Applying to Economics Ph.D.

Applying to Economics Ph.D. as
an Undergraduate
Yi Chen
Department of Finance
School of Economics
The Placement
• Teach in leading economics departments, business
schools and schools of public policy.
• Work on congressional staffs and government
advisory councils, and with organizations such as
the World Bank.
• Found among the most influential positions in the
market economy, ranging from corporate
executives to hedge fund managers to economic
-From the Website of
Department of Economics, MIT
The situation of applying to
economics PhD peaks in 2007,
but has been falling rapid - at a
tremendous speed - since the
crisis, and no sign of
recovering in the near future.
• NEVER UNDER-estimate the difficulty in
applying for economics PhD. … and NEVER
OVER-estimate yourself!
• (To my knowledge) Top schools which have
NEVER admit Chinese undergraduate: MIT,
Harvard, Chicago
• Tops schools which rarely admit Chinese
undergraduate: Stanford, Northwestern
• PREVIOUSLY nice but NOT any more:
UC Berkeley, Columbia, NYU
• Somewhat nice: Princeton, Upenn
• Not being top, but do not like Chinese
undergraduate: Cornell, Duke, Maryland
• Does gender difference exist?
-Yes, and maybe very large.
• What is the most important factor? GPA?
Research experience? Reference Letter?
-For top schools, they are looking for
PERFECT students
-Relation dominates all, but do not count on it.
“The successful applicants had perfect or
near perfect scores on the GRE,
impeccable letters of recommendation,
extremely high grades - especially in math
and economic courses, and demonstrated
evidence of research ability. ”
-From Stanford Website
III. Personal Suggestions on
Preparing to Econ PhD program
As been shown previously, the
situation is extremely tough
these years so we have to
prepare ourselves in EVERY
aspect even to survive.
My Profile
• Courses
– Economics first degree (130 credits),Overall: 3.82,
Major: 3.89
– Mathematics second degree (39 credits), 3.93
• Papers
– Two published Chinese papers (经济学(季刊);南
– Three English working papers
– Two conference presentations and several workshop
• RA experiences
– Assist for two CCER professors and co-author with
one GSM professor
– Mastering in Stata
• Honors
– 北京大学“学术希望之星”
– Mathematical Contest in Modeling – Meritorious
– China Undergraduate Mathematical Contest in
Modeling – National Second Prize
• English Tests
– GRE: 490/790/3.5
– TOFLE: 101 27/25/22/27
Tips when applying
• Statement of Purpose
– As an undergraduate, DO NOT emphasize your
achievement, focus on your potentials.
– Emphasize your research interest IF AND ONLY
IF it matches the school.
• Curriculum Vitae
– Make it VERY concisely
– Do not put things the committee not familiar with
(such as Challenge Cup, but it may appear on PS)
• Reference Letter
– At least one RL should come very the one who
know you excellent well and it must be very
TRUE (never underestimate the IQ of the
• Contact the Professors (TC)
– May not harm, but NEVER count on it.
• NEVER trust institutions such as BBY
– You should know how unrepresentative and
unreplicable their examples are.
Suggestions when preparing
• Start some kind of research ASAP
– It may not help you greatly when applying, but do
help you to SURVIVE the PhD life.
– Think some long-run issues – application is just a
• Mathematics
– The more the better
– Mostly, it serves as an language to help you to
understand ECONOMICS
Understand the Application Process
Better – Market of PhD positions
• Supply – universities; Demand – applicants
• Market with asymmetric information
– University tries to find students with “talent”
– “Talent” is applicants’ private information
• Signaling game – applicants send signals
(application materials) to persuade universities to
believe they are talented
• Derived application strategy
– Materials would be useful only if it is not duplicable
– Avoid cheap talking
Further questions?