Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to Judge SOP yourself

This is always a good idea to get your statement of purpose viewed by some experienced person, may be a professor or some of your seniors who have already got through PhD program. They can read and make some valuable comments. However before sending them you need to read your SOP carefully several times to make sure that there are no grammatical and spelling mistakes and that SOP is cogent and nice to read and is likely to make a good impression on readers.

Spelling mistakes and grammatical mistakes are fine but how are you going to judge if it’s impressive and cogent? There is a nice way which came into my mind randomly when one of my friends asked my comment on his SOP. I was not very much convinced on his writing style but could not find the right words to explain what the problem was with his SOP. And then suddenly an idea came into my mind and it worked. I am going to share this idea here.

Well, you don’t have to do anything much. All you need to do is to find someone who is very close to you. May be your parents or siblings or some close friend however I think the best person for this which I am going to explain immediately; could be you if you can forget for some time that it’s your SOP. You have to be unbiased.

Here it is: start reading your SOP from first sentence and finish it in one go.  Yes… you have to finish it in one go. After you finish it, ask yourself: did you or naturally finish it in one go or you had to force yourself to finish it in one go? Did you feel like quit reading it in the midway? If you did that means there is something wrong with your SOP which makes it non-cogent. And when you have read it you probably have got some idea that what is wrong. Where the lack of cogency is and what can be changed or modified. What is needed to be deleted or what else can be added. If someone else has read it, don’t tell them beforehand to finish it in one go. Rather simply ask them to read it and try to observe their facial expression. Do they look bored? After they finish it ask them the same questions which have been mentioned above.

After making perceived necessary changes, read it again. Duplicate the process until you are satisfied. Once you are satisfied with your SOP read it completely at least three times. If even after third time you read it and you didn't feel like making any modifications, probably your SOP is done and you can send it to some other person whose comment you think will be good.

I hope it works for you too. Please leave a comment if it worked and if you were able to make some improvements after using this technique. Before this read “How to Write Strong Statement of Purpose”.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Which Score of GRE will be considered for Admission?

Many of the applicants have to write GRE twice because somehow they could not perform well first time and their scores are very low and therefore they decide to write again. Sometimes they score pretty much higher than the first attempt and sometimes not. One of the reasons of performing better second time are that second time they are somewhat familiar with the examination pattern and the environment and hence they are more confident and cool compared to the first time. When writing exam for the first time many of the students feel a little uneasiness which is very normal but at the same time may have affected scores badly.  So if one is thinking he could not perform well or could not get the score that he deserved and his GRE score is low, it’s indeed a good idea to retake GRE.
However, many of the students have this question in mind: if they write GRE again which of the scores will be reported to the universities. If you have written GRE twice or more within a span of two year time, both of these scores are going to be sent by the ETS to the universities you have requested your score to be sent. The more important question thus is ‘which of the scores will be considered by the admission committee?’ Here is where the complexity arises since not every university has the same rule regarding which GRE score to be taken. So it would be probably a good idea to write to the program head of the department and ask what the policy of the particular department is.
In some  universities, the weighted average of the GRE scores will be considered for the admission. To illustrate, suppose you have scored 1300 in the first attempt and 1500 in the subsequent attempt, then your score will be considered 1400 which is the sum of the two scores divided by two. Sometimes, the latest score will be taken for the admission and hence, it is very important to score better second time than the first time.
However, the best thing for an applicant is that the best score be used for admission and many universities do this. So if you have specific universities in mind where you are considering applying, check their websites what their policy is for more than one GRE scores. If you are unable to find this information on their website write to them. This is going to help you a lot in deciding whether to retake GRE or not.
However, all this is relevant only if you have enough time to write GRE again. For example, if you write your GRE late December you have little possibility of retaking GRE as you would miss the deadlines of most universities. So it’s preferable to take GRE well in advance, preferably somewhere in October such that you can write it again (if you have messed it up), god forbid, before the deadlines of your targeted universities are gone.
These may also be interesting:
Comments are welcome!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why a PhD in Economics?

Well… so far we have been talking about how to secure admission into an economics PhD program but we have not discussed why we shall consider a PhD in economics. Okay, so of course, the best answer should be because you want to a PhD in economics because you are so interested in economics. In other words you are passionate about economics.
But there are a lot more reasons which make economics PhD very attractive. Probably you know that unemployment rate for economics PhD is the least and it is close to zero percent. Yes, that means after the successful completion of you are certainly going to get a job. The small rate of unemployment which is found for economics PhD’s are frictional unemployment, that is, it is the period of unemployment when a person is switching between jobs. The job opportunities available for an economics graduate are lectureship in economics department, management colleges and agricultural departments, consulting to private firms and government agencies, position with governments, state and federal, position with research organizations and the international organizations like World Bank, international monetary fund and so on. So there is a vast range of jobs for an economics graduate to choose from.
Now, being sure of getting a job after the completion of your PhD, the next question that hovers around one’s mind is what will be the salary that one is going to earn. Again, economics PhD rank amongst the top in terms of average salary. Though not enough data is available, however economics PhD certainly figure out in top 5 of highest paid PhDs. A research study also shows that economics graduates are one of most satisfied professionals from their job. I guess that should be enough for a person to go for economics PhD even if he is moderately interested in economics since there are jobs available in which he would not have to do research if he is not very much interested in carrying out research after graduation.
However there is an advice too, before going for economics PhD, don’t forget to check these out:
Please do subscribe, follow and comment if you like the content of the blog. This keeps me motivated to gather information and convert them in a post.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Self-assessment: Are you a suitable candidate for PhD?

Ask yourself a question:
Why do you want to do a PhD?
There can be several reasons that you wanted to go for a PhD. May be you were unable to find a good job commensurate to your present educational qualification. You either didn’t get a good profile or the salary was too low. So you decided to do PhD.  Was it your family who wanted you to get a doctorate or some other pressure? The best thing however, is you decided to do a PhD because you were genuinely interested in research. And how would you know if you were genuinely interested in research? Observe yourself. Are you curious about the things happening around you and have you tried to find an explanation behind those things? If you did probably you like research and you decision of doing a PhD is right.
However, sometimes people enroll for PhD because they were unable to find a good job or some other pressure. But eventually they really develop an interest in research. And even after their PhD they stay in academia and research. And of course, sometimes even though they don’t find themselves interested in research still they successfully complete their PhD and thereafter choose some other job which does not require them to do research.
For being successful in a PhD program you don’t have to be one amongst the top in your class. I have heard from many professors, it’s more important to have patience than intelligence for a successful completion of PhD. However that doesn’t mean that intelligent people are not for PhD. Of course, a more intelligent student can get better results by dedicating the same amount of time in studies than a less intelligent student. However a student who has basic knowledge of mathematics and has a critical thinking can be successful in PhD.
As I have been pointing out in more than one of the posts in this blog, motivation is the key thing. A PhD student has to be self-motivated. His supervisor is not going to motivate him every day to do his research work. The student himself has to work and put in the required time to finish the work and get the desired or set goal.  If you have done any research work before and then decided that you want to research or PhD then probably you are making a right decision because you already know what research is and what it takes to do research. Research needs time commitment, motivation, hard work, and independent and critical thinking.
You may also be interested in this post, especially to evaluate yourself for being suitable for Economics PhD.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Evaluate yourself: Are you a suitable candidate for PhD?

The attrition rate for PhD programs is about 40 percent which indicates that there is a lot of wastage of resources in terms of money and time.  As there is a large cost involved in teaching a graduate student and often PhD students are provided assistantships, millions of dollars could be saved if the universities were able to choose only those candidates who are going to finish the doctorate degrees. However, this is not an easy task due to the lack of well defined parameters which could perfectly assess the probability of a candidate going to complete the degree.
A research study finds that those who drop out were almost as good as those who completed the degree at least in terms of the Graduate Record Examination and the undergraduate degrees. The attrition rates are higher for social sciences than sciences. The dropping out is also bad for the students because many of those students who leave the program never had experienced failure in life before and they may take a long time to get over with it.
Then the important question is, what makes a student to leave before the completion of the program? Obviously this is not a straightforward question as there are lots of factors behind this. First of all, PhD is a long time commitment. Normally it takes more than 5 years to complete a PhD degree and sometimes 7-8 years or even more.  Hence, before joining a PhD program one must ask himself this question: Am I dedicated enough to give 5-6 years of my life for PhD? Money is a factor too. Even though most of the PhD candidates are provided with assistantship, the stipend is significantly less than the salary they could have earned if they were in a job. Not only that stipend is sometimes limited for a given number of years usually 5 or 6 years.
As far as Economics PhD is concerned, the average completion year for economics PhD is also 5-6 years. Given one is ready for the time commitment, the next issue for an economics PhD is the amount of math work he thinks he would be able to do. An economics PhD student must have adequate knowledge of mathematics in order to successfully complete the program. Not that one has to be very good in mathematics but has to be open to learn mathematics and must have a mathematical aptitude.
Economics PhD is probably the most difficult PhD in social sciences and one of the toughest among PhD’s in all streams. Hence before applying to PhD program in economics, make sure to evaluate yourself for the time commitment and hard work requirement in order to complete the degree. Because if you drop out in the midway you have wasted some of important years of life and this also drives your morale down. Remember most of the times students leave not because they are not capable enough to complete the degree but there are other reasons which are not academic or very less academic than personal reasons.

Check out "Self-assessment: Are you a suitable candidate for PhD?" for further analysis. 
Please do comment, follow and leave your concerns to drive my morale high.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Are Mathematics Courses Absolutely Necessary for Economics PhD?

Let’s first rephrase this question into two different questions. First, are mathematics courses necessary for economics PhD admission? Second, are mathematics courses necessary for success into an economics PhD program?
The answers to these two different questions are different too. For the former question the answer is no. It’s certainly good to have a number of mathematics courses for admission into economics PhD program. If you are pursuing PhD in economics you are going to use the applications of mathematics extensively in your thesis and coursework. However, for admission into economics PhD program you don’t absolutely need to have all those courses in mathematics. A few courses which actually show that you have necessary knowledge of mathematics such that you can apply them to your studies further; are sufficient for admission. Having these courses on your transcript show that you are having the knowledge of basic and essential mathematics concept which can be used to develop and learn advance mathematical techniques which would be taught during the program.
The answer to the latter question is, yes. For success to economics PhD program, one must have a mathematical aptitude. Courses like multivariate calculus, linear algebra, probability, vector spaces and topology are going to be proved very helpful and if you are not familiar with them you are going to learn it or having a tough time. There is no way that you an economics PhD student can skip mathematics.
The bottom line is it’s more important to be having a mathematical aptitude rather than having a number of mathematics courses in undergraduate for economics PhD. But you are of course, going to get an advantage in the admission process if you have a number of mathematics courses on your transcript since this makes the admission committee confident that you know mathematics. This is the reason that economics PhD requires on of the highest scores in the quantitative section of the GRE. Hence even if you don’t have many mathematics courses to show on your transcript, you can apply for Economics PhD.
P.S.- I came across a question of this type on a forum and I decide to tackle it here. So please do comment your concerns and questions such that I can make the information as relevant as possible.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Very Low GRE Score: Next What?

You are coming out of the GRE test center with a sad face because your score in GRE didn’t come out to be what you expected. This is not very uncommon. This can happen with anybody. So if you wrote GRE well before December, you have one option that you can write GRE again but if you wrote it very late and you fear that by the time you write GRE again the deadlines of the universities will be over and you don’t want to miss the year. What are the options?
Well considering you don’t want to miss the year, you can probably apply to low ranking universities which are achievable with your score. But what if your score is too low… say 1100 or even lower. Though you can get admission to some universities with a GRE score of 1100 too if other credentials are good yet it’s a little risky. One option to you may be to consider your PhD in agricultural economics which is very similar to economics PhD but not exactly the same. However you can do almost same research which you could have done as an economics graduate student. And with a GRE score of 1100 and more you can get admission to a decent ranking university in agricultural economics department.
One more option could be talking to the program head of the school you are applying to. Sometimes you can write them a mail describing your situation that somehow you could not score very well in GRE because of some reason but you want to apply to that university. You are planning to write GRE again but you are going to miss the deadline. In some cases, though very rarely, they may allow you to apply with the current score however they require you to submit the new score as soon as possible. In that case if you could improve your score next time you may get admission.
Nonetheless, the best strategy is to write GRE a little early such that you can write it again if you mess up your test and you can rewrite it at right time such that you can apply to your target universities. You may also want to discuss the reason of scoring bad in your SOP.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Unique idea to get into a Top University

Another post related to the ranking of university. Undoubtedly everyone wants to get into the top universities but of course, everyone can’t as there are limited positions available for a large pool of candidates around the globe. So, if you want to get into a top university but you don’t really have such excellent credentials which are necessary to make into economics PhD program in such universities here is what you can do. Okay, so there is a unique way to secure admission into a top university but of course this is not costless. Just like everything else there is a trade-off which I am going to reveal right away.
So let’s say your credentials are good but not really excellent to make into a top economics PhD program but for you the ranking of the university matters the most. Let’s put it in a simple way: you are having say, 740 in quantitative section of the GRE which is not sufficient to secure admission with funding to a particular university which is say in top 30 or 40. But you want the same university or the same ranking university to attend to. Well, here is the idea. Instead of applying to the economics department at the same university, you can apply to the Agricultural economics department of the same university and you have better chances of securing admission with funding into agricultural economics department. Better still, you can apply to both the departments and see if your luck holds for the economics department.
As a matter of fact, the GRE quant requirement for agricultural economics PhD is much less than economics PhD and the competition is also less compared to economics PhD program. The trade-off is that you are not an economics PhD student however, in most of the cases; you can work towards almost the same area of research as you could have done as an economics PhD student. For example, as a PhD student in agricultural economics you can still work in the field of development, labor economics, regional economics, urban economics, resource economics, consumer theory, some specific areas in macro theory and so on. You can just browse through the website and the faculty profile and can find out if there is research going in your area of interest. Usually in a top university the department has a larger number of faculty members with different areas of research interest so it’s easier to find a particular area in which the research is being carried on. In fact, in many of the universities agricultural economics students and economics students attend a number of courses together by the same professor. Sometimes you may also be able to transfer your enrollment to economics department if you have good grades.
Ultimately, the choice depends upon the intensity of preference for graduating in Economics or graduating from a top university. If you are more concerned about the name of the university and want a top brand name to carry with you for your whole life, go ahead and apply to some of the top agricultural economics department in top ranking universities.
I hope I am providing the relevant information in this blog. Please do comment, follow and give suggestions if you find the blog useful.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does the Ranking of a University matter: Decision of Application year

Once again of course, it does. If you are a Harvard graduate employers are ready to welcome you their arms wide open when you approach them. A Harvard graduate certainly has advantage over the graduates from a university which is not in top 10. And yes, spending 5 years in top university with top intellectuals and a highly intellectual environment indeed inspires you to give your best and after 5 years you come out as a real intellectual.
Having said that, we can divide universities in four categories: top 10, ranked between 11-50, ranked between 51-150 and below 150.  Essentially the ranking is US university ranking and not the world ranking. Also this is not a very scientific method to divide the universities in different categories and there is not hard and fast rule about deciding the exact number in each category. The sole purpose of the discussion here is to make the decision easier for those who are in a fix if they shall apply immediately or shall wait for a few years so that they can get into a higher ranked university.
Therefore, if you are not from top 10 but from top 50 and when you go to job market you have revealed advantage over those who are not from top 50. What I essentially mean here is say you are from a university ranked 15 then you don’t have revealed advantage over a candidate who is from a university ranked 45. The decision is going to be taken depending on other factors. I am not saying that if you go to a top 15 university it’s not worth. It is but I don’t personally think that it’s such a worth that you decide to wait for 2-3 years to make yourself get accepted by that university. Ultimately in PhD, it’s your work that counts. But yes…. If you can’t even make to a top 50 university then probably I would say that it’s worth to wait for a few years.
Same logic applies to an applicant who is in a state of fix where he can get admission to a university ranked 100 but can’t make to a university ranked around 50. In fact it’s very difficult to decide on the basis of ranking after top 50. Can you really make a clear difference between two universities one figuring in early 50’s and another in late 50’s. So ranking must not be the most important criteria while seeking admission according to me. And of course, some faces matter too. If a professor is well known for his research productivity in a certain area then for an applicant who is also interested in same area, the particular university could be a better option than some other university which is ranked higher than this university but not so well known professors in the same area. However, normally you find top professors in almost every field are in top university.
The choosing a university ranked below 150 is indeed a tough decision. You might not get a very intellectual company in such university. However I must say ‘something is better than nothing” applies here too. Get your PhD from such university, work hard, produce good results and publications and if not immediately you would be able to carve a niche for yourself with the course of time.
I am sure that there are so many holes in the post to argue about and raise your finger on. But at the same time I hope that it helps at least a few applicants who are in a transfix to apply this year or next year or may be dropping the idea of doing PhD altogether. Leave your comments.