believe you can do well in, rather than taking the most difficult course. Further, 142AB teaches the math topics most likely to be useful in an Economics graduate program. 
  5. How many programs should I apply to?
    • It is generally advised to apply to at least 15 programs. Many students apply to upwards of 20-30 schools. More applications will obviously lead to potentially more options, though each application can be costly in terms of time and money. However, you will want to make sure to apply to a wide range of schools. It is good to consult with your advisor or letter writer to see if they think you have applied to enough schools in your targeted range. 
  6. Should I do a Masters (MA) program?
    • Whether you should apply to an MA program depends on your goal. If your eventual goal is a PhD in economics, then you may consider a MA program in Economics if you feel you lack the mathematical foundation to do well in graduate school, or because you would like to increase your chances at being accepted at a higher-ranked program. If you feel you will be competitive at schools you are targeting for a PhD, then it is not necessary to complete an MA before attending. One thing to be careful about is to make sure a given MA program is a good fit for you. Some are more rigorous than others. You do not want to attend an MA program in which you are re-learning material that you already know from your undergraduate education.
    • You may also be interested in an MA program itself, and do not plan to go on to a PhD. There are a number of MA programs in Economics, as well as related fields, such as finance, business, public policy, data analytics, business analytics, data science, among others. A good way to tell if a given program is a good fit for you is to look up the program and try to find recent job placements. If you are interested in the types of jobs that graduates obtain, then the program may be a good fit for you. One statistic to be potentially weary about is the graduation rate. There could be cause for concern if a program admits a lot of students, but only a few end up graduating.
    • In general, many MA programs that you might consider may be relatively new additions to a university. Therefore, the long-term benefits and costs a given program are likely to be uncertain. One potential source of information is recent alumni. Finding alumni on LinkedIn and asking about their experiences might be a good way to understand whether the program would benefit you personally.