Advice on Applying to Grad School

Drew University, Department of Economics
Before you graduate
Choose Classes Carefully
Graduate schools care much more about what hard classes you have
taken and how you have done in them than about overall GPA.
If you have taken difficult classes, highlight them in the application
and/or essay because schools might not know which Economics classes
or other subjects are the advanced ones.
Courses that emphasize real world analysis provide especially
important skills because they tend to be demanding and they draw on
many aspects of your education.
Essays may be an opportunity to highlight your coursework, specific
papers or projects.
Math – Calculus and Analytic Geometry I, II, III plus Linear Algebra
Is graduate school right for you
Graduate school work focuses on research.
The best way to know whether you enjoy doing
research and working in an academic environment is to
try it! If you take a graduate course as an
undergraduate, you could get a better feel for the
amount of work required, compared to an
undergraduate course.
M.A./M.S. versus Ph.D. If you are not sure whether you
want to do an M.A. or Ph.D., you might want to start out
in a Ph.D. program as the coursework for the 1st year is
often the same.
Recommendation letters
Get recommendations from people who know you
well !
Get to know some of your professors well !
If a professor hesitates at recommending you, find
someone else.
It is fine to have a letter from someone you worked
for even if they didn’t teach you in a class.
Try and find professors that work in the field you
are applying for to recommend you.
Graduate school essays
On your application it is very important to write an
essay indicating what areas of economics you are
interested in, what questions you think are
interesting, what papers you have read that you
have liked, etc.
Be as specific as possible and make sure you edit
the essay properly.
Check essay samples on-line to get a better idea of
how to organize yours.
Get someone to read your essays.
GRE Scores
Although the test is not necessarily a good predictor
of success, it matters a lot, especially the quantitative
portion! Study for the GRE and/or take a
preparation course.
The Economic section is usually not required so don’t
spend much time on it if you take it.
If your score is strong send it, otherwise do not use it.
Where to apply
Do your homework! Most students spend a significant portion
of their senior year in high school preparing for college –
do the same if you are going to grad school.
Go on-line to search engines such as econ.lit or JSTOR and
enter subfields that interest you – see who is publishing and
where they work.
Talk to your professors and ask them if they could
recommend graduate programs and/or people to work
Send an application to at least eight schools. If you only
want to go to a certain school for its brand name than
maybe graduate school isn’t for you.
How to choose a school
Talk to students who are already graduate students at
that school.
Can you see yourself with that particular group of
Ask about retention rates and qualifier exams.
Check the placement record of the department.
Rankings - pros and cons: The US News and World
Report offer a ranking of US schools, but remember the
world is a big place with many other universities
throughout the world that offer excellent programs.
Never accept a school you have not visited before
Financing Graduate School
Financial aid is based on income and can be combined
with loans.
Scholarships: many Ph.D. programs offer funding for
Research/teaching assistant positions: although these
may be difficult to get in your first semester, they are
available afterwards.
Working outside the university: check to see if there are
research institutes or other research organizations within
the area of the university that you can apply for a
position at.
MBA Programs
The goal of an MBA is usually to advance in one’s career not to start into
a particular career.
There are usually three types of MBA programs to consider: full-time,
part-time and executive MBA programs.
Many MBA programs offer night classes and weekend courses to
accommodate working students.
The admission goal in an MBA program is a well-rounded class consisting
of people from a broad range of work backgrounds.
Most MBA programs have two broad work categories: finance and
management consulting.
Why do you need to work for two years prior to applying: it often makes
job placement easier after completing the program.
Why apply to top rated programs versus lower rated programs: top
rated program usually have better job placement.
Typical MBA Class
60-65 percent of admitted students come from
finance – investment banking and management
Individuals from these areas tend to have higher
GMAT scores
How to add depth to a program and
get admitted
Coming from nongovernmental organizations,
nonprofits and government can be a plus as GMAT
scores can be lower.
Have something unique to share with your potential
Apply early as top MBA programs get many good
applicants and few spots are left for late
How important are my grades for an MBA?
They are not!
Many applicants to MBA programs were not
planning on graduate school so they were not
focused on grades.
Two years of interesting work can mean much
forgiveness on the grade front.
Many of the top schools have cut off numbers for
their programs so scores matter. Tests are a
convenient filter for schools with lots of applicants.
Practice before and/or take a preparation course.
In fact, you really cannot afford not to take a
course as most of the students you will be competing
against for spots will have taken a course.
The Interview
Dress professionally.
Think about the questions you might be asked and practice
answering them – even in front of a mirror!
Show that you have done your ‘homework’ – know the
program inside and out.
Interviews are not the time for cost/fee/funding questions.
Key question: ‘Why do you want to do this MBA and now?
Funding and Scholarships
MBA programs are expensive so think about the cost
There are very few scholarships for MBAs.
Many students are funded by employers either fully
or for part of their costs.
Many MBA students work while pursuing their
Unlike Ph.D.s, who are perceived as going to
teach/research after graduate school, MBAs are
perceived as going for a lucrative professional
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